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.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.
When was the last time you had to wait a really long time for something? I moved into my new apartment 2 weeks ago and started out my new life here by waiting on the internet. It was supposed to be set up a few days after moving, but due to reduced staffing from the pandemic, they couldn’t get to my building right away, and I was told it could be one to two months until they could set it up. I couldn’t believe such a thing was possible in 2021, but this kind of thing happens frequently in Japan when dealing with technology.
I was miserable from day one, but luckily, it turns out they were able to get everything set up quicker than expected and I am now online! But this process of waiting made me think about a few things.
What does it mean to wait on God? Are we supposed to just sit in our internet-less room, listening to the digital ticking of the clock on the wall? I think waiting for God is less of a passive action like waiting for the light to turn green and more of an active one.
We wait for God’s purposes to be revealed and His promises to be fulfilled in both our own lives and the lives of those around us. But we do this through action: serving, helping, caring, feeding. God’s plan is made known to us through our acts of Christian love towards others. We may be “waiting,” but we aren’t sitting idly by, letting the world pass us by.
The other part to “waiting on God” is the reciprocal action God takes: He patiently waits for us. Our lives are filled with periods of aimless wandering, just like sheep, but just as any Good Shepherd, God is always there waiting for our return to the flock. This is all the more reason for us to wait on God and live in hope.
Prayer for Today
Patient God, thank you for waiting for us when we stray. Open our souls to wait on you and live in the hope that your love offers. Help us in turn to show love towards one another and put aside our differences so that we may welcome you into our midst as the body of Christ. Amen.
Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.
(And ~364 more places)
Our youngest turned 1 in February. He’s been walking for months, but he’s still getting the hang of it. He often runs much faster than he has the control or balance to do, and his brakes are not terribly reliable. As such, he falls. A lot. When he does, he immediately turns to look at us. With small tumbles, if we respond in worry, fear, or panic, he bursts into tears. If we respond with a smile or giggle or support, he laughs and gets back up and tries again. I’ve learned two things from him. He trusts us more than even his own pain and experience, turning to us first. And secondly, his faith in us is the bedrock of his resilience.
What do we do when we fall? What do we do when we experience challenges, difficulties, pain, or loss? Do we look to God? And do we then trust God for our resilience? “Fear not,” appears in scripture 365 times. You could read it somewhere new every day of the year. It’s often a greeting from God or God’s messengers. Few messages are repeated to God’s people so often as those encouraging words from our creator. God is telling us to trust, to have courage, to hang in there, to have faith. When we fall, we can look immediately to God. If it’s a bad fall, God has promised to send us aid. Our family, our friends, our family of faith, and our advocate, the Holy Spirit can be trusted.
It is all too easy for us to trust our own pain and experience when we fall. We can panic, get upset, demand our own way, or be wounded. But we have been taught to trust in the Lord. In times of trouble, that can sound hollow or cliche'. But when we watch a child show us that kind of trust, we can be reminded that it’s all that simple and all that hard. So when we face calamities like pandemics, unemployment, or loss of a loved one, we can remember the trust of a child and have something for which to strive. May we all look up when we fall and learn to trust what we know to be true.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me quick to look to you when I fall. Help me trust in you when I do. Amen.
I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.
-Psalm 122:1, KJV
This familiar Bible verse expresses well what I'm feeling as we prepare to add an Indoor Worship Service at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church this Sunday, May 2. The picture above of our Great Hall will remind you of one of the places we gather for worship. In the past year, we have gathered Online, in the parking lots for our Drive-in worship services, and even under a large tent on our ballfield on Easter Sunday. This Sunday we will gather at 11:00 a.m. in our Great Hall. We still need to add the white worship paraments, the brass cross, the candle sticks, and the Bible. In addition, we need to set up the keyboards to lead our music as we worship God.
But there will still be something else that is missing in this picture. Maybe I should rephrase that as someone else who has been missing for more than a year. That would be people -- members of our church family and guests who come to worship beside us. Those of us who attended the outdoor Easter service under the tent had a taste of what it was like to worship in-person with others – as opposed to in-car or on-couch. As the Psalm above reminds us, it can make us “glad” when we gather with sisters and brothers in Christ to worship God!
We will continue our Online and Drive-in Worship Services. As we have shared with the church family, our Session has decided we must wear masks and be socially distanced in order to hold this service indoors. This follows the recommendations of our Health Team and CDC guidelines. We also need you to make reservations because we have limited seating for about 100 persons. You can sign up on our church website where you will also find our worship protocols. I hope to see you this Sunday!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, this pandemic has kept us apart in so many ways. Let us join together this Sunday and worship you in whatever way we think is best. Remind us again that worship is the most important thing we do! We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ . Amen.
We are approaching the final month of this school year and many of us are in the rhythm of learning, testing, studying, and reading. Even if you aren’t a student, parent of students, or a teacher, we all can be reminded that education is not just a process that happens for the young, learning is a process that happens throughout your life.
Jesus lived on this earth as God in the flesh and even he took time to learn everything he could. There was one time early in his life, when said to his parents, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?” But they had no idea what he was talking about. So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.” Luke 2:49-52
As you wrap up this school year, what new things has God taught you? How have you been challenged? What have you been teaching others about who God is through your words and actions? I would encourage you to take what you are learning and let it fill your mind, and also your heart and spirit.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, I’m going to look for you every day this final month of school. I expect I’ll see you around. Give me a heart that’s open to your mysteries so that I can see and hear your work happening right before me. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid?
– Psalm 27:1, NIV
Session Highlights - April 19 , 2021
All Elders and Staff expressed joy over our Easter worship experiences. Whether you attended the tent service or attended one of our other services, Easter Day was moving, and our worship together a symbol of hope as we emerge from the virus restrictions.
All teams are reading plans for startup of indoor worship on May 2nd with Sunday School and Small Groups to quickly follow. The Worship Ministry Team will disseminate a guide to our congregation about returning to in-person worship
Nine new members (eight confirmands and one adult), including two by baptism, were added to the JCPC church family in the past month. The Session was also informed of two deaths: Carol Dahlenberg on March 24th and Norma Van Buren who died on February 3rd.
The annual review of our Session minutes by Presbytery took place and our minutes were described as accurate and exemplary.
Year-to-date income and expense balance is a positive $17,191 -- which includes JCPC receiving a refund of $9,053 from the EILD loan program.
CanCare Atlanta is searching for a new CEO.
The Connecting Ministry Team will staff the next “Fifth Sunday” in May for a “biscuit giveaway” prior to worship services.
We are moving forward with the installation of equipment in the Great Hall and Chapel which will provide for live online worship services.
The Missions Ministry Team continues to prayerfully discern options for the use of the new major gift. The Blood Drive collected 8 units of blood and HealthSouth forwarded a certificate acknowledging JCPC's consistent support.
The Health Team reported on changes to our existing HVAC that will significantly improve airflow to the new buildings for in-person worship beginning May 2nd. Covid epidemic metrics are still favorable for reopening the campus in a staged approach, beginning with an 11:00 o'clock AM worship service on May 2nd.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for the life of Johns Creek Presbyterian Church that continues on even through these difficult times. Thank you for our elders and staff who make up our Session -- for their faithfulness and seeking to discern your will and direction for our church. Guide them and us by your Holy Spirit -- that we may faithfully do your work in our world. We pray this in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
-1 John 3:16
In several Christian denominations, this Sunday is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The lectionary readings for this day revolve around this theme of Jesus being the Good Shepherd. The lectionary psalm for this day is the familiar Psalm 23, "The Lord is My Shepherd." As we are not that far past Holy Week, we remember his death and see clearly now what Jesus meant when he said "A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
But while that statement still hangs in the air, the writer of 1 John suggests an action is required from us: "We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." What does that mean??? Jump in front of a speeding train to save someone? Maybe... but maybe not that dramatic... the writer continues: "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." Ouch!! In other words, put your money where your mouth is... if we're going to call ourselves Christians, we need to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, and live the life. Are we not his hands and feet, as members of the Body of Christ?
I don't know how aware you are of your actions, but oh, how miserably I fail at this sometimes! There are days when I can't even be kind to my own family members... or let a stranger in front of me in traffic... or worse... I'm sure we all have days where we are wandering aimlessly, as lost as sheep!
We live in a culture where it's so easy to be self-centered and look the other way when helping another might be painful, or even just inconvenient. Yet, isn't the act of helping someone a way to share the love of God? And doesn't it draw us closer to our Good Shepherd, in return?
Prayer for Today
Jesus, we are grateful that you are our Good Shepherd! Open our eyes each day, making us more sensitive to the needs of others, and help us to follow your example. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
"Before he built rockets for the Nazis, an idealistic Wernher von Braun dreamed of space travel. He stargazed. You know what he said when the first V2 rocket hit London? 'The rocket performed perfectly. It just landed on the wrong planet.'"
The book of Jonah doesn’t record what Jonah said to God when he got word from the Lord to head to Nineveh, but it does record what he did. He took off on the next boat in the opposite direction. I like that the book doesn’t indicate God told Jonah directly. It says, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah.” For those of us who have heard or felt God’s calling by less direct means in our lives, we can relate. Perhaps a job offer that brings us new joy and fulfillment, a relationship that others champion as a perfect match, a difficult kid or coworker you know needs your empathy or encouragement or counsel that feels like the Lord calling us. Werner von Braun, famous scientist forced to work for the Nazis, saw firsthand the tragedy of something intended for good heading for the wrong destination.
And that leads us to Jonah. Some calls are a joy, and some are uncomfortable, challenging, or even terrifying. And when they’re the latter, we run the other way. When we clash with friends and family, when we watch news stories about people we look down on, avoid difficult colleagues and coworkers, we are running for Tarshish. We can hardly claim not to know God wants us to be loving primarily to those who are difficult to love. In fact, from Jonah to Jesus, we find God telling us to focus our time and energy on loving those who are hardest to love first.
This begs that important guiding spiritual question of our faith, maybe the most important one... who am I struggling to love? For most of us, that list quickly forms itself. Other times, our fellow believers call our attention to those we have ignored or neglected. But between our own self-introspection, our faith family and trusted spiritual mentors, the word of the Lord comes down to us. In those moments, we can choose to flee or choose to go where God calls. The good news is that God promises hard journeys, but good endings when we do. The end is always love and reconciliation. We get the choice of destination when we set sail. Who is God calling you to seek out this week? And which way will you choose to go? Will we flee or find purpose?
Prayer for Today
Lord, through reflection and the help of my faith family and mentors, help me find where you are calling me to be and to whom you are sending me. Be with me in the journey. Amen.
Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. Even though I've seen it multiple times, and I know how both the real story and the movie end, I'm still anxious every time I watch the movie. Will they make it back to earth safely after their spacecraft heading to the moon suffered a major explosion? There is one point in the movie in which it dawns on the experts in Mission Control that when the explosion took place, it may have cracked the heat shield that was designed to protect the capsule from the extreme heat upon reentry into the Earth's atmosphere at a very high speed.
There is a time of radio blackout as they burn their way through the Earth's atmosphere and slow down enough to deploy parachutes in the hope that they can land safely in the ocean. Everyone has to wait and wait and wait to find out if the astronauts have made it safely through the atmosphere. Those few minutes seem like an eternity, but when they finally hear the voice of the astronauts who have come through safely, Mission Control and everyone watching on TV erupt in elation! I get choked up every time I watch that pure joy.
This past Monday night, I shared with our Session that we're finding reentry into our buildings, and everything related to trying to return to a sense of normalcy in the life of the church, is more complex than we thought. Perhaps it's because we've been so focused on simply surviving the pandemic, but now every discussion we have about how to come back and meet together safely involves questions no one had thought about before.
And yet, we had a taste of the pure joy of elation on Easter Sunday when some of us met for worship in the tent on our ballfield. I look forward to when worshiping together becomes the normal practice for most of us. But until then, I appreciate your patience and your prayers for our leadership that continues to seek to do the right thing in the right way for all of our church family.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for getting us this far through the pandemic. We realize, Lord, not everyone has made it through. We mourn and grieve for those who have lost loved ones, health, jobs, and many other things. As we re-enter this new way of living and loving as followers of Christ, guide us in your grace and mercy. We pray this in the strong name of the Risen Christ. Amen.
This isn’t a tapestry. It is not a painting. It is the most detailed image of a human cell to date obtained by radiography, nuclear magnetic resonance and cryoelectron microscopy.
Each and every human has trillions of cells that make up their bodies. What an amazing and beautiful creation from God. As I let that sink in for a moment, I read this quote in a recent book (1,000+ Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships) from Authors Marc and Angel Chernoff write, “The time you invest in creating both healthy relationships and healthy mindsets about your relationships can affect almost everything else you do in life. It’s how you can truly make a difference in the world.”
In a time when we may feel helpless or clueless about how to make a difference in our world, start here.
Their theory explains what we have all seen in some of our relationships when we practice being present, making connections, and sharing acceptance – not just in our relationships with others but also in our relationship with ourselves.
“As we all know, the world we live in does not provide the time, space, and conditions for making these types of important relational investments. Therefore, we must CHOOSE to make time for words and actions that bind us together, carry us through, and brighten our days.” (Rachel Macy Stafford)
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Prayer for Today
Creator God, Thank you for the intricate details in your creation of human beings. Help us to be open to see your handiwork in those we encounter this day and find ways to be present, make connections and share acceptance. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
One of the key words that is often used while studying to become a Stephen Minister is compassion. The word “compassion” is mentioned in the Bible at least forty-six times. The definition of compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is hurting, in pain, or has misfortune, and is accompanied by a strong desire to help the suffering. Jesus Christ is the greatest example of someone with true compassion. Not only did Jesus have compassion and heal people from physical suffering; he also showed the greatest compassion for humankind when died on the cross for our sins.
It's not always easy to show compassion, especially if we feel like the person may deserve their misfortune. The Bible verses below teach us that compassion is a true mark of Christian character. Another great example of someone showing compassion and grace is the story of the prodigal son. The verses below include the story of how a father showed compassion to his son. Go and do likewise, so that you can show the world how Jesus has changed you!
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” - Luke 15:20
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” - Colossians 3:12
“And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’” - Exodus 33:19
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” - Isaiah 30:18
“They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” - Isaiah 49:10
“Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.” - Isaiah 49:13
To whom will you show compassion today? How will you show compassion?
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, send your Spirit to help us be patient and gentle today. Help us to act with humility, compassion, and kindness towards others, as you do with us. Please guide us, so that we can guide others -- so they will see the abundance of grace and love you have for us. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
Mary Magdalene is mentioned as having been the first to visit the tomb of Jesus after his crucifixion, either alone or with others. As Saturday is the Sabbath for Jews, the first day of the week is a Sunday, and also the soonest since the Crucifixion that Mary or anyone could’ve done any “work”. So we see that Mary couldn’t even wait until it was light, and instead, took off in the wee hours of that first Easter Sunday to go to the tomb. So why was she going there? In Mark 16:1, it says that Mary, along with two others, took spices to anoint the body.
So now we’ve established the who, where, when, and why of the story. Except I think there’s more to the “why”. I have always heard that Mary being the first person at the tomb was both a sign of her faith and yet another example of how God breaks expectations, in other words, breaking gender stereotypes of the time and having Mary be the first to go and also the first to see the risen Christ. But I don’t actually think Mary ran to the tomb because of her faith.
If she had faith, she would’ve believed Jesus when he said he would be risen. Instead, she was probably a complete train wreck and might have been wondering if Jesus was really who he said he was. She had either forgotten or lost faith in what Jesus had said, but having become so close to Jesus, she wanted to pay her respects and anoint his body. Perhaps she wanted a chance to say goodbye. Maybe she needed closure. Just a week earlier, Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem, and she probably couldn’t believe all that had happened in just a week.
She ran to the tomb because she did not believe he had risen, and yet, despite her doubts, Jesus appeared to her first. She witnessed Jesus’ ministry, his miracles, and then his cruel death on a Roman cross, and yet, she still doubted. If she doubted and yet Jesus still came to her, then it should give us encouragement when we, who have believed on faith alone, have our own doubts. It’s okay to have doubts and uncertainties, and God is right here with us anyway.
Prayer for Today
God of Promises, you offer us truly unconditional love and limitless blessings, and yet we doubt. We turn away when we hear your voice, but you keep calling us by name. Thank you for never giving up on us. Amen.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
On a recent visit to see my niece and nephews, my mother brought some small gifts, including a toy that launched little whirlybirds in the air. My niece loved retrieving the small disc each time it landed. The first time, she brought it back in her mouth. Her nana explained it was dirty outside and she was not allowed to put it in her mouth. She nodded. And came back again with it in her mouth. Nana explained the rule again. A third and fourth time, she returned with it in her mouth. Nana said, “if you keep doing this, we can’t play with this toy any more. It’s a rule.” This time, she brought it back in her hand. Nana ask, “Did you put it in your mouth?” Innocently, she replied, “Not when you were looking.”
Oh how much we are like my young niece, even as adults. When no one is looking, the accountability is gone. As followers of Christ, we are promised not only the accountability of our fallible faith family, but the omnipresent Holy Spirit. And in this passage we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is not categorized as a warden or guard tower, an all-seeing, all-watching eye, or hall monitor. No, Jesus indicates the Spirit is an advocate. What good news for us. God, who could be eternally watchful, playing constable, judge, and executioner, instead chooses to send us the only member of the justice system there to take our side, aid our cause, defend us, and restore us to the community.
It speaks volumes that the final words from Jesus are not that he’s headed to heaven to watch our every move, but that he’s going to prepare a place for us and send us this advocate. This is Jesus saying, “I know it’ll be so hard that you’ll need help, and I’m sending it. But I know that with this new helper, you’ll be able to walk in my way. So I’m going home to get it ready for your arrival.” This should comfort us, and should inspire us to rise to the challenge. It’s tempting to only follow Jesus when someone else is watching. But we Christians are called to live our whole lives for God, leaning on the Spirit for help. So one day when the Lord asks if we did what he taught us, we can say proudly, “Even when you weren’t looking.”
Prayer for Today
Lord, you promised your advocate would be with us to help us along the way. Help me to trust in that promise and rely on the Spirit to do good in this world, even when no one is looking. Amen.
This Sunday is Preschool Recognition Sunday. Normally we would be indoors and we would have some of our preschool families joining with us for worship, but since will not be able to do that, we will be asking Lisa Lucas, our Preschool Director, to share a few words and introduce a video that highlights the life of our preschool. With the pandemic, this has been a challenging year. Because of Lisa's leadership and the wise direction of our Preschool Board and our Session, we've been able to make it through safely and provide a quality education for our preschool children and their families. So, in the spirit of our upcoming Preschool Recognition Sunday , I want to share with you the story I heard from the perspective of young boy:
A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out to the back porch and bring her the broom. The little boy turned to his mother and said, "Mama, I don't want to go out there. It's dark." The mother smiled reassuringly at her son. "You don't have to be afraid of the dark," she explained. "Jesus is out there. He'll look after you and protect you." The little boy looked at his mother real hard and asked, "Are you sure he's out there?" "Yes, I'm sure. He is everywhere, and he is always ready to help you when you need him," she said. The little boy thought about that for a minute and then went to the back door and cracked it a little. Peering out into the darkness, he called, "Jesus? If you're out there, would you please hand me the broom?"
Have you ever had a time when you knew in your head that Jesus was everywhere, but your heart felt otherwise? I know I have. Sometimes we all feel that way, no matter what our age, but children are often the ones to be honest about it.
I hope you will come this Sunday as we honor our Preschool in worship. I think you will be glad you did!
Prayer for Today
Thank you loving God, that you call us children of God. We thank you for all the children in our preschool, in our community, and in our world. Help us all to love and protect our children so that they may grow to be the women and men you created each one of them to be. We pray this in the strong name of your son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
As air travel has been slowed down or halted for many of us over the past year. I was thinking about this place today. Nearly 20 years ago, I was in Iona, the tiny isle where Christianity touched Scotland for the first time. Columba, the Irish monk built an abbey church there. A nunnery came later, and then for many generations, Iona was a mission outpost for western Scotland. It was first discovered when an Irish monk hopped aboard a boat with no steering system convinced that God and providence would wash him ashore where he needed to be.
It is now a place where many tourists and pilgrims travel. I spent 3 days there with a group of Presbyterian college students reflecting, worshipping, and experiencing community in a very new way. One of the parts of my experience there that sticks with me is the silence. There were very few mechanical sounds on the island, maybe one car, sometimes a lawn mower, but that was about it. I had an opportunity to hike with our group around the island one day. We traveled to the rocky beach, where Columba first encountered this small island. I learned that many of these rocks are some of the oldest in the world. They were there long before I arrived and will be there long after I leave.
Have you experienced moments when you are reminded that each day is a gift? Knowing this, how do you want to live your life? Always busy, working on the next project, chore, or errand? Or with an attitude of unhurried trust and joy being immersed in the current moment?
This verse continues to bubble up in me through the sea of events over the past year. “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
As reminder of my experience on Iona, I have a picture of one of the Celtic crosses that I found on the island. Each time I stop to take a look at it, these experiences come rushing back and I attempt to reclaim the rhythm of my journey and the messages that God revealed.
Seek the Lord and His strength: Seek His face continually.
-I Chronicles 16:11
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
-I Thessalonians 5:16-18
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
-I John 5:14
The Holy Hands in Prayer Team consists of 17 people. The prayer list is updated each Tuesday and sent via e-mail to the team. Emergency prayers are sent via text message to the team. Any prayer that we are given is held in complete confidence by each team member. Names or anonymous requests are received. A request may be anonymous, and listed anonymous. I would like to know how to follow up on the request. If someone is comfortable with the prayer request being put in the daily Reflections, I will give that information to the secretary of the church. Prior to the pandemic we met together every Tuesday morning at 10:00 AM and daily at home. Now we pray at home daily.
When the Holy Hands in Prayer Team prays, these scriptures are some of the 790 Bible verses that tell us to pray, pray in worship, or praise prayers. We invite the Holy Spirit to be present with us as we pray and guide us as we pray. We seek His Word. We offer prayers of Praise and Adoration. We confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. We lift up prayers for each of the needs of our congregation. Finally, we thank the Lord for listening and responding. Prayer is the most powerful tool that God has given us to live in our world. Yet many times we don’t use this tool. We have witnessed many answers to prayer since we started this team seven years ago. Some of these have been miracles. We definitely have an awesome God.
If any of you are in need of prayer or have someone else that needs prayer, please contact me to put you on our prayer list. If you have an emergency, you can call or text me.
Prayer for Today
Gracious Lord: thank You for all Your abundant mercies and blessings. Forgive us for not taking the time to spend with You as we should. Thank You for loving us in spite of our many sins. We thank You for forgiveness. In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
George Whitefield (1714–1770) was one of the most gifted and effective preachers in history, leading thousands to faith in Jesus. But his life wasn’t without controversy. His practice of preaching outdoors (to accommodate large crowds) was sometimes criticized by those who questioned his motives and felt he should speak only within the four walls of a church building. Whitefield’s epitaph sheds light on his response to others’ harsh words: “I am content to wait till the Day of Judgment for the clearing up of my character; and after I am dead, I desire no other epitaph than this, ‘Here lies George Whitefield—what sort of a man he was, the great day will discover.’ ”
In the Old Testament, when David faced harsh criticism from others, he too entrusted himself to God. When Saul falsely accused David of leading a rebellion and he was forced to hide from Saul’s approaching army in a cave, David described being “in the midst of lions,” among “men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords” (Psalm 57:4). But even in that difficult place, he turned to God and found comfort in Him: “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (v. 10).
When others misunderstand or reject us, God is our “refuge” (v. 1). May He be forever praised for His unfailing and merciful love!
Prayer for Today
Abba Father, I praise You that I can be accepted by You forever because of Your Son. I take refuge in Your perfect love today. Amen.
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
"You say you love the poor. Name them."
My dear friend Joel and I were in youth ministry in the small town some years ago now. He went on to be active in freeing kids from child trafficking. He shared this quote with me and it was a constant reminder to not just serve the poor, but become a brother to them and make their struggle my own, their reality a part of mine. I came across the quote again this week and thought of how much I miss my friends from the shelter at First Pres. I miss Freddie who checked on me like a dad, asking how my boys were. I miss Marilyn who would ask me for ties and bow ties for her grandsons when they had graduations. I miss Rainbow who used to give my oldest son complicated breakfast orders of fancy foods and garnishes, even though the food was the same each Sunday morning.
This challenged me. I’m confident that the decisions of our partner organizations to operate differently in Covid has been wise. I’m confident our decisions as staff, session, and the parents and kids in the youth group to be cautious have been wise. I’m also confident that as we are vaccinated and protocols are implemented, we need to return to the work that needs doing to serve and become brothers and sisters to the least of these, to learn their names and stories. The work may look different now, but we are called to it. We must be wise and safe, respecting the health of those we serve, who often will be the last to receive medical attention and vaccines, but also as quick to give help as we can.
When you receive your vaccination, I know you’ll make a mental list of things you can do, people you can see, and ways you can return to “normal life.” I hope you’ll think of this moment and name the people you can serve. And if you don’t know them by first name yet, come see me, come join me, and I’ll introduce you. I’ve introduced many of our youth. This year, whether it’s back to normal or a new normal for you, seek to serve. We have a lot of work to do.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me a neighbor, make me a brother or sister, and make me compassionate to the least of these. Amen.
This past Easter Sunday was a glorious day at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church! I hope you were able to attend our In-person worship service under a tent on our ballfield, attend our Drive-In service, or watch it Online. I know some of you did more than one -- and maybe someone attended all three! I hope you will let me know if you did.
Gathering for worship in-person on our ballfield reminded me how much I miss worshiping with others. Like all of us, I look forward to the near future when we can gather again together indoors and safely worship God. As we have shared, our plans are to add an 11:00 AM indoors worship service with masks and social distancing beginning May 2nd in our Great Hall, provided the present downward trends in Covid cases continues. Our “Signup Genius” will work the same way it did for Easter Sunday to reserve seats for those indoor services. We will also continue both our Drive-In and Online services for now.
This Sunday we begin a new sermon series based on the book of 1 John. Last Sunday we read the Easter story from the gospel of John. But this Sunday we began this brief epistle written by John. Because one of the main themes of this epistle is love, I'm calling the series “1 John - a love letter.” If the gospel of John tells the whole story of the life of Christ from beginning to end, 1 John distills the teachings of the gospel message to its basic fundamentals. One Bible scholar even suggested that beginning reading 1 John would give a new believer an excellent foundation in the faith, from which he or she could progress to reading other parts of the Bible.
Martin Luther said this about 1 John: “This is an outstanding epistle. It can buoy up afflicted hearts.” In stormy times such as these, my guess is that all of us could use having our “afflicted hearts” buoyed up! I hope you will plan to join us this Sunday!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, may the good news of Easter continue to lift our hearts today and every day. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus, the risen Christ. Amen.
This Easter weekend marked some firsts for families in over a year.
What were you able to do this Easter that you were unable to do last year?
Some words that come to mind as I reflect on Holy Week and Easter in the midst of navigating this stage of the pandemic... Savor... Weep... Rejoice...Remember...Mourn...Hope...Joy.
We were finally able to spend quality time with family that we have seen in small spurts in small groups mostly outdoors in the past year.
Sharing the joy of Easter and the little things with Will and my nephews was a gift this year. Worshipping together at Drive In Service was a gift this year. Easter lunch at home with family was a gift this year.
What are some ways you savored, wept, rejoiced, remembered, mourned, hoped or experienced joy this Holy Week and Easter Sunday?
As I think back to last year at this time, I have taken the time to name those things that brought these emotions and experiences to the surface.
We have all been through a lot over the past year. Embrace the miracle of Christ’s resurrection with new eyes, new ears, and a new heart.
John 20:30-31 “Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.”
Prayer for Today
Gracious and Loving God,
Thank you for the gift of life today. Open our eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to know the deep love you have for us.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. -1 Peter 4:10-11
Hope everyone had a blessed Easter.
Many of you know me, and for those who don’t, I am a lifelong Presbyterian and currently serve as an Elder and leader of the Caring Team. Our team is made up of three distinct groups that help people in their times of need: Prayer, CanCare, and Stephen Ministers.
Though the Caring Team is made up of three teams, we sometimes overlap and frequently communicate with each other. For basic support the Prayer Team lead by Alice Ann Nilsen on Tuesdays will pray for your needs publicly or anonymously. Kay Royal leads the Atlanta chapter of CanCare whereby newly diagnosed cancer patients are matched nationwide with cancer survivors to help guide them on their journey and give them hope. Rebecca Eldridge and I lead Stephen Ministry, a nationwide interdenominational organization that is trained in helping people through difficult situations: loss of a job, illness, divorce, or bereavement. Stephen Ministers have a privacy code whereby the care receivers are held in strict confidence that even the other Stephen Ministers do not know the care receivers. A Stephen Minister can also be assigned from a different church if needed. Pastor Gray Norsworthy is the staff support for our team and brings many years of professional experience in congregational care.
All of us on the Caring team feel called to take an active role in the caring ministry. As members of the body of Christ we are all called according to our gifts to help others. If any of your friends and families have needs for care, please reach out to any of the leaders and we will help guide and insure the right people can help. We are also always looking for new volunteers that feel called to the Caring ministry and have regularly scheduled training classes for new associates. Your Stephen Ministers are now helping with the daily Reflections to increase awareness or caring needs and resources.
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
Prayer for Today
Father, through the Holy Spirit help us always see and hear the needs of others, guide us in bearing the burdens of others in compassion, just as your Son did for us. Amen.
From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o-clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "This one is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him." But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, "Truly, this was the Son of God!"
-Matthew 27:45-54 (NABRE)
The last words of Jesus (from the cross) were the opening words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And those who didn’t understand thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah...
Do you ever think it seems that everyone around Jesus was constantly missing what was happening right in front of their eyes? The disciples were often noted for missing the point throughout his ministry...
And did you read what happened next??? Read it again! The earth quaked... the curtain of the temple was torn... the rocks split open... and if THAT wasn’t enough, resurrected dead were coming out of tombs, walking around, appearing to many in the holy city?? And this was long before the Walking Dead series... Can you even imagine??? It’s as if God the Creator were saying PAY ATTENTION ALREADY—THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!! If you read a little further, you'll see that the centurion and his men didn't miss a beat. It could be no one else. With all of the sudden chaotic events occurring at the moment of Jesus' death, this had to be the Son of God!
So on this Good Friday, I encourage you to read the Biblical account again, contemplating who Jesus really is, and remembering the purpose of his death and resurrection, to cancel our sins, and restore our broken relationship with God, so that we may have everlasting life!!
How will you respond? With thanks and praise to God? Of course! We hope you will worship with us (online or in person) on Easter!
Prayer for Today
Holy God, when this Lenten journey is over, help us to continue walking with you daily beyond the joy of Easter morning. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
If you had asked me what an influencer was as a teenager, I would have said someone popular who gets people to do something. I would never have guessed it would become an actual term or career possibility. But the truth is, it’s just new jargon for an ancient job. The term could be applied to far more important people in history who were leaders, judges, teachers, prophets, house-church hosts, clergy, and community organizers. It certainly applies to Joshua and his most devoted followers. The book of Joshua is not at all about God’s special people who always have, do, and will attain victory because God loves them the most. It IS a story of how obedience to God by God’s chosen people AND outsiders leads to victory for all of God’s faithful followers.
Joshua leads his people into the Promised Land. They encounter people who are morally corrupt, people who lead evil lives and sacrifice children. Those who repent and follow God are spared. And when God’s people rebel and do wrong, they fail. When they repent, they are again victorious. The last two chapters of the book are Joshua’s big farewell speech, a reminder of God’s faithfulness and a warning that they should remain faithful in return. Joshua warns them that they have only two choices - to embrace the culture and priorities around them, to worship and idolize and indulge in what people in their land glorify... OR... to worship and serve the Lord. His household will do the latter.
What message could be more relevant in our modern world or in Holy Week as Easter and Spring Break approach? Gallup poll released its 2020 findings about Faith communities this week. For the first time in America’s recorded history, there are more people who are NOT members of churches, synagogues, or mosques than those who are. Membership in houses of worship are down to 47%, to say nothing of attendance (in-person or online). Like the Israelites, we can carry our church with us wherever we go, worshipping at home, in our tabernacle tents, or on vacation. And like them, our worship will be a sign to the people in the land around us. Will we worship only at the altars of resorts, sleeping in, stadiums and fields, or the other distractions of our land, or will we and our household serve the Lord? Whether you join us for drive-in, or in the tent on our ball field, online, or the church nearest your vacation destination, or on a beach, carve out the time, take a selfie where you are, and tag it #JOSHUA2415. I’d love to see where you are, but even more, I’d love for you to influence your sphere of our land. Happy Easter! He is risen!
Prayer for Today
Wherever I go each Lord’s day, help to carve out the day for you. This Easter, use me and my family to influence the world by my presence in worship. Help me lead by example and tell a story with my priorities. Amen.