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.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we begin to emerge from the past year of quarantine, sickness and isolation, let us reflect that God has been with us the entire time. Everyone has been impacted in some way by the Covid 19 Pandemic. Everyone is re-entering the world at a pace that is most comfortable to them.
Stephen Ministers can help with this adjustment. We are Christian lay people who have been trained in how to respond to situations outside of what we personally have experienced. The Stephen Ministry Compass guides us to be Compassionate, Full of Faith, Skilled, and Trustworthy.
I had heard about Stephen Ministries for many years. Before elective surgery in 2011, I went to a Stephen Minister after church to request prayer. We prayed right then and there, which is what I expected. Surprisingly, there was much more follow-up with two Stephen Ministers sitting with my husband during my surgery and dinners were provided for a week.
I have been a Stephen Minister for almost a year and a half. After decades of being active in different prayer groups, I felt called to expand my caring for people in a more direct way. In God’s good time, I was approached about becoming a Stephen Minister and I eagerly agreed. Soon after my training the Pandemic started. I was able to communicate with my care receiver by phone since we were all quarantined and that was what she was most comfortable with. God was with us during this journey and though we never met in person, we were able to effectively communicate through “Telecare”.
As we slowly begin to return to normality let us support one another. If you need prayer, a listening ear, or something more during this time, a Stephen Minister can help. Please reach out to David Lee at email@example.com or Rebecca Eldridge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayer for Today
Thank you for always being with us. Guide us as we enter a post-pandemic world and help us to hear what you are calling each of us to do.
In Jesus’ most precious name,
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.
-2 Corinthians 13:14
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity. In our Affirmation of Faith each week, we reaffirm our belief in this concept. Prior to the pandemic and our new styles of worship, we sang the Gloria Patri together in worship, too. Here are the words to the Gloria Patri:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.
The Trinity appears in many hymns, as well, including one we will sing this Sunday:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
This idea of a Triune God took time to be developed and understood, and it is never explicitly mentioned in the Bible. It originally developed among early Christians as they wrestled with understanding the relationship between God and Jesus. In our Christian history, there have been countless other theories that have tried to explain the relationship between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed, which we still use today, was developed out of a desire to codify beliefs, partially in response to Arianism, the belief that while Jesus was the Son of God, he was not co-eternal with the Father.
Presbyterians, along with our Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and other Christian brothers and sisters, believe that God is the one true God but that he exists in three distinct co-eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe that all three are equal yet distinct, and all are God. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit, and yet, all three are God. It is a confusing concept to be sure! The threefold nature of our God may be hard to understand, but the nature of God will always be out of reach of us. When we affirm our belief in the Trinity, we are also affirming our belief in something that we can never fully understand. I think that says something about us as Christians and our faith in God. We may not fully understand, but we are willing to live by faith, even among the great mysteries of God.
Prayer for Today
Holy Triune God, as we continue through this pandemic, you remain a source of constancy and strength. As we struggle with different opinions of others, you remain a source of unconditional love and understanding. As we find ourselves in suffering and despair, you remain a source of hope and comfort. Help us to sing your praises and glorify you through our lives. Amen.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
-I Corinthians 12:7
The origin of robe-wearing for pastors harkens back to the academic robes European students wore at university in the cold classrooms and hallways in their frigid climates. If you’ve seen the more recent Sherlock Holmes movies, you may remember Professor Moriarity wearing his to teach. It’s symbolic for us to wear them, as it is with judges and graduates and faculty of our education in the field we serve. As pastors, we typically have another layer of symbolism in the vestments we wear to match those on the pulpit and communion table, as well as banners.
For most of the year, we wear green to symbolize Ordinary Time. Mine was a gift from my first congregation with material from Ghana, which reminds me of the global nature of the Church and my calling. It’s often a conversation starter. Next most common is purple, which we wear for the four weeks leading up to Christmas, known as Advent, and the 40 days prior to Easter, known as Lent. We wear White for Christmas, Easter, communion, and Trinity Sunday (which happens to be this week). Lastly, red is for Pentecost and any time we ordain or install church leaders. We’ve decided to wear it this summer, not arbitrarily, but to indicate the special time in returning to Church worship and the work of serving folks in-person. A former colleague suggested calling such seasons, “Extraordinary Time.”
Red, our color of Pentecost and of responding to God’s call as gifted by the Spirit, is a liturgical color of a call to action. I hope you’ll join us this summer as we return to the campus and building for worship, education, VBS, and service, or online for some of the same as you’re able. It’s an extraordinary time. We’ve done a lot in the year of quarantine, but we are ready to do more. The second full week of June will be our annual Mission Week, and I hope, if you’re able to do so, you’ll join us in serving. Let’s go.
Prayer for Today
Lord, in this extraordinary time, send us by your Holy Spirit to serve. Amen.
The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:
-2 John 1-2, NIV
Last Sunday was Pentecost. In the sermon I talked about the Holy Spirit -- which Jesus called “the Spirit of Truth” in John's gospel. The words above are from our passage from 2 John for this week's sermon -- which also talk about truth. Lewis Smedes, an ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, talks about what it means to tell the truth. One of the sources of wisdom he used to explain what it meant to tell the truth was Aristotle. Smedes conveyed Aristotle's definition of “telling the truth” in this way: It is telling the right truth to the right person at the right time in the right way for the right reason.
Each part of that definition speaks to some aspect of telling the truth. For example, in telling the right truth -- we may realize that we know something that is true, but it may not be our information to share. This is where confidentiality guidelines may apply. Also, we may know a truth, but it may not be our truth to share with a particular person who “can’t handle the truth.” Someone may have entrusted a truth to us to give to one person, but it would be wrong for us to share it with another.
When it comes to telling the truth at the right time, this considers what is going on in the life of the hearer. What we may need to share is true, but the timing may not be right. When it comes to sharing truth in the right way, there are times we can share truth so that it builds up, or so that it tears down. And finally, for the right reason means that we share truth that would reflect our love of God and neighbor.
Some of us may find that too complex or difficult, but I have found these guidelines helpful when it comes to knowing the best and the right way to tell the truth. However, as Christians, we not only try to tell the truth, we also believe in THE truth -- Jesus the Christ – whose Spirit lives within us!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you sent us your son, Jesus, who is THE truth. Help us to know the truth, to be set free by your truth, and to speak the truth in love. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Over the course of this school year, I have heard parts of this message from different places. One part that resonates with me is that what we say in our minds and aloud from our mouths has a significant impact. In listening to Jon Acuff talk about his book Soundtracks and the ways that what we say to ourselves or repeat what we hear others say about us can determine how we navigate through challenges in our lives.
One way I have seen this lived out, in one of the most positive ways, is through Will’s 1st grade teacher. Every day of school since August, she begins the day with a call and response motivational message. It’s the same message every day, and throughout the year different students had an opportunity to lead the class in it. I witnessed a video early in the year of the class saying these words together. Here is an excerpt…
“Why are my expectations so high? Because you believe in us!... So mistakes are okay? Yes, because mistakes are how we learn… Repeat after me… I belong. I’m important. I am loved…” They end looking at the person beside them and saying, “Today is going to be a great day! I’ve got this… You’ve got this…”
This class has thrived in one of the most challenging years I have lived through. They started school together in August and have not stopped. They made it through the entire year together in the classroom and will finish on Thursday, a class full of smart, kind, energetic, and compassionate 1st graders. I believe this is in large part due to the words that begin their day.
What words do you begin your day with and how can you speak kindness, compassion and encouragement to yourself and those you encounter today?
Prayer for Today
Gracious and Loving God, guide our thoughts, words, and actions. Open us up to the ways that we can speak your love into the world. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
As most of you already know from recent emails and letters, your JCPC Session approved a return to in-person, non-masked (for the vaccinated), non-socially distanced worship, as well as the starting up of other church activities. That is the big news from the Session meeting. Now I wish to share some other thoughts.
At one of our past JCPC men’s retreats, those attending studied how change is inevitable, how change will happen, and what tools we have to better live with change. It seems that our Session is always guiding our church through changes and boy is there a big change happening now! In person worship -- sitting next to each other without masks for the vaccinated -- is huge. The speed of change is always a contentious point. Some want change right now. Others want to ease into it. Still others are opposed.
For the past year and a half, our Session and church leaders have tried to balance these three speeds against the safety of our members and those most vulnerable to the virus. Returning to the communal worship of our God has been the goal. Continuing our outreach and fellowship during the restrictions has been the goal. Session strived to find common ground. Not everyone was pleased with our decisions. The JCPC Session is a group of your Christian peers and we are doing the best we can to balance all the issues.
Bottom line -- we are excited to begin worship in-person. And we will continue to give you options as to how quickly you wish to return to communal worship. I urge you to find your “virus comfort zone” and join in at your own pace as Sunday school classes and worship groups return to weekly in-person meetings. We are also investigating hybrid zoom and in-person meetings as some options.
Although we all know change will occur, one thing that the Bible teaches is that God’s love for his people is unwavering and that he is with us always through our trials and joys. He wants our actions and thoughts to mirror his, to the best of our abilities, and he is there to help us as we try. Join us and celebrate his love and commitment to us as we emerge from the virus restrictions.
Prayer for Today
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age. - Matthew 28: 19,20
Isaac Watts was a very prolific hymn writer, and helped to lead the change in hymnody to not only sing the psalms, but also include new poetry for original songs of Christian experience to be used in worship. His hymns are very well-known. You may be familiar with some of them, including Joy to the World, Our God Our Help in Ages Past, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and I Sing the Mighty Power of God.
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, and we will be singing one of his hymns about the Holy Spirit! And yes, you read that correctly, we will actually be singing... online, in your cars, AND in in-person worship! (Please remember to wear a mask if you are age 5 or older AND not fully vaccinated.) Consider the words of this hymn:
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all thy quickening powers;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.
Together, with one voice, we call upon the Holy Spirit, acknowledge the Spirit's quickening (life-giving) powers, and ask to receive that power into our hearts that we may be granted the ability to love God and love others with the love of God...
In vain we tune our formal songs;
In vain we strive to rise;
Hosannas languish on our tongues,
And our devotion dies.
Here we acknowledge that without the Holy Spirit, and acting upon our own human power, we don't have what it takes to praise God as God deserves to be praised, nor can our devotion to God be sustained by our own power. This also implies that empowered by the Holy Spirit, our praises and devotion will soar!
Dear Lord, and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate?
Our love so faint, so cold to thee,
And thine to us so great!
This verse confesses our lack of love, and also our knowledge of God's abundant love for us, and we ask how can we live this way? How can we change? Who can remedy this situation? (HINT: The answer is in the next verse!!)
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all thy quickening powers;
Come, shed abroad a Savior's love,
And that shall kindle ours.
Finally, we ask the Holy Spirit again into our hearts, that we may ultimately learn to love God and one another.
Join us in singing this hymn, wherever you are, as you worship with us this Sunday!!
Prayer for Today
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
-I Corinthians 9:24-27
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. Do your best to come to me soon.
-II Timothy 4:7-9
The nature of my job is such that I spend a lot of time talking to parents about kids… their kids, other people’s kids, all kids, my own kids.
There’s a lot of comparing and strategizing and tip-sharing, questions and theories. One thing we all do is marvel at great kids and wonder how they turned out that way. In my years of experience, I have observed and tell parents that good kids are born that way (as are the wonderful challenging ones). But great kids? That’s parenting. And by parenting, I mean the parents, the grandparents, the mentors, the coaches, the church the family chooses to be a part of, the role models, etc. And parents choose a LOT of that.
When we reach this time of year, I think about that a lot. At each graduation, ceremony, and celebration, we lift up some students and kids as special, achievers, leaders. Our society holds up students that have been, or they think have potential to be successful. The Church is different, and should be. We hold up discipleship, following Christ, rather than what is culturally considered successful. I thought of this as we celebrated our servant leader grad this past Sunday. She has distinguished herself among her peers as one who serves others. She serves her classmates and younger kids, caring for children, mentoring, being an Elder, setting an example, and showing up with great commitment to youth, worship, Bible studies, service projects, and serving the homeless. That’s great parenting. That’s great Church.
As parents and faith family, we have a mighty responsibility to prioritize showing our kids how to worship, how to serve others in need, how to show up, and why… who and whose they are. The world tells us that it’s a sprint to college or a first job, that success is measured by achievements in academics, sports, and the arts. But scripture tells us that the world is full of lies and distractions from following the call to serve God first. Scripture tells us that our race is a marathon. Preparing kids for lifelong spiritual success is a challenging process of saying no even more than saying yes. We have to say no to Sunday commitments that take us from worship, no to some opportunities that prevent them from forming relationships with other young believers and spiritual mentors, no to prioritizing skills and achievements over serving people in need. It’s very hard work indeed. But it’s the difference between the good and the great. And we need a world filled with great kids becoming devoted disciples.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to prioritize my relationship to you, to set an example, expectations, and foundation for the young people you’ve placed in my care, not to become successful, but to be yours, called to your purpose. Amen.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.
– John 16:13, NIV
This Sunday is Pentecost. The “big” holidays in the life of the church are Easter and Christmas. Christmas focuses on the birth of Christ and the incarnation. Easter focuses on the resurrection of Christ following his crucifixion on Good Friday. But what about Pentecost? Does that have something to do with Pentecostal churches? Don't Presbyterians focus on predestination as opposed to Pentecost? These are all good questions.
Pentecost comes from the word fiftieth. It is the Greek name given to the Feast of Weeks which is called that because it fell on the fiftieth day after Passover. In our Old Testament, at this feast the first fruits of the corn harvest were presented, and later, the giving of the law by Moses was also commemorated.
However, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles in the early church as it is talked about in Acts 2, Pentecost was celebrated by the early church as the feast celebrating this event. In our church calendar, the lectionary reading for this day not only includes Acts 2, but also Ezekiel 37 and the story of the dry bones coming to life. But the gospel reading for today is from the gospel of John, and that's what we'll be focusing on this Sunday.
Often when churches focus on Pentecost, there is a focus on the Holy Spirit. We ask questions like what is the Holy Spirit or who is the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit have to do with the Trinity -- God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? This Sunday we're going to be focusing on trying to understand what it means when Jesus talks about “the Spirit of truth” and how does that relate to us today? For example, in an age of fake news, how can the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, help us to discern what is really true? So, join us this Sunday for worship either Online, Drive-in (9:30 a.m.) , or Indoors (11:00 a.m.). I hope you read the email or letter we sent out to the congregation Tuesday about relaxing our policies on mask and social distancing indoors for those who have been fully vaccinated. You can click here if you want to read that again.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, fill us with your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Christ, the Spirit of truth -- so that we might witness to the truth of your love for this world you not only created, but continue to care for and sustain. Amen.
Do you prefer to be comfortable? Often we can devote our time, money, and energy to keeping it that way. If it’s hot in the summer we turn on the AC. If it’s cold in the winter we crank up the heat. Your closest friends tend to be those that you feel the most comfortable around. And there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable—the problem is when we become too comfortable. God didn’t create us just to be comfortable. He calls us to live for something much bigger.
Relationships are sometimes the hardest area for us to be stretched in. It’s easy to get so caught up with our circle of friends that we don’t make room for anyone new. When have you had an opportunity recently to reach out to or interact with someone new?
Did you miss an opportunity to share God’s love with someone struggling with loneliness, or maybe it was a chance to be challenged by a fresh perspective and new insight? Life’s not always about what’s easy and comfortable for us.
As part of the body of Christ we are called to get involved. But what if there aren’t any needs in my area of comfort? Instead of only looking to get involved in the areas we feel most comfortable in or “called to” as some put it, why not ask what the most pressing needs are and fill those even if it’s not our first choice.
There will be a variety of opportunities to serve as we continue to transition to in person ministries with our church. One of those will be July 12-15 when we will offer in person, small group Vacation Bible School where we need adult and youth volunteers to help make this a meaningful experience for everyone.
Luke 10:2 says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” To follow Christ’s example is to become servants and allow Christ to use us in unexpected ways.
How will you be open to God using you in unexpected ways this week?
Prayer for Today
Creator God, Open our eyes to some new opportunities this week where we can be stretched in our faith. Give us the courage and strength to step out of our comfort zones and follow you with our whole hearts. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You, In God whose Word I praise- in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? - Psalm 56:3-4
There is much for all of us to reflect on this year. We have just barely concluded a year like no other we have ever experienced as households, a church body, a nation and world. Isolated from each other, even family members, for months, perhaps a whole year, for some. We have lost friends and loved ones in numbers that exceed anything “normal.” Yet, it has also been a time of rest, slowing down, listening to each other in our households... experiencing true family fellowship. 2020 is a year this generation will never forget. Hopefully we have learned how to cope with the unexpected, with isolation, and loss, with contained emotions expressed in positive ways, and to know that God is always as close as our breath, there is nothing to fear.
..GOOD news is here. We are now able to resume in house worship in under certain conditions, and gather in small groups again. Spring is a hopeful time and we have much to be hopeful about, and thankful for.
During this time I have learned to turn to God more and more each day. It sometimes seems like God is giving us time to learn how to trust Him with the unexpected trials of life; to turn to His Word and seek solace and comfort in His promise of nearness. Through His Word and Holy Spirit presence, He encourages us to reach out to Him, to pray and seek His guidance in how He wants us to live out our beliefs in touching the lives of others we come in contact with. Stephen Ministry teaches the art of listening and caring. None of us can solve another’s problem or heartaches, but any of us can reach out and show the love of Jesus. Let the light of Christ shine in your life today, and every day, drawing others to Him.
Prayer for Today
Holy Father, we are so grateful for your loving care and faithfulness. Open our spiritual eyes to see where You are working around us and to know that is Your invitation to join You in that moment. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145 is a Psalm of praise about the goodness of God, and it celebrates all that God does for us in our lives. But this particular verse struck me as a bit perplexing. It is easy to understand what “calling on God” means, but what does it really mean to call on God “in truth”? If God will be near to me, but only if I call on him in truth, then we’d better figure out what that “in truth” part really means!
What is truth? What is the truth we need to have to be able to call on God? I think truth is many things and my truth may not be the same as your truth. It can be influenced by those around us, by what we read, or by what we’ve experienced. How then can we ever know the truth we need to call on God?
In this case, I wonder if it means calling on God for something that is in accordance with what we believe God’s will is for us or for the world. If we called on God to shred the tires of the person who cut us off in traffic, I think that would constitute something NOT “in truth”. After all, God calls us to be slow to anger and act in love, so certainly calling on God for something out of hate or spite isn’t truth.
The best way to find the truth of God’s will is to seek this truth in prayer and meditation. We can be swayed by the opinions of others but if we let go of our preconceived ideas and let God in, I think we may be able to find glimmers of this truth in our lives. Every one of us lives out some part of our lives that is not part of God’s truth, but I believe God is always working to steer us towards his truth. How will you respond when God tries to show you the way to his truth?
Prayer for Today
God of Compassion and Truth, I will forever praise you and sing of your greatness. You catch me when I fall and hear my cries. Help me to discover your truth in my life so that I may live the life you desire for me. Amen.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
In the corner of the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where tradition holds that Jesus shared his last meal, you’ll find a narrow pillar carved in stone. Curiously, a pelican is carved into it. My tour guide in the Holy Land explained that it was an early Christian symbol, which I’ve seen several times since. Pelican mothers are incredible. It turns out that when they can’t find enough food to fill their large expanding bills and return to feed their young, they’ll use that bill to beat the side of their body, wounding themselves, causing internal hemorrhaging. The mother can then regurgitate her own life-sustaining fluids to feed her young, sacrificing herself to keep her children alive.
We are in the midst of both a secular and spiritual season of sacrifice. We just celebrated Mother’s Day and both Father’s Day and Memorial Day are ahead. We are also between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, the period of time Jesus appeared to his disciples after his sacrificial death on the cross, when God gave us God’s one and only son, and before Jesus ascended. In fact, each Sunday is named for its distance from Easter, until Pentecost Sunday (for instance, the Sunday after Easter is the Second Sunday of Easter). During this time, the world and the Church recognize and reflect on the sacrifices of parents, soldiers, and our savior. No healthy relationship is without sacrifice, but those of parents to their children, soldiers to their country, and Christ to God’s created ones is one whose purpose is ongoing sacrifice, like the mother pelican.
This week, as you reflect on your relationships to mothers, fathers, and soldiers, I encourage you to reflect on Christ as feeling that same love and dedication to service to the point of self-sacrifice and the purpose of our salvation. When we follow Christ, we are called to make sacrifices. Some are small and some are big. Small ones like the way we speak to others and our speed to react and lash out, to make others into enemies, or that we fail to show courtesy, to check on others, or see them as our brothers and sisters. And in large ways, like choosing to set aside our time every week for worship, even when our schedules and commitments seek to crowd God out of our Sundays and week days and our very thoughts and prayer lives. As summer approaches, and we start it with a long week on Memorial Day, join me in committing to discipleship that embraces sacrifice and don’t take a summer vacation from worship or bringing your own children to God’s house. See you there.
Prayer for Today
Lord, inspire me by examples like the mother pelican, that I may be willing and eager to make sacrifices, daily and small, lifelong and large. Amen.
If we have received human witness, God's witness is greater. This is the witness of God, the testimony he has born to his son. All those who believe in the son of God have the witness in themselves . . I am writing these things to you so that you may know that you, who believe in the name of the son of God, do indeed have the life of the age to come. - The Kingdom New Testament
The word “witness” in the Greek is an interesting word. It refers to those how are witnesses to facts. As one person put it, “Facts, not ideas, are at issue. Those who bear witness to these facts have lived through them.” The Greek word for “witness” is martyres. It is the root of our English word “martyr.” Now the word originally did not mean what it means today. Granted, it can mean something as silly as someone who always seems to be suffering, and we may say to that person, “Don’t be such a martyr.” But the meaning most of us think about is someone who is willing or who actually dies for his or her beliefs. But that is not what the word meant at first.
Early on it meant those who were witnesses to the facts they knew about -- such as the life of Christ. For a variety of reasons, others felt that these Christians should not be saying these things, and if those individuals had power, they could begin to persecute the Christians who were simply witnesses to what they had seen. And so early Christians began to be persecuted and even killed for simply being witnesses to the fact that they had seen this risen Christ. When enough of them had been killed, the meaning of the word began to change from one who witnesses to the facts they have experienced, to one who ends up dying for his or her faith.
This Sunday we will be talking about what it means to have God as our witness to the truth about Jesus. That truth can not only change our lives – it can change the world!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, we thank you for providing a multitude of witnesses in our lives, reminding us who Jesus is and what he's done for us and for our whole world. Help us to witness to the love of Christ in all that we say and do this day. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13
Do you know anyone who just overflows with hope? They often are the encourager or see the good in a situation. I have experienced people along the journey that help point me back to the joy, peace and hope that God provides for us through the Holy Spirit.
Many of the messages we hear or say to ourselves may be criticism or frustration. I would invite you into a space where you can look around you for evidence of a day well lived.
What does that look like for you? Some of the things that help me to see the joy, peace and hope Paul talks about are when… I made someone smile. I hugged and wasn’t the first to let go. I encouraged. I laughed. I believed. I lifted. I kneeled. I forgave. I lived. I loved.
I spent some time in the book of Romans a couple of years ago with our Senior Adult Bible Study, given the experiences of the past year, I find Paul’s sending words and conclusion to have deeper meaning now. This passage is one that I have taken with me since my Dad passed away nearly 4 years ago. That is who he was, someone overflowing with hope. I continue to hear his voice with encouragement and hope guiding me.
May Paul’s words today be your encouragement to experience this day as one that is well lived.
Prayer for Today
Open our minds and hearts to experience the joy and peace that come from trusting in you. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food, So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this
responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.
Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen ...... -Acts 6: 1-5
The Stephen Ministry program was started to help Pastors with the care of their congregations. The name came from Stephen who was one of seven men picked by the disciples to help them care for people so they could spend more time in prayer and teaching the word. As Mac said last week, we go through rigorous training to learn how to really listen and be supportive. In non-pandemic years, we also have continuing education programs in conjunction with Johns Creek United Methodist Church. These consist of specialists from the community sharing with us what is available to help with issues our care receivers might have. We also have a reciprocal agreement with the Methodist church to provide Stephen Ministers to each others members should a person prefer to talk to someone who is not a member of their own church.
As a member of the first class of Stephen Ministers trained in this church I have had the privilege of walking alongside many members during their healing process. Doing this, plus meetings with other Stephen Ministers has enriched my life in many ways. If you think you would like to have someone meet, listen, or pray with you please contact one of the Stephen Ministry leaders, Rebecca Eldridge or David Lee. They would also be happy to talk to you if you think you might like to explore becoming a Stephen Minister.
Prayer for Today
Dear Father, thank you for always being present to listen to our prayers. We also thank you for providing caring people who can listen and pray with us and help us in our time of need. In your precious name we pray. Amen.
This Sunday is Mother's Day, and this is your official notice, just in case you missed every commercial and advertisement reminding you to celebrate mom! For many of us, celebrating our mothers is a natural response to acknowledge the love and care we received (and continue to receive) as children, no matter how grown up we are now. Many of us are delighted to quote the familiar commandment:
Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you. -Exodus 20:12
And the proverb goes a bit further:
Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth and do not sell it -- wisdom, instruction and insight as well. The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!
But what about those of us who have strained relationships (or no relationship) with our mothers, for any number of reasons? What are we supposed to do with this holiday? May I suggest we consider how lovingly God cares for us by mothering us in other ways? May I suggest we take another look at who God brings into our lives to share their wisdom, guidance, and friendship?
I was blessed to have my mother in my life until I was 32 years old. She passed away from complications of diabetes when she was 73. A few years before her passing, when Ken and I were dating, I met Joyce Chinnock, my future mother-in-law. After raising two sons and being the only female in a house of men, she quickly befriended me as a prospective wife for her son. As we got to know each other and our conversations deepened, I realized she would not be the stereotypical mother-in-law, and we would always enjoy each other's company, and we did until she passed away in December of 2018.
I realize that Joyce entered my life at the time I needed her most. Her wisdom, guidance, friendship, and mothering was a gift for which I will always be grateful.
Who has God brought into your life? Who has been like a mother to you? Maybe this Mother's Day is the time to give thanks to God and say thanks to them!
Prayer for Today
Mothering God, you know all of our needs and lovingly guide us. Open our eyes to your bountiful gifts, and we respond with praise. In your son's holy name we pray. Amen.
He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside.
Last night, it was pouring rain, and as May evenings go in Georgia, it was cool and pleasant. Our youngest, being a toddler, one born in quarantine especially, has not experienced much rain, so I brought him out in the garage and held him under the roofline. We stretched our hands out into the falling rain and he giggled with glee as water splashed on his arm from the sky. Then he licked his hand and squealed in pure joy. In his experience, water comes from baths and from kisses. He delights in both.
Then he looked at me and I said that the rain comes down from God and that God loves him. I know he doesn’t really fully comprehend, but the words made him smile and he began to put his hand to his mouth and make clicking noises and extend his arm back to the rain, his version of blowing kisses. The rain was bringing him joy, and he was returning love and appreciation, which was the perfect response. And inspiring.
As believers, we may remember to thank God for answered prayers, for miracles, for close calls, for huge blessings, and all the big things. But what about all the little ones? When was the last time you drove past a farm and thanked God for the produce that grows? When did you last hear a child playing and thank God for laughter? When did you last hold your arm out to the rain and feel it kiss your skin and thank God for the rejuvenation it brings the earth? Tonight, cloudy or clear, rainy or starry, step outside for a moment, stretch out your arms in the night air, and reflect on a dozen little things for which you are thankful in that moment. And if you’re inspired to blow a kiss to the heavens, I hope you will.
Prayer for Today
Lord, may my words and gratitude for your creation be as kisses blown to you. Amen.
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; The Lord will raise them up.
- James 5:15a, NIV
I would like to share with you a prayer request on my behalf. Some of you know that I've had some issues with my back that began to get worse last fall. If you’ve been here for the Drive-in Worship Service, you know that I had to sit down during the sermon because of the pain. I was able to receive two sets of injections in my back that relieved some of the pain and allowed me to stand again, but this did not solve the underlying issue which will require surgery. So, I have scheduled that for June 11. I'm asking for your prayers -- that my “sick” back will be made “well.”
After my surgery it will take six weeks for my back to heal. So, I am also asking for your prayers for our church staff and others who will be stepping up while I'm gone. Brian will be preaching the majority of the services along with two guest preachers. Brian will also be holding things down on the pastoral side and leading the staff in my absence.
Between now and then we are transitioning our Online Worship Service to one that will be posted on the Internet live as it is happening, but it can also be viewed later at any time. If there's anything you think we need to discuss or talk about prior to June 11, feel free to contact me so we can talk about it.
Friends, I believe in the power of prayer, so I ask for your prayers for me and for our church during this time.
P.S. – If anyone has any acoustic guitars not being used, our Brazilian church has an outreach ministry teaching young people to play the guitar, but some of the kids don’t have guitars. If you have a playable guitar that you wish to donate for a good cause, please contact me or Brian and we will pass it along. Thanks!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, you provide healing in our lives in so many different ways. Hear our prayers for healing in our lives and those we care about. We thank you for those who have dedicated their lives to the healing arts. Work through them in this world that you created and loved. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus – the Risen Christ. Amen.
God, it seems you’ve been our home forever; long before the mountains were born, Long before you brought earth itself to birth, from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God. Patience! You’ve got all the time in the world—whether a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you. Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! -Psalm 90:1-2, 4, 12
Take a moment to consider the ways that you mark time or milestones.
Do you think that our culture talks about time in a way that encourages us to be more frantic? Are there terms we need to let go of so we can think about time in a more gracious way?
As you navigate this week, I would invite you re read these words in Psalm 90 again at the beginning and end of the day. Each day is a gift from God and when we close a school year, we may realize how quickly it has gone or how we may have rushed through some of these days.
For a brief moment, I pray this prayer from Psalm 90 can bring some calmness, peace and pause to your day.
Prayer for Today
Creator God, you are the Maker of everything that exists, the Author of the world and of all living things. You are the Creator of both space and time. Because you give us the gift of time we have the opportunity to think and to act, to plan and to pray, to give and to receive, to create and to relate, to work and to rest, to strive and to play, to love and to worship. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.
I have been asked several times what the purpose of Stephen Ministry is. Our church each Sunday makes available to anyone in the congregation access to a Stephen Minister after each service, to listen to any concerns of a person who is troubled by anything.
While this is one service that we provide, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Stephen Ministry was created to assist our lay staff with trained people, who can minister care to those who have troubles or issues in their lives. This can be almost anything that they are dealing with, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a divorce, loss of job, health issues, end of life, anything that creates an emotional challenge to deal with.
Stephen Ministers go thru a rigorous training process; eight months, every week training for at least 2 hours. Homework and preparation add more time. We study different situations that we may be exposed to and go thru role play, to hone our skills in assisting those that need help with that particular situation. We listen, ask questions, and try to help a person to help themselves. Our relationship with our Care Receivers is also private; we do not share who we are providing care to and our discussions are kept private, even amongst our fellow Stephen Ministers.
We also are trained to understand what we do NOT do, but where resources are that fill those gaps.
As Christians, giving help to others is perhaps one of our greatest opportunities to live our lives the way the Lord would want us to; and for me, one of the greatest rewards. With that said, we hope that you now have a better understanding of our purpose and are prepared to help with challenges you may face, when that may occur.
You may reach out to either our ministry team, Rebecca Eldridge or David Lee, to discuss your situation.