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.
When Joni Eareckson Tada returned home after suffering a swimming accident that left her a quadriplegic, her life was vastly different. Now doorways were too narrow for her wheelchair and sinks were too high. Someone had to feed her, until she decided to relearn how to feed herself. Lifting the special spoon to her mouth from her arm splint the first time, she felt humiliated as she smeared applesauce on her clothes. But she pressed on. As she says, “My secret was learning to lean on Jesus and say, ‘Oh God, help me with this!’ ” Today she manages a spoon very well.
Joni says her confinement made her look at another captive—the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned in a Roman jail—and his letter to the Philippians. Joni strives for what Paul achieved: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). Note that Paul had to learn to be at peace; he wasn’t naturally peaceful. How did he find contentment? Through trusting in Christ: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (v. 13).
We all face different challenges throughout our days; and we all can look to Jesus moment by moment for help, strength, and peace. He will help us to hold back from snapping at our loved ones; He will give us the courage to do the next hard thing. Look to Him and find contentment.
Prayer for Today
Saving Christ, thank You for giving me courage and hope. When I feel weak, help me to find strength in You. Amen.
God loves you in the morning sun and the evening rain, without caution or regret.
Love enters the world of its own accord, for its own reasons. And love is always accompanied by light. That is, love always illuminates the space it occupies. Watch now for love to enlighten your world. Look to see what new understanding is yours in the presence of love. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
It’s a lifelong process of accepting God’s unconditional love each day. In a world that is filled with parameters, conditions and cautions, God loves us through it all.
God teaches us through commandments, the lives of prophets and disciples and Jesus, ultimately to show the best way for us to live.
It's better for us to love our enemies than to hate them. It's better to tell the truth than to lie. It's better to take a day of rest each week than to work without stopping. God knows that when we live by these commandments, we are not only living in the way that better for us, we are living in a way that allows us to experience God’s love more deeply. What are some ways that you have experienced God’s love more deeply recently?
Prayer for Today
God, you have called us to live in ways that at times seem difficult to do. Remind us each day that as we live in the way you have instructed, we are moving closer and closer to you. Make our joy complete, O God. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
As Clerk of the Session, I am supposed to keep church members informed of what happened at the last month’s Session meeting. I try not to include the routine housekeeping type items related to the operation of the church, but rather attempt to transmit the “Flavor of the Session” and any important decisions or items of interest which you need to be made aware off. Some of the items your Elders and staff have accomplished and guided this month include:
First and most important is JCPC is returning to normal operation. We are not quite there yet, but with our weekly estimate of 175 persons attending one of our three services it is a good start to “Worship is the most important thing we do.”
Next, our facility has reopened for our member and community groups. Boy Scouts, AA Groups, Preschool Summer camp weeks, VBS, Adult Sunday School, Bible study groups, prayer groups, knitting groups, all are back happening or scheduled on campus. Fall Men’s and Women’s retreat dates are set. The Fine Arts Academy is gearing up. If you are vaccinated come and join in. Many of these groups are exploring hybrid zoom and in-person meetings so there are options for the vaccine hesitant.
“Not for us Alone” continues to drive our mission work. This month the session approved a near $10,000 payment for monetary support of our local mission partners.
Rev. Brian Daoust reported that Montreat was a great success and well-attended. Participants are deeply grateful to the people and families who provided meals and support. The guidelines made them feel very safe and it was wonderful to return to something so close to normal. Also, we are immensely proud of our kids who were in the Variety Show.
Rev. Brian Daoust additionally reported that JCPC’s annual Mission Week was also a real blessing. From Blood drive to SMART Lunches, to Hands of Christ Landscaping, to cleanup and help at Dream Weavers, and the mural for Good Samaritan Healthcare Clinic, volunteers were enthusiastic and generous with their time, and the mission partners were deeply grateful.
With recent video equipment upgrades, the technology team and staff are transitioning from prerecorded to live streaming worship. So, if you watch the worship service from home, it will now be available at the 11:00 AM service time. Our 9:30 AM drive-in service remains an option and with the in the car FM radio streaming, everyone can listen to the music and sermon at your own volume choice!
Finally, items to remember- Sunday August 29th at 10:00 AM there will be a welcome back to worship concert by Tim Miller who is well known for his Sunday Brave’s game 7th inning performances. He will also participate in the 11:00 AM worship service that day. Then in September we begin the Soles for Souls shoe drive. Please save your gently used shoes for donation to this mission. Plans for men’s and women’s fall retreats are near complete. Watch for updates.
The Session members and JCPC staff are working hard to make JCPC a safe and welcoming place where all can worship and grow in their Christian faith. Interested in joining one of our teams or just volunteering your time? Then let me know and I will put you in touch with a team leader.
This Sunday, our opening hymn is O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, written by Charles Wesley.
Wesley rote this hymn on the year anniversary of the renewal of his Christian faith. According to Wikipedia, (one of the founts of knowledge on the internet), he was suffering from a bout of pleurisy in May of 1738, and he was plagued by extreme doubts about his faith. One day he was attended by a group of Christians who offered him testimony and basic care, and was deeply affected by this. (All of you caregivers out there, take note: your efforts are never in vain and can have far-reaching impacts on those who receive your care...)
One year after this renewal, Wesley was compelled to write a hymn of 18 stanzas... our hymnal retains 5 of those (short) stanzas, and we'll sing all 5 of those (really short stanzas) in worship this Sunday.
O for a thousand tongues to sing
my dear Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of God's grace!
The name of Jesus charms our fears,
and bids our sorrows cease,
Sings music in the sinner's ears,
brings life, and health, and peace.
Christ speaks, and listening to his voice
new life the dead receive;
The mournful waken to rejoice;
the poor in heart believe.
My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.
To God all glory, praise, and love
be now and ever given
By saints below and saints above,
the church in earth and heaven.
Now, speaking of the caregiving topic, come to worship this Sunday (in-person, online, or drive-in) to hear about how we can care for one another in the church! It all starts with a loaded two verses of scripture:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I look forward to seeing you Sunday!!
Prayer for Today
Lord God, give us hearts of compassion to console our brothers and sisters who are in any affliction. In your son's holy name we pray. Amen.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Last week at the youth conference, the pastor mentioned several young people who responded to the needs in their communities by creating solutions and organizations. This included a grade schooler who formed a nonprofit to feed hungry kids in his town. That young boy said, “we prefer kid volunteers. They don’t know what’s impossible.” They prefer kids because they see a need and don’t stop to think of excuses or even consider whether it’s possible to help.
What if we learned a lesson from these kids? What if we shared their confidence that problems can be fixed and our imaginations and wills cannot be stopped? What if the God of the universe said that’s exactly how it works... when we have God’s call to serve and God’s help to do it? Because that is not hypothetical. That’s Truth. Our scripture doesn’t indicate we can do what we want. The full book reminds us to align our priorities and our hearts to serving the least of these to the glory of God. And when we do... we have backup so extraordinary we cannot be stopped or divided.
Friends, that’s a mighty promise. Last week was Mission Week here. We responded to the call of need in our community with resources and volunteer hours. Many of you learned about a new way to serve. From Blood drive to SMART Lunches, to Hands of Christ Landscaping, to cleanup and help at Dream Weavers, and the mural for Good Samaritan Healthcare Clinic, volunteers were enthusiastic and generous with their time, and the mission partners were deeply grateful. The Church is called to mighty work and promised mighty strength and love to accomplish it. Thank you for answering the call!
Prayer for Today
Lord, turn my heart to your call and send me with your Spirit to fulfill it. Amen.
During the course of a popular home renovation television program, viewers often hear the host say, “Imagine this!” Then she unveils what could be when old things are restored and drab walls and floors are painted or stained. In one episode, after the renovation the homeowner was so overjoyed that, along with other expressions of elation, the words “That’s beautiful!” gushed from her lips three times.
One of the stunning “Imagine this!” passages in the Bible is Isaiah 65:17–25. What a dazzling re-creation scene! The future renovation of heaven and earth is in view (v. 17), and it’s not merely cosmetic. It’s deep and real, life-altering and life-preserving. “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (v. 21). Violence will be a thing of the past: “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (v. 25).
While the reversals envisioned in Isaiah 65 will be realized in the future, the God who will orchestrate universal restoration is in the business of life-change now. The apostle Paul assures us, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In need of restoration? Has your life been broken by doubt, disobedience, and pain? Life-change through Jesus is real and beautiful and available to those who ask and believe.
Prayer for Today
God of restoration and renovation, You know what changes are needed in my life for me to look more like You. Please work in my heart and life today. Amen.
All of the decisions and plans that happen during the busy seasons of the year can feel like a huge mountain to climb. In an effort to encounter these times with a different mindset, I began to ask myself these questions:
Do you feel that each day is overscheduled?
Have you ever had to collect your scattered self so that you could make an important decision?
Do you ever lay awake at night thinking about all you have to do?
Do you ever ask why your life is so full?
Simplicity may sound like an oasis in the desert during this time of year. I look forward to days when I can return to the high desert of New Mexico exploring the landscapes and religious communities near Abiqui, New Mexico and Ghost Ranch Presbyterian Retreat Center.
My time there reminded me that living simply is not about deciding to get your life under control but about giving control of your life to God.
I think that in times like these, God calls us to assess our situation and take some time to retreat for a few hours, a day, or a weekend to reflect and prepare for all that the busy seasons of the year require. I would invite you to reflect on when Jesus talks about wealth and worries in Matthew 6, his message is simple: seek God, trust God, and receive God.
How can we live simply in a consumer-focused culture?
In the midst of all of the busyness, how can we focus our lives on seeking God, trusting God and receiving God?
How might these responses effect the way we enter into this day or the next busy season of our lives?
This fall we will offer retreats to Amicalola Falls Lodge in the North Georgia Mountains. Our Men’s Retreat will be September 24-26 and our Women’s Retreat will be November 19-21. Please set aside time to join us for one of these weekends to retreat, recalibrate, and be renewed.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, may we who have plenty live simply. Guide us so that we will seek you, trust you and receive you each day. Amen.
Cast all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.
-I Peter 5:7
God cares about every detail of your life. Take a look at nature. God is there in every detail.
The hymn This Is My Father's World gives us a message of wonder:
This is my Father's world,
And to my list'ning ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world,
I rest me in the thought,
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.
This spring and early summer, as we return to “normal”, we have been blessed by God with beauty. The flowers, shrubs, and trees have been spectacular, There are various patterns, shapes, sizes, and life cycles of nature. God has placed such beauty in the spaces where we live, in the smallest leaf and bud, in the intricacies of root systems and the earthworm's travel.
The shade of towering trees provide cool refreshment. The different types of leaves, and the tiny, life-bearing veins that run through them—how intricate.
Weather is filled with details from the hand of our God. The Creator sends raindrops (gentle and harsh). He warms us with the sun and cools us with breezes. He fashions each snowflake, each unique, no two alike—the same way He designs His children!!
God cares about the details of your life. He is not too busy to listen. If they matter to you, they matter to God.
Prayer for Today
Thank You, Lord, for caring about the details of our lives. It means so much to know that You are always there for us. Amen.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
-Galatians 3:26-28 NIV
Our opening hymn in worship this Sunday is In Christ There Is No East or West, one that you may be familiar with. The words for this hymn were written by an English-born, well-traveled businessman, who published the original poem using a pen name. He lived in the U.S. and France during his life, and travelled all the way to South America, which was no small feat in his day. It’s fitting that someone who literally traveled east and west and encountered many different people would write a hymn based off of Galatians 3:28.
But there was a problem. Verse three of the original poem uses masculine language, which was not out of place at the time.
Join hands, then, brothers of the faith, What e’er your race may be!
Who serves my Father as a son Is surely kin to me.
The problem is that this verse sort of misses the point of Galatians 3:28, as it specifically states that in Christ, we are neither male nor female, but one in Christ! As a result, the third verse was re-written in the late 1980’s to be more inclusive and avoid gender-specific language. This updated version appears in our Presbyterian hymnals and is the version we will sing on Sunday.
Join hands, disciples of the faith, what e’er your race may be.
All children of the living God are surely kin to me.
Inclusive language aside, I think this updated verse is better, because I like the phrase, “the living God”. But I think it’s important to recognize that inclusivity is something we continue to struggle with as Christians and as a society as a whole still today. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still room for growth. If we are to truly accept what Paul is saying in his letter to the Galatians, then we have to work towards treating all people with Christian love. That means treating men and women equally, but it also means showing Christian love even to those you don’t like or who live in a way you don’t agree with. This is no easy task but with help from the living God, we can all grow to be more inclusive.
Prayer for Today
Creator of the Universe, remind us again that we are all your children. Give us hearts of overflowing love for all those we encounter, and help us to show that we are Christians through our love. Amen.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
-I Corinthians 12:26-27
As I write this, I’m at Montreat. We took 11 of our youth and one college student for work crew. It’s a joy after a year away to come back. These kids and adults have been starved for connection, which is the theme for this week... called to connect. It’s invaluable for us as created people to connect. And for growing believers, especially, to connect with other believers and with God’s word daily. They have so many opportunities to connect through arts and sports and social groups, but nothing that comes close to the depth and importance of faith connection and formation. There is not one single work day, school day, or activity that can be of the same importance to our eternal existence as tending to our spiritual needs by being in worship on Sunday or taking a week with other teen believers.
Even as we develop more ways to connect through technology, the options simultaneously allow us more competing options to not connect... spiritually. It is easier to skip worship and Christian fellowship. It is more difficult to prioritize serving others with our faith community and to carve out time for our kids to go to camps, conferences, retreats, and worship. They need it as surely as they need good nutrition, education, life skills, opportunities, and love. They need it even more.
If you’ve struggled to keep faith at the center of your life in the quarantine, I hope you’ll take this summer to reconnect, to ask for your faith family’s help. If you have young people in your life that you’re responsible for or have influence over, commit to online weekly worship or bring them. Help send them to conferences and camps like Montreat. It’s vital to their growth and their spiritual life. And it’s vital that as part of our Church body, their spiritual health be a priority for us. If we are all part of the body - and we are - we must take our spiritual health seriously for the good of the whole. I’ll see you in worship.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me a good part of the body. Embolden me to make my own spiritual connections and health a priority and to extend that to the young people I help to nurture. Amen.
When my friend Marge met Tami at a Bible study meeting, she noticed that they seemed to have little in common. But Marge befriended her, and she learned a valuable lesson from her new friend.
Tami had never been to a Bible study, and she was having a hard time understanding something the other women in the study talked about: that God communicated with them—something she’d never experienced.
She so desired to hear from God that she took action. Later, she told Marge. “I set aside an old wooden chair, and every time I study my Bible, I ask Jesus to come sit in it.” Then Tami explained that whenever a verse stood out to her, she would write out the verse in chalk on the chair. It’s become her special “Jesus chair,” and she’s filled it up with God’s messages to her directly from the Bible.
Marge says, “[The Jesus Chair] has changed [Tami’s] life. She’s growing spiritually because Scripture is becoming personal.”
While speaking to Jewish believers, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31–32)
Let’s hold to His teaching, whether it means writing His words on a chair, memorizing them, or seeking to put them into action. The truth and wisdom of Christ’s messages help us grow in Him and set us free.
Prayer for Today
Help me, God, to connect with You more and more through the wisdom You’ve given me in the Bible. And then help me apply what I learn to help me grow more and more like Jesus. Amen.
And he will prepare the way for the Lord. He will have the same spirit and power that Elijah had. He will bring peace between parents and their children. He will teach people who don’t obey to be wise and do what is right. In this way, he will prepare a people who are ready for the Lord. -Luke 1:17
These words from Luke’s account share part of the message the angel shared with Zechariah about his son, John and the special role he would have in preparing the way for Christ to live among us. I believe that John was the first of many who prepared a people to be ready for the Lord. Before John there were prophets that God called and since Christ’s death and resurrection, we continue to see people God calls to make space for the gospel in this world.
As we navigate significant shifts in the relationship between communities, individuals and churches we are noticing the paths where we have prepared the way and other paths where connection has been more difficult. This pandemic and the events over the past year and a half has caused many to go deeper into their life of faith, caused others to find other paths for connection and still others to question their beliefs.
I believe God calls each of us as believers to help prepare people who are ready for the Lord. What does that look like for you? Who has helped prepare a place for you in a church community? As our communities and church continue to transition into new ways of being, look for the places where God is calling you to open a door, walk alongside and help someone connect with the Lord.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, Help us continue to live into our calling as believers to prepare the way. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down. And art intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue. Behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all. Thou has enclosed me behind and before. And laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven Thou art there; if I make my bed Sheol, behold, Thou art there. -Psalm 139:1-8
This is scripture from which one of my favorite songs in chorus was written - the scripture tells us that our God is with us wherever we are. He knows what we are going to say before we say a word! That is so reassuring to me, and I hope it is to you as well.
This past year has been hard on all of us. Our usual routines have been disrupted and we have been isolated from our friends and family - from normal life. Getting back into activities, may be harder than we anticipated. Even joining friends for a meal or participating in a book club might present challenges.
If you are struggling with sadness, dealing with difficult circumstances, having a hard time coping with a medical problem, or need someone to talk to, consider asking for a Stephen Minister to come along side you to assist you with whatever difficulty you have. The Stephen Minister will consult with you confidentially and continue to visit with you until your concern is resolved. There is no charge for Stephen Ministry.
Prayer for Today
If you would like to speak with a Stephen Minister, one is available after every service at the church. Or you can ask a Pastor to refer you to David Lee or Rebecca Eldridge who will assist you with having a Stephen Minister meet with you individually.
O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. -Psalm 104:24-25 NRSV
This Sunday, we are singing All Things Bright and Beautiful, a favorite hymn of the church! It was written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander, who wrote several well-known hymns, including Once in Royal David’s City, There is a Green Hill Far Away, and I Bind Unto Myself Today.
Mrs. Alexander was trying to find a way to teach the Apostles’ Creed to children. This hymn focuses on describing God as “Maker of heaven and earth.”
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.
How amazing it is to think of everything God has created! From the intricate designs on the wings of one butterfly, to the number of galaxies in the universe… what are we up to now… two trillion? From a cell seen under a microscope to a star seen through a telescope! And then there’s the mustard seed…
It’s a tiny little thing!! But apparently parable-worthy! Only 2-3 millimeters wide, yet one little seed can grow 5-6 feet, produce greens, more seeds, and a perch for birds! The seeds themselves can be ground into mustard, added into salads, dressings, and other foods, and this summer, we’ll probably consume quite a few of those seeds!
Just as the tiniest seed grows into a great big plant, there are many places in the Bible where God surprises us with a paradox. Little David wins the battle against Goliath. Mary sings that the mighty are brought low, and the humble and meek are exalted. And the ultimate paradox: God comes to earth in the form of a man and pays with his life for the wrongs we have committed, conquering death through resurrection, and as a result, we have eternal life.
Knowing that our God works in paradoxes should comfort us. What this world views as strong and powerful could never be as powerful as God. And no matter how small we feel, we are part of God’s marvelous and abundant creation, and we are loved lavishly by God, as his children.
Prayer for Today
Holy God, open our eyes. Help us to see you more clearly. Open our minds. Help us to better understand how much you love us. Open our hearts. Move us to share that love with those around us. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
“The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
I’m something of a cinephile. I enjoy a good deleted scene as much as any good film. Unlike books, more gets cut for time than quality. I recently found a gem from the first Marvel Avengers movie. In it, Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who sometimes becomes the huge green monster known as The Hulk (think Jekyll and Hyde) wakes up in a warehouse after returning to his human state. A kindly old security guard finds him just before the climax of the film, asking him where he needs or wants to go. The audience is meant to hope he will join the other heroes in New York City and save the world.
Bruce ruefully replies, “I know where I can do the most good. But, unfortunately, it’s also where I can do the most damage.” The old man’s deadpan response is simple. “That’s true for just about anyone, son.” It is. Most of us, if we are at all thoughtful and aware, have experienced just such a quandary. It’s what Dr. Seuss calls The Waiting place. If we go on a mission trip, do we risk injury and illness? If we visit a friend in mourning, do we risk saying the wrong thing? If we volunteer with youth or VBS, do we risk being a bad example or not having the right answers? Who are we to help? Anywhere we go carries risk. Mercy is always a risk. Love is always a risk. We cannot afford to stay in the warehouse. We are called to be where the action is.
The security guard can see in Bruce’s face that he’s hesitant, but that he knows what’s right. He tells Bruce his body will follow what his mind has decided. The body, the Church, will follow where we know we ought to go. If you’re worried you won’t be perfect or good enough, you’ll never head where you’re needed most. In the end, Bruce heads into danger because he’s needed and because he remembers he’s not alone. The other heroes, the rest of his unlikely team of misfits, they’ll be there too. And your ragtag team will be there when you enter the fray. I hope when you are called, you’ll join us. The body is only a body, ready to do the work, when it is fully... Assembled.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me a ready and eager part of the body, by your spirit. When I am overconfident or blind, make me humble. When I am anxious, make me prepared. Here I am. Send me. Amen.
This Sunday our online service will be streamed live from the Great Hall. Normally this will begin at 11:00 a.m., however, this Sunday we will be doing our final test and it will not be posted until about 12:30 p.m. But if all goes well, it will begin each week at 11:00 a.m. after that. This is a change from how we have been offering the online service when anyone could watch the service beginning early Sunday morning. But after this Sunday, you'll need to wait until 11:00 a.m., however, you can watch it any time after that. Our staff has been working hard to make this transition and we hope everything goes as planned this Sunday. We realize that online worshippers comprise the largest group of people participating in our worship at this time.
This Sunday, JCPC member Victoria Melin Robinson will be our guest preacher. Victoria grew up in this church and is planning to attend Columbia Theological Seminary this fall. We're excited to have Victoria come and preach both the drive-in service and the in-person indoor service in our Great Hall which will be live streamed.
At the present time, Victoria is Director of Youth Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Greer, South Carolina. She is married to Melvin, who will also be sharing his musical gifts in our worship service. Victoria is also the daughter of Dawn and Johnny Melin.
As most of you know by now, I am having my surgery on my back this Friday, June 11. Thank you to everyone who has expressed their concern, and who has been and will be praying for a good outcome. I will be off for about 6 weeks, and I am planning to return to the office on July 26. Until that time, Brian will be functioning as Head of Staff. I know our staff will have everything under control while I am gone. We also have great elders led by Rick Zellmer, our Clerk of Session. I look forward to returning to you after my surgery with a healed back.
We have something very exciting planned for the morning of our next Fifth Sunday on August 29th, which we will be sharing with you in the coming days. It is something you will not want to miss here at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, we belong to you. You know us, you love us, and you watch over us. Through these ongoing times of change and transition, fill us with your Spirit -- that we may serve you and one another in the name of Christ. Amen.
Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the Lord is God- he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture.
The writer of this Psalm was most likely a young shepherd, David. He was probably sitting on the rocky terrain outside the dessert and looking over the land. Over this land there were animals scattered that would have provided food and a living for his family. The sheep required great care and protection. A typical day for a shepherd included counting, watching, listening, and even defending. Taking care of sheep requires constant, focused attention. Sheep are incredibly valuable and worth every effort. Consider what the shepherd may have been thinking about when he wrote this Psalm. It is a prayer of thanksgiving. David was realizing how God, our shepherd, must feel about each one of us, his sheep.
As you go through your day, consider how much God loves you and seeks to take care of you. In return, how can we care for others?
Prayer for Today
Caring and Loving God, You count each one of us and notice us as we wander through our days seeing attention, care, and protection. Thank you for these gifts and the way that you value us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Recently the Shepherds Wednesday morning men’s group started reading a book entitled Double Blessing by Mark Batterson. Mark is the lead pastor and founder of National Community Church near our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. While we have just begun the study of his book, the first chapter called “Double Portion”, really resonated with me as I was undergoing a difficult time and it lifted me up right when I needed it most.
The scripture for today was Elisha’s request to the Prophet Elijah as his apprentice near the end of Elijah’s life. Elijah performed 14 miracles as a prophet including: resurrection, bringing fire down from the sky and ascending into heaven “alive”. Later, both John the Baptist and Jesus were called Elijah in scripture. Elijah and Elisha’s relationship models the double blessing or double portion of God’s promise to us. As Elijah’s legacy Elisha went on to perform 28 miracles. Mark believes our legacy is not measured by our accomplishments but is measured by the blessings we bestow on others and our investments and mentoring the next generation in Christ.
“Elijah was Elisha’s double portion. And Elisha was Elijah’s double blessing. Whose double portion are you? And who is your double blessing?” -Double Blessing by Mark Batterson
Mark goes on to describe the necessity of prayer and self-sacrifice for others as the path to our double blessings. Mark goes on to provide many examples of “double promises” in scripture. Isaiah promises a double portion of joy. The apostle Paul conferred double honor on those who lead well. The double portion of Elijah’s spirit resulted in twice as many miracles as performed by Elisha. God promised the Israelites in Babylon “I will restore twice as much to you.”
(Zechariah 9-12) This double promise can be traced to one of the oldest books in the book of Job. “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before.” (Job 42:10)
“Is there someone you need to pray for? Like Job it may be a friend who offended you, or it may be a boss who betrayed you. Not only does the act of forgiveness break the curse of bitterness, but it also invokes the blessings of God. Let foreverness begin a new chapter in your life!” -Double Blessing by Mark Batterson
Prayer for Today
Lord we are thankful that you don’t lose track of our sufferings. That through Jesus Christ there is no double jeopardy, our sins are forgiven and forgotten. Not only is our debt of sin paid in full, but the righteousness of Christ is also transferred in our account as a double blessing. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In 1983, three teens were arrested for the murder of a fourteen-year-old. According to news reports, the younger teen was “shot . . . because of his [athletic] jacket.”
Sentenced to life in prison, the three spent thirty-six years behind bars before evidence surfaced that revealed their innocence. Another man had committed the crime. Before the judge released them as free men, he issued an apology.
No matter how hard we try (and no matter how much good is done by our officials), human justice is often flawed. We never have all the information.
Sometimes dishonest people manipulate the facts. Sometimes we’re just wrong. And often, evils may take years to be righted, if they ever are in our lifetime. Thankfully, unlike fickle humans, God wields perfect justice. “His works are perfect,” says Moses, “and all his ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4). God sees things as they truly are. In time, after we’ve done our worst, God will bring about final, ultimate justice. Though uncertain of the timing, we have confidence because we serve a “faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (v. 4).
We may be dogged by uncertainty regarding what’s right or wrong. We may fear that the injustices done to us or those we love will never be made right. But we can trust the God of justice to one day—either in this life or the next—enact justice for us.
Prayer for Today
God, I see injustice all around me: in the news, in my relationships, on social media. Thank You for the hope I can have in You and Your just ways. Amen.
I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
I reread the Flood Story recently. I’m always struck by its epic nature. I’ve never seen a good movie adaptation of the story, but the scripture is powerfully told in the words we have. The conclusion is incredible. The gift of the rainbow as a symbol of God’s promise is with us still today. It’s mesmerizing every time I see one. It’s God’s promise that the world will never be destroyed again. The end of the world will be the coming of Christ and a NEW Kingdom.
We have had a long year in Quarantine. It would be easy, like Noah, to be discouraged, cooped up inside for so long during the relentless disaster. And yet, as we come out of this time of isolation and danger, slowly, we look for signs of the danger receding. And we look for signs of hope and promise and new life. God didn’t call Noah to hide forever, but to retreat to safety and protect the innocent. And when the time passed and waters no longer covered everything, God called Noah back out to care for the world. And we are called to do the same.
This summer, we will see rain, but rainbows too. We will see more and more chances to return to a new normal and come out of quarantine as folks are vaccinated. When you see a rainbow in the sky, graffitied on a wall, drawn by a child, or in a coloring book, I hope you’ll think of God’s promise, of hope, and be encouraged to go and serve.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help to trust in you, as we come out of isolation, slowly. Help me to find a new normal, to serve your world, and take joy in your creation. Amen.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
– Matthew 11:28
A while back I heard a pastor tell the story of going into a shop. It was an art supply shop, and he went in to look for something very unusual. He did not say what it was, and he was not even sure it was made. However, he went to the person at the front counter and said, “I am searching for something I am not sure it even exists.” Without missing a beat, the person smiled and said, “Aren’t we all!”
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . .” Now that is a pretty broad invitation that applies to most all of us, doesn’t it? Just think about it -- who is not weary or burdened at some point in life and in need of rest? According to Jesus, the only qualification for finding rest is to be burdened. We don’t have to be anything else.
I heard the story of another person who lived in Hollywood. Because of his job, he was invited to many of the awards ceremonies where all of the stars turn out. He is married to a very beautiful woman and they get dressed up to go to these events. They arrive in a limo like everyone else. His beautiful wife gets out of the limo first, and all of the paparazzi crowd around to take her picture. And then they wait to see who the celebrity might be with this beautiful woman. And then the man steps out of the limo, and he hears them shout, “It’s nobody!”
Maybe we sometimes feel like a “nobody” -- especially when life is out of control, like in a pandemic. But Jesus invites us to “come.” And we don’t have to be somebody special -- only someone who is burdened and in need of rest.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, Lord, for inviting us to come without any preconditions. Help us to find our rest in you. And when we feel weary and burdened, give us the strength to keep on and to make it through. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.