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Reflections

Welcome to the JCPC Daily Reflections Blog. Reflections are daily devotionals authored by JCPC pastors, staff and members and provide insight, guidance and comfort to help you make it through each day. If you’d like to receive Reflections each day via email,  provide your email address.

Tuesday, August 31 2021

 

As many along the Gulf Coast have been experiencing hurricane Ida, I am getting updates from many friends. When natural disasters like this hit, we are filled with questions.  

 

I would invite you to take a moment today to listen for God. The words of Psalm 46 often come to mind in times like these.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Be still and know that I am God. -Psalm 46

 

After reading this scripture, I would invite you to find an image from this week’s storm that serves as a reminder to you of the message of Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Take time to lift up in prayer those in along the gulf coast that have already been affected by the storm and those that will experience effects over the coming days, weeks and months.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, you are our comfort and strength in times of sudden disaster, crisis, or chaos. Surround us now with your grace and peace through storm or earthquake, fire or flood. By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation; through Jesus Christ, our rock and redeemer. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 30 2021

 

August Session Meeting Highlights:

 

  •  JCPC elder commissioners to the recent Presbytery meeting shared about the new initiative - “7 Marks of a Vital Congregation."
  • July operating revenue totaled $79,261. July operating expenses were $89,405. Year to date operating revenue totaled $592,796. Year to date operating expenses were $576,910. This is a positive difference of $15,886.
  • The Session approved the recommendations of the Health Team which included requiring masks for all indoor activities. There is also an in-depth discussion of whether anyone singing in worship should wear a mask, including the upcoming Timothy Miller concert. After much discussion, it was decided that everyone singing in worship indoors must wear a mask for now.
  • Third quarter financial support of JCPC missions will be sent to our mission partners, as well as one half of the JCPC per capita commitment to the ongoing work of Presbytery.
  •  $15,000 had been raised toward the retaining wall Sprinter Campaign.
  • Roy Davey has been hired as the new JCPC bookkeeper affective August 17th. 
  • Video conferencing technology has been purchased to facilitate hybrid meetings.
  • The Blood Drive was successful with 15 donors.
  • The Preschool is considering moving the start of preschool back one week due to new COVID-19 considerations.
  • The Connecting Ministry Team is investigating a “digital directory” for church members. There will be a survey inviting input from the congregation about this.
  •  Gray is serving on the board of CanCare. There is a search for a part-time Executive Director and partnership churches are being asked to help fund CanCare in 2022.

 

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, we thank you that we can come together as brothers and sisters in Christ and do your work in our church, our community, and around the world. Bless the efforts of our ministry teams as we seek to serve you and share the love of Christ. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus our Lord and savior. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 27 2021

 

“Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!’”

-Revelation 19:5

 

In order to live-stream the Timothy Miller concert this Sunday in the Great Hall at 10:00 a.m., we had to pay for an additional license so that the composers and arrangers of the music he will sing would get paid their royalties. This new license allows us to live-stream music outside of worship services, but it also covers some music for worship that we have been unable to use in our online services thus far. One of those is the opening hymn for this week, Morning Has Broken.

 

The tune, familiar to many of you and written by Scottish composer Mary M. Macdonald, is based off of a Scottish folk tune, and the words were written by English author Eleanor Farjeon. Farjeon was asked to write text for a hymn that offered praise to God each and every day. The first stanza is full of imagery from nature:

Morning has broken like the first morning;

Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.

Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!

Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!

 

The chirp of cicadas is a common sound around the world in summer, but the Japanese are hyper aware of this and other seasonal markers. Before I moved to Japan almost a decade ago, I never really noticed that characteristic and often ear-piercing sound, but now the sound of the newly-emerged cicadas screaming their little hearts out instantly instills a sense of summer nostalgia in me.

 

But I’m not sure I’ve ever praised God for all those little cicadas! I often find myself overlooking the immense abundance of praiseworthy things in my life because of my busy schedule. Maybe you are the same way. We often talk about taking time to “smell the roses”, but how many of us actually do that, literally or figuratively? When was the last time you “pressed pause” and said a small prayer of thanksgiving for something small and minor, yet quite miraculous? In all of the expansive galaxy, we’ve only ever found life on our home - planet earth. Something as simple as the noisy vibrations of a cicada’s wings are a rare miracle that God has given us a chance to experience. Take some time and praise God for something ordinary in your life today.

Prayer for Today

God of unending blessings, thank you for this life and all the beauty around us. Help us to calm our minds from time to time so that we may praise you for anything and everything. Glory to you, God of all creation. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 26 2021

 

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

-John 13:34-35

 

Saturdays are slow, when we can take one away from the busyness of our typical weekends. That’s usually my day to get the boys up and going. Last Saturday, I hollered up for the teenager to join the land of the living after a late night for marching band at the football game. Sleepily, he wandered downstairs to his favorite person in the house... the fluffy cat next to me. He leaned over the back of the couch and rested his hand on her head and his face on her body, burying his face in her long white fur. His toddler brother came racing over, stood on his tiptoes, and did exactly the same from the opposite side. The cat seemed to enjoy the warmth and didn’t stir. Our toddler would giggle and grin, stand straight up to look at his brother, and then copy it once more, gently resting his face on the cat’s side.

 

It’s been said that kids do what we do, not what we say. I think we sometimes let ourselves off the hook when we don’t have our own kids or they’re grown. But there’s almost always some child watching us and seeking to learn by imitating, experimenting, especially when it comes to how we interact with others, with animals, with those smaller, weaker, or in need of care and compassion. The way we model love and compassion, tenderness and gentleness, far more so than what rules or expectations we communicate in speech, is what children, or new believers, will emulate.

 

Adults are fond of joking about how children and teenagers have selective hearing or tune out what we try to tell them, but far less often do we talk about how much they copy our actions. This week, be mindful of the things you do as others may observe you and see if it communicates the same lessons your words do. What we do, and how we treat others is always a teaching moment, even, or especially, when we don’t mean for it to be. And if you have time, stoop low, cuddle someone fluffy, and delight in God’s creatures, great and small.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make my actions consistent with the love I seek to show with my words, and an example for those who see me. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 25 2021

Reflecting Pool

From Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy

 

 

This week I'm on vacation with my family at St. George Island in Florida. This is the first family vacation we've had at the beach since the pandemic hit in March of 2020. This will also be the first time that our adult children will be able to join us, as well. I am looking forward to this time, and hopefully we'll be able to dodge the hurricanes.

 

We have been coming to St. George since our kids were young. We like it because it is quiet and filled mainly with beach homes. There are a few restaurants, a supermarket or two, and a couple of hotels -- but the rest are homes and white sand. From the very first time we went there, we would rent bicycles for the week. I can still remember when our kids were small enough to be pulled along behind our bikes. Most days we just hang out on the beach, rest, read, walk, eat shrimp fresh out of the gulf from the night before, and decide which day trips along that part of the Panhandle we will take this year.

 

We are heading back Saturday in order to be there Sunday for the “Welcome Back” Concert with Timothy Miller at 10:00 a.m. in the Great Hall. I am looking forward to this very much. In my conversations with Timothy, I have discovered he's a really interesting guy. His father was a preacher. He attended Morehouse where he is now on the music faculty, and we found out we know some of the same folks in the music world.

 

I have asked him to sing “God Bless America” during the 10:00 a.m. concert, which he has agreed to do. As we have said, many of you will know Timothy from the Sunday Braves’ baseball games when he sings “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. However, he is creating a wide range of music for our enjoyment. He will also be singing during the 11:00 a.m. service before he heads to the Braves game that afternoon. So, invite your friends, and if you cannot make it, we plan to simulcast the concert online at 10:00 a.m. Just go to the JCPC website to find the link. See you Sunday!

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for the beauty of nature, the rest we can find when we need renewal, and the gift of music to soothe our souls. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, August 24 2021

 

Do you have a favorite insect? I wondered about this after reading a story from an author I enjoy, Rachel Macy Stafford. She shared about a time when her daughter asked her this question. Her daughter said, “You can’t choose butterfly, everyone chooses that”. As they continued their conversation Rachel learned that her daughter’s favorite insect was a firefly. As they considered that for a little while, Rachel noticed with her daughter what a beautiful choice that was, as fireflies shine from within. 

 

You may know some people who seem to have that light within. Maybe they aren’t noticed for the big or obvious things, but as you get to know them you realize they have a deep, unique light within them. I would encourage all of us to consider ourselves as fireflies as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5.

 

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, The Message)

 

Notice the light of Christ in those around you. Don’t wait for someone to hand them an award or a give them a certificate to make their talents and gifts “official.” That day may never come. So say it now. Consider someone who opens up and shares the light of Christ. Tell them what you notice and encourage the ways they are sharing their light with the world.

I see your light. I see it when you…

Prayer for Today

Creator God, thank you for the gift of light all around us and deep inside of us. Open us up to share it today and notice it in those we encounter. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 06:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 23 2021

 

The Freedom of Religion

 

This past week I had the honor of being invited to Gene Langenbach’s Interment at the Georgia National Cemetery for Veterans in Canton.   The presentation of the flag, its unfurling and refolding, the presentation to the family, representatives of the cemetery, the Air Force, and the honor guard, all presenting different gifts to the family, as their respect for the service of a veteran; it was, as always, moving. The honor guard fired rifles; kind of caught me off guard, even though I knew it was coming. Something about today’s world….

 

Finally, the playing of Taps, in a slow, methodical, honorable way.  Just a fitting conclusion to the ceremony, for someone who spent a career protecting our Nation and its freedoms. 

 

This service reminded me of the freedoms that men like Gene protected; the freedom of speech, the freedom to bear arms, and the freedom of religion. How many men/women have died protecting those freedoms? How many have been injured protecting those freedoms? There is a distinctness about how the USA has vigorously protected our country and our country’s privileges that is unique, and it is why we stand alone in the world as the one great nation willing to fight for ourselves and to fight for other nations to preserve those rights. 

 

Most media blasts today focus on the challenges to our freedom of speech and certainly the right to bear arms. Less media time is given to the freedom of religion, until someone decides to invade a church, synagogue, or other place of worship, for hurtful purposes. We must be reminded that religion is a right in our Nation. We have the freedom to worship in the manner that we and/or our community wish to worship. God (whichever God you worship) is a most important part of one’s life, as he sustains us when times are difficult, and he lifts us up. He makes us stronger to deal with challenges. This is a freedom that is in danger today, and we must protect with the same vigor and resoluteness, as all our freedoms as men and women in service to our country protect them.

 

As it is stated in scripture, Psalm 95:1-6

Let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Prayer for Today

Lord, we are blessed to be in this country, which affords us with so many special privileges, including our freedom to worship you. Give us the strength to protect this freedom, so that all people of our country can choose if and how to praise you. Amen. 

Posted by: AT 06:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 20 2021

Something that sounded like firecrackers roused Joanne from sleep. Glass shattered. Wishing she didn’t live alone, she got up to see what was going on. The dark streets were empty and the house seemed to be okay—then she saw the broken mirror.

Investigators found a bullet only a half-inch from the gas line. If it had struck the line, she probably wouldn’t have made it out alive. Later they discovered it was a stray bullet from nearby apartments, but Joanne was afraid to be at home. She prayed for peace, and once the glass was cleaned up, her heart calmed.

Psalm 121 is a reminder for us to look to God in times of trouble. Here, we see that we can have peace and calm because our “help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 2). The God who created the universe helps and watches over us (v. 3)—even while we sleep—but He Himself never sleeps (v. 4). He watches over us day and night (v. 6), “both now and forevermore” (v. 8).

No matter what kind of situations we find ourselves in, God sees. And He’s waiting for us to turn to Him. When we do, our circumstances may not always change, but He’s promised His peace in the midst of it all.

Prayer for Today

Loving God, thank You for Your peace. Please continue to calm my heart in the areas of my life that feel chaotic. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 19 2021

Be complete, therefore, as your heavenly Father is complete.

-Matthew 5:48

One of the things I love most about our friends, the Trautweins and everyone at Will to Live, is that they put a heavy emphasis on saying, “I love you.” It’s something we do a lot in our family. We even have other ways we say it. My wife and I do three quick hand squeezes, for each other and for the boys. And I often do the classic I Love You sign language gesture.  To which, our oldest boys reply with a peace sign... aka... I love you TOO. And now, our toddler is learning.

This week, as our toddler watched cartoons from his crib, he giggled and clapped in delight. He shouted his version of affection, “I YOU!” (Love is a tricky word for an 18-month old) I made the sign with my hand.  And for the first time, he attempted, using two hands, to form one hand into the same symbol, trying to emulate me. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t complete. But he was trying. And one day, he will get there.

In our passage, the Greek word is téleioi. It’s often translated as “perfect,” and in other places in the New Testament, as “mature.” But it can be argued a better translation here is “complete.” When we do as Christ did, when we love as Christ loved, we are doing what we can to be more perfect, more complete. We are closer to Christ when we do as Christ did, even when it doesn’t quite look the same, even as we exercise those muscles in unpracticed or unskilled ways, learning to say or show, “I love you.” We can get discouraged when our childlike attempts don’t look much like Christ. But when we are brave and curious and try something new to show God our love, we can trust God is smiling and saying, “I love you too.” 

Prayer for Today

Lord, I love you. Help me to try my best to love others like you showed us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:46 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 18 2021

At this past Monday evening's session meeting, Chris Irwin, one of our elders, shared an inspiring devotional. She alluded to a question we often ask in the face of tragedy: why doesn't God do something about this? It's a fair question to ask, especially when we become aware of events in places like Afghanistan and Haiti. Why doesn't God do something about this?

I believe that God does have the power to do something about evil and suffering in our world. In fact, the whole story of the Bible is about how God responds to the sin and the brokenness in the world with love. God sends Jesus to give his life for the world God loves in order to usher in God's Kingdom -- God's way of doing things to make it all right. I believe that the Kingdom of God began on the cross and is continuing to work its way out throughout history. But we are not there yet. Obviously, there is still evil and suffering -- so, why doesn't God do something about this?

As Chris Irwin shared with us on Monday evening, one of the primary ways God does something about the sin and suffering in our world is through us. God calls us to do something about this. And while no one can do everything, everyone can do something. When it comes to Afghanistan, I was reading the cover story in Christianity Today magazine which told of all of the Christian workers who are not leaving that country and who are there simply to serve and care for those in need. You can read more about it here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/september/afghanistan-aid-humanitarian-civil-society-hospitality.html

When it comes to Haiti, our own Presbyterian Church USA is working with others to provide help. Here is another link that you can follow, not only to know how we as Presbyterians are doing something about it, but how we can make financial gifts that go directly to help those in Haiti: https://pcusa.activehosted.com/index.php?action=social&chash=46b2644cbdf489fac0e2d192212d206d.3103&s=e6163040725508c0a98ce3dd45605850

So, pray for those who are suffering, do what you can to make a difference, and give out of the financial resources with which God has blessed you. Be a part of what God is doing in our world today.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, we pray for those suffering in Afghanistan and Haiti. Bring order where there is chaos, shelter where those are homeless, safety where lives are threatened, and use us to make a difference as followers of Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Posted by: AT 11:44 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, August 17 2021

I was listening to a conversation with some faith leaders recently and they talked about re-entry and transitions with the new school year. They said that each of us is asking three important questions as we navigate through big and small decisions and seasons of our lives.

1.      Who Am I?

2.      Where Do I Fit?

3.      What Difference Can I Make?

These questions connect with some of the ongoing topics we consider throughout our life: identity, belonging and purpose.

Take a moment to consider a time when you recently asked one of these. Each of these questions can gain new meaning based on how they integrate into the fabric of your life. What would it look like if these were the three questions in your daily life? How might it impact your interactions with others?

I would invite you this week to use one of them more often. Be open to how God may be using you in these situations to share God’s love in a new way.

Join us this Sunday as we gather for fellowship in the Great Hall starting at 10:15 a.m. for our Education Ministry Fair and connect with our church family. This is a time of year when we can share stories, connect with each other and make commitments to grow in our faith through this ministry at JCPC. At 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. worship, we will commission all of those who have made the commitment to teach and lead this year through our small groups and classes. Take some time to not only to make new commitments and promises, but to renew our covenant with God.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. -John 15:9-11

Prayer for Today

God, you have called us to live in ways that at times seem difficult and even impossible to do. Remind me each day that as I live in the way you have instructed, I am moving closer and closer to you. Make my joy complete, O God. Amen.

Posted by: AT 08:51 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 16 2021

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

-Ephesians 6:14-18

Prayer is a communication to God...Prayer is done by those who trust the power of word and thought. Jesus taught people to say the Lord's Prayer. Prayer can be spoken, silent (no talking), or in a song. It can be used to praise God or to ask for something, including help and forgiveness. Consistent prayer releases the power of God's blessing on your life and circumstances. Prayer is an opportunity to understand the Heart of God and develop a deeper relationship with Him.

“Once a man was asked, “What did you gain by regularly praying to God?” The man replied, “Nothing...but let me tell you what I lost: anger, ego, greed, depression, insecurity, and fear.” Sometimes the answer to our prayers is not gaining, but losing, which ultimately is the gain!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. -I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Prayer for Today

Dear Lord, Thank you for fresh grace and days full of promise. Lead us in your ways and fill our hearts with Your love and joy. Guide every decision, response, effort, and conversation we have for Your glory. Amen.

Posted by: AT 08:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 13 2021

Edward Mote was born in 1797 to parents who were pub owners and reportedly hostile to religion. As a boy, he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker and later became a skilled cabinetmaker in his own right, with a successful business of his own. When he was 15, he found faith, listening to the preaching of John Hyatt at the Tottenham Court Road Chapel in London. Even though Mote's business took much of his time, he always found time to worship God. He loved to write hymns, and one day on the way to work, he wrote down a verse, followed by three more verses by the end of the day.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand:
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Did you know that the writer of this now familiar hymn was a master carpenter (and later, at age 55, became a Baptist preacher)? Now maybe that one line makes more sense: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. He's saying even the most sturdy creation of man can't be trusted to support us, but we can lean on Christ, the solid rock! Look at the next two verses:

When darkness seems to hide his face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand:
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand:
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Now we're singing about high and stormy gales... and whelming floods... you've heard of ships destroyed by hurricanes... and homes destroyed by floods... these are vivid metaphors for the storms of life we will all weather. Who is our solid rock? Who can we cling to? Who will save us? Christ Jesus, the Son of God! Now, since we are hearing more about the book of Revelation this Sunday, we had to include the final verse:

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand:
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

All this to say, he was with us at our beginning, through good and bad, through every high and stormy gale, and he will be with us at the end to present us faultless before the throne of God. ALL other ground is sinking sand.

I pray that you will think of these things in a new light as you sing this hymn in worship with us this Sunday, wherever you may be!

Prayer for Today

Holy God, draw us near to you. Help us to pray. Help us to worship. Help us to love. Help us to act. In Jesus' saving name we pray. Amen.

Posted by: AT 08:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 12 2021

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

-Proverbs 16:9

I grew up absolutely loving Calvin & Hobbs. There was a kindred mischievous spirit in the boxes I found in my paper each week. I enjoyed it almost as much as my mother, who clearly agreed we shared some similarities. This one panel reminded me this week how often we rush to do things and disregard how God factors in. We can type words, comments, or texts with lightning speed, never pausing or considering the impact on those we love or should love. We can spend money with a simple click. We can endanger lives with our distraction or selfishness on the interstate or our neighborhood.

We all know that living intentionally, living slower, allows us to make better decisions, but the pace of our world and technology is like a little stuffed tiger of our own making, echoing our own voices and urging us, “hurry, mom is yelling.” And there we are, perched atop a ladder, trying to be a little careful, but knowing we aren’t making our best decisions. So what slows us down? Most of us have some habits from our families of origin, refrains and mantras they passed, and scriptures and songs we have internalized. I still cross bridges in bad weather and hear my mother say, “bridges ice before roads!” These are words her own father said to her. I still slow down before bridges in cold weather.

A major part of discipleship is slowing down. Sometimes, it’s to consider the wisdom of people and God’s word which we trust. And sometimes, we have to find new ways to slow ourselves. For a time, people wore WWJD bracelets to daily remind themselves. Some folks have a rosary on the rear view or bobble head Jesus on the dash to remind them to drive more lovingly. A fish stitched on your wallet, a cross sticker on your monitor, a picture of the people you love on your phone Lock Screen so you are reminded who and whose you are as you click through this world. This week, slow down a little. Before you dive off a ladder, egged on by your own imagination, slow down, listen for the one who loves you and is calling your name. That voice will lead you to the life we are called to live together.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to hear you calling when I am wandering from your ways. Slow my steps, my fingers, my tongue, and my pace of life. Amen.

Posted by: AT 08:38 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 11 2021

Recently, I was listening to a sermon online. The text he chose was from one of Paul's letters. He summarized Paul's words to that early church saying, “Keep on doing what you are doing.” The preacher went on to describe the way in which our world is created by God in such a way that many things repeat themselves, and that we are dependent on that. The sun rises each day. Gravity doesn't suddenly disappear, and we all float away into space. He went on to say that God looks at all of creation and says, “Do it again.”

Our two dogs, Gladney and C. J., like it when we scratch them behind the ears or on the back, or pretty much anywhere else. If we stop, they take their noses and put them under our hands in order to get us to “do it again.” This desire to “do it again” is something God seems to have built into the fabric of creation.

This past Sunday as I was leading worship, I was listening to the words of liturgy. They were words that are very familiar to me, having heard them again and again over my more than 36 years as a pastor. And yet I found myself hearing them and seeing them printed on the page of the worship bulletin in a new way. I noticed my hands holding the bulletin and the red stole I was wearing next to these familiar and ancient words. And at that moment it all seemed very, very good and filled with deep meaning. And I realized there was something really important about worship that we “do it again” every Sunday.

There is something about doing the same thing again which reminds me of God's faithfulness and all that God does again and again to sustain our lives. So, whatever it is God has given you to do in this life, do it again -- but pay attention to how God might be at work in all of that.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, thank you for creating the world and allowing us to experience it new every day, again and again. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Posted by: AT 02:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, August 10 2021

Have you ever planted bulbs? I have planted them on several occasions during my adult life and waited patiently throughout the winter. Once spring began to arrive, I watered them regularly and impatiently waited to see the first hint of green sprout through the soil. When I finally did, I wanted to see growth overnight and have the beautiful daffodils to enjoy. As you probably know, it did not happen overnight or even over the course of a week.

These daffodil bulbs are a reminder to me that growth does not happen overnight in our lives either. As adults in our community of faith, we serve in roles as teachers, leaders, parents, and friends to the children and youth in our midst. God calls us to help plant the seeds and continue to nurture them. The nurturing process takes time and sometimes we are not the ones who get to see them bloom.

As we begin a new school year, I am reminded of what a privilege it is to be called to water and nurture the children and youth in our church family. We walk with them at a very important part of their journey. There are lots of ways that our church family participates in the nurture of our children and youth. If you are sensing a call to work with them at JCPC in a more specific way this year, please contact me to talk about it. All of us can take a few moments this week to lift up our children, youth, teachers and school staff in prayer.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. 

-Ephesians 3:16-18

Prayer for Today

Creator God,

May our vision each day of the world around us remind us that you so loved the world that you sent Jesus, your Son, to be one of us. In all that we observe, open our eyes so that we may really see and grow in wonder and appreciation. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:49 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 09 2021

In Galatians 6:2, Paul extols the virtues of helping one another saying, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” As church members, we are called to love one another and support each other. But, how do we do that? How do we know when a person is struggling and needs a helping hand? Sometimes we can anticipate help is needed: the arrival of a baby, when someone has been in an accident or been hospitalized. Typically, someone calls the church to inform the staff of these types of needs. But sometimes an individual or family struggles without sharing, leaving them alone to try to cope. With Stephen Ministry, no one need suffer in silence.

My first experience with Stephen Ministers was through a former patient at a counseling center. My patient recently moved and he had medical problems which limited his capacity to manage independently. His wife called their church and requested a Stephen Minister to visit her husband. The Stephen Minister came to to visit him in their home weekly and helped my client significantly, because he felt he had someone to listen to him and accept him without judgment. His quality of life dramatically improved and he felt able to deal with changes in his health.

Perhaps you have had an experience like this: you have a problem that is really weighing on you and then happen to run into an old friend and sharing your concern helps ease the burden. Stephen Ministers are trained, ready and willing to help. I have enjoyed the opportunity to be a caregiver through Stephen Ministry and would encourage anyone who needs a helping hand, to reach out to one of our ministers, David Lee, or Rebecca Eldridge to have a Stephen Minister contact you. These visits are confidential, and arranged at a mutually agreed time.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, we pray for your protection, guidance, and love. Help us find ways to carry each other’s burdens and honor you. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:46 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, August 06 2021

You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own.

-Ephesians 2:8

During my time in college, I kept a wide variety of fish as pets, but I had a particular fondness for one albino weather loach. Weather loaches are long, cylindrical fish with three sets of barbels at their mouth. They’re called weather loaches because they become more active when the barometric pressure changes. It’s not uncommon to see them suddenly swim right up to the surface and back down again, and sometimes they can do so with such force that they fly out of the tank and onto the ground below.

To make sure the loach had a varied diet, I would sometimes blanch cucumbers or carrots and drop them into the tank, and I also remember having quite a selection of other foods so as to offer all my fish a different culinary delight every day. It sounds silly, but I became quite attached to the loach. Sometimes it would uproot the plants in the tank or pester one of the other fish, but I still cared for that little loach. No matter what it did, I couldn’t help but love it. I’m sure those of you with a cat, dog, or other pet know what I mean.

If I think about the unconditional love I have had for the loach, it can help me understand God’s unconditional love for me a little better. I don’t mean to say that we are like pets to God, but there are some similarities. When I purposefully say hurtful things to others or when I hesitate to reach out and help when someone is in need, I sometimes wonder how God could still love me. After all, I know I should be kind to others and be willing to help others whenever I can. But I believe God’s love is unconditional. There is nothing I could ever do to make God stop loving me. That love is unchanging and ever-present. It reminds me of some of the words from a wonderful choral piece (https://youtu.be/Ks_DirYfDig) the women’s chorus performed when I was in college: Let nothing frighten you, all things are passing. God never changes.

Prayer for Today

God of Unchanging Love, thank you for your love for us that knows no boundaries or conditions. Free our hearts of a desire to hurt others and ready us to help all those in need. Comfort us in our fears and anxieties with your steadfast love. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, August 05 2021

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

-Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Anyone who has spent time with or raised teenagers knows the roller coaster ride of twists and turns and gut-wrenching drops, with the occasional peaks. Preparing them to survive their teen years and then beyond is hard work. For us and them. We have been working hard to get our teen prepared for high school with a morning routine and great self-sufficiency. On the first day of his new schedule, he got ready in record time, made his breakfast, and was ready to go. His mother told him how proud and impressed she was. He replied, “You don’t need to be. I’m going to be doing this every day!”

The Lord tells us how pleasing it is when we follow God’s call, the Way, and care for ourselves, one another, and God’s creation. Nonetheless, when we take it seriously and take pride in it, it brings God joy. Just like the joy we take as parents, teachers, and mentors when we see our kids take the reigns and take pride in their own contributions to the world. When we carve out time for studying scripture, taking our families to worship or setting an online time with them every single week, seeking out ways to serve or donate needed items, we are showing God that we have that same enthusiasm for doing the work God calls us to do. We grow in our relationship with God.

It’s good for us as believers to stop and examine our routines. Are they sloppy, childish, or disappointing? Or are they the sort of maturing and developing ones that our God takes pride in seeing? What can we do to show our heavenly parent we are learning and growing and maturing, so when God peeks in and smiles, we say, “I’ll be doing this every day.”

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to follow your call and make you proud today of the work I do and the love I show. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, August 04 2021

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV

Awhile back I came across a saying that is used in 12-step programs to help people understand when they are most susceptible to giving into the temptation to return to their addictive behavior. It is based on the word H A L T and forms an acronym to remind us that we are all susceptible to giving in to temptation when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. One way to halt giving in to temptation is to ask if we are experiencing any of these things. Simply understanding what may be the cause of what we are feeling can help us to “halt” doing what we really do not want to do. I know from experience that when I am tempted, if I will simply take the time to ask myself if any of these are in play, I often find that they are -- usually more than one!

God provides many ways that we can endure the temptations in life. I am particularly grateful for those in our 12-step programs who have shared what they have learned which can help us all live meaningful, whole, and healthy lives -- the lives I believe we all want to live deep down inside.

This Sunday we are having our Annual Congregational Meeting at 10:30 AM in The Great Hall for the purpose of electing our Elder Nominating Committee and hearing a few brief reports on the life of the church. However, as we have said, we need a quorum, (10% of our membership), to be present to vote. So, if you can be here this Sunday at 10:30 AM in the Great Hall, we need you there.

However, we become aware of a number of other factors that may reduce our numbers attending at 10:30 AM. So, we are going to be offering an online option where you can join the meeting by zoom wherever you are. Just click here and you can register for the meeting and click here to receive the Annual Report -- but please do that as soon as possible.

We're also going to try to broadcast the meeting over FM so that those who attend drive-in worship can attend in the West parking lot nearest the ballfield. Just drive there after the service and we will be taking attendance and giving you a chance to vote.

If anything, the pandemic has taught us to be resourceful and resilient. See you Sunday!

Prayer for Today

Thank you, God, for our church family, especially for those women and men who agree to serve as elders. Thank you that even in the midst of this pandemic, we have learned to adapt as needed so we can do the work of your church and serve others in the name of Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, August 02 2021

The Caregiver Compass

Bear another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

-Galatians 6:2

The Caregiver’s Compass points Stephen Minister’s in the right direction on their caregiving journey.

The symbol for Jesus Christ at the center of the compass reminds Stephen Ministers that Jesus is the source and power for their caring ministry. 

Stephen Ministers are the caregivers, God is the cure giver. 

The four points of the compass remind Stephen Ministers to be caregivers who are:

  • Compassionate - able to share the sufferings of their care receivers
  • Full of Faith - relying solely on God to be the be the one who heals all wounds
  • Skilled- knowing how to listen, understand, and empathize
  • Trustworthy - maintaining confidentiality, visiting care receivers regularly, and remaining committed to their ministry

To minister comes from Latin and means “servant”. For most of my life, I was uncomfortable in serving others in their time of need. I marveled at many in our congregation that had this gift. They were the first to the hospital when people were ill, they knew those that were suffering or were “shut in” as we sometimes call them. When I was asked by Gail Steyer to consider being a Stephen Minister, I first thought “oh no, not me”. When I found out, that the training was over 50 hours over more than 4 months, I thought “oh no way”. At the time I was finishing my last year of being an Elder previously and I informed Pastor Gray that I would need to be excused from several session meetings, he politely informed me that it was not to be.

Long story short, I don’t remember why I chose to begin the training but found myself called to be a Stephen Minister and with the gracious help of makeup sessions, I found my faith grow stronger with each session. At the end of the training, I had never felt so well equipped to serve others in obedience to God’ s will. I am a testimony to how life changing this experience can be. We are now looking for new Stephen Minsters. Classes are beginning September 17 with commissioning in February. Classes will meet on Monday nights from 7:00 to 9:30. If interested please contact Rebecca Eldridge or myself.

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

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit,
May we always look and listen in the moment to serve others through you and with you. Help us to be mindful that you need our hands and feet to further your Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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10950 Bell Rd, Johns Creek, GA 30097 get directions
Church: 770-813-9009  |  Fax: 678-807-1923  |  Email: welcome@jcpcusa.org
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