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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.

Wednesday, March 30 2022

God Cleans the Stains

 

What if our clothes were more functional, having the ability to clean themselves after we dropped ketchup or mustard or spilled a drink on them? Well, according to the BBC, engineers in China have developed a special “coating which causes cotton to clean itself of stains and odors when exposed to ultraviolet lights.” Can you imagine the implications of having self-cleaning clothes?

 

A self-cleaning coating might work for stained clothes, but only God can clean a stained soul. In ancient Judah, God was angry with His people because they had “turned their backs on” Him, given themselves to corruption and evil, and were worshiping false gods (Isaiah 1:2–4). But to make matters worse, they tried to clean themselves by offering sacrifices, burning incense, saying many prayers, and gathering together in solemn assemblies. Yet their hypocritical and sinful hearts remained (vv. 12–13). The remedy was for them to come to their senses and with a repentant heart bring the stains on their souls to a holy and loving God. His grace would cleanse them and make them spiritually “white as snow” (v. 18).

 

When we sin, there’s no self-cleaning solution. With a humble and repentant heart, we must acknowledge our sins and place them under the cleansing light of God’s holiness. We must turn from them and return to Him. And He, the only One who cleans the stains of the soul, will offer us complete forgiveness and renewed fellowship.

Prayer for Today

Father, forgive me for ignoring or trying to get rid of my own sin. I know only You can clean the stains of my soul. I acknowledge and repent of my self-sufficiency and turn to You. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 28 2022

any of you know that one of my favorite verses from the Bible is Ephesians 2:10 where Saint Paul tells us why we are here and why God made us!

 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

The verses immediately prior to verse 10 tell us that we are saved by God’s grace not our works, but verse 10 tells us what God wants us to do - To Do Good Works!

 

JCPC is organized in a way to accomplish good works. The educational team and ministry teams see to it that we are provided with the sacraments and instructed in God’s word. The stewardship team with its tech and property and finance sections see to it that we have facilities to teach and worship and stage our good works. The outreach team identifies community needs and directs our gifts to those most in need. Our caring and connecting teams look after the physical and spiritual needs of both member and nonmember. “Non nobis solum” (Not for us Alone) is our operational guide. Each month, the session and staff review our progress as we strive to carry out God’s instruction to build his kingdom on earth. We need your gifts, but even more we need your participation in these efforts. Follow your interests and choose a team to join or find a small group.

 

Whether you wish to provide food for families during crisis or recovery, paint walls for habitat, teach adult or youth Sunday school classes, or just enjoy the camaraderie and Christian fellowship obtained from a small book group, Bible study group, or adult dinner group, there is a place for you.

 

Last week in the Session meeting the Session….

  • Approved a new term of call for Rev. Brian Daoust. There will be congregational meeting the Sunday after Easter at 12:00 Noon in the Great Hall for congregational approval of these changes.
  • Continued to review active member rolls and asks that you please update your information for our new directory if you have not already done so.
  • Approved the Communion dates for the remainder of 2022.
  • Noted that February contributions were positive over expenses which lowered our short fall from January.
  • Commended Rev. Daoust for his assistance since the retirements of Rev. Kuhlhorst and Rev. Norsworthy.
  • Decided to hold both Easter Sunday Services in the Great Hall.

 

April brings the end of Lent and our celebration of Easter. For Johns Creek Presbyterian Church, April will also bring a conclusion to our first major hurdle toward finding a new pastor. We will welcome our interim pastor, Rev. Steven Barnes on Palm Sunday. With the arrival of Rev. Barnes, we as a congregation will then turn our attention to discerning our role in building God’s kingdom. The creation of a pastor nominating committee will follow, and it will seek to align our congregation’s desires with the skills and calling of a new permanent pastor. Good works build God’s kingdom here on earth. Thank you for your participation.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father,

Let our works be good works to glorify your kingdom on earth. Amen.

 

The heavens declare the glory of God:

The skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their

voice is not heard,

Their voice goes out into all the earth.

Their words to the ends of the world.

-Psalm 19:1-4

 
Posted by: AT 01:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 25 2022

Love You Forever

 

25 Years ago, my oldest son gave me a picture book written by Robert Munsch entitled

 “Love You Forever.” The story begins showing a picture of a mother holding her tiny baby – her precious son. Through the pages the mother rocks her baby, and sings.

“I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 

 

FYI: I cried when I received the book, and truthfully, I get teary eyed every time I read it. 

 

The boy is 9, then a teen, and then a grown man throughout she continues to sing. “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 

 

The mother is very old, and a precious picture shows the son holding and lovingly cradling His dear mother. She will soon die. The son sings: I love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be.”

 

The grown and grieving son returns to his home and goes into the nursery where his new baby daughter is sleeping, He picks his baby up and rocks her as he sings. “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 

 

Notice that there is a juxtaposition between “love you forever” and “like you always”.  There is a difference; Always is time limited for all occasions, and Forever means constantly, enduring for an endless amount of time. 

 

Even a deep love for another person can occasionally become weary. It doesn’t mean we stop loving, it means we are frustrated with the other person’s ability to meet our expectations. Like is infused with a measure of judgement and impatience —translation “you are annoying and plucking my last nerve.” 

 

When my children were teens, I used to tell them “I love you but right now I don’t like you. Go to bed and we’ll start over tomorrow.”  (In retrospect it was kinda harsh!)

 

Returning to the book - both mother and son pledge to love and like. What that means is; “I’ll try, I won’t give up, and you will always have a special place in my life and heart. No doubt - - admirable intentions. Newsflash: loving others is WORK!  

 

In Hebrew, endure means perpetually, without a beginning or an end. God’s love endures forever, and faith allows us to believe, whole heartedly that God loves us.  God’s Spirit resides in our heart encouraging us to have a higher more perfect love.

 

At every age, stage, and even when we rage God’s love does not waiver. It is forever...ONLY God is capable of having an enduring forever love, because God is love - it is His very essence. 

 

Intellectually we know that God loves us, but as humans we crave evidence of God’s love. We want to feel, that God loves us. We want to feel He is holding, caring, and protecting us. Unfortunately, feelings are fleeting, but faith gives us footing. What we really want is to have firm footing.  

 

Confidence in God’s love will grow when I sit silently and meditate on His Word. Gradually the need to “feel” will be transformed into an unshakeable sustaining faith. 

 

Faith assures me that God will love and sustain me throughout my entire life. He carries and sustains me always and forever.

 

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” 

-Isaiah 46:4

 

God promises to love me forever and always and it fills my soul with hope. I am inspired to more perfectly love and like others always...

Prayer for Today

Father God, help me embrace your promise that you will love me forever. Empower me to be a vessel of your love that I may serve others in genuine and meaningful ways. Through faith I believe you will love me forever. Hear the cry of my heart –   I want to love you forever. Amen. 

Posted by: AT 01:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 23 2022

Love You Forever

 

25 Years ago, my oldest son gave me a picture book written by Robert Munsch entitled

 “Love You Forever.” The story begins showing a picture of a mother holding her tiny baby – her precious son. Through the pages the mother rocks her baby, and sings.

“I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 

 

FYI: I cried when I received the book, and truthfully, I get teary eyed every time I read it. 

 

The boy is 9, then a teen, and then a grown man throughout she continues to sing. “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 

 

The mother is very old, and a precious picture shows the son holding and lovingly cradling His dear mother. She will soon die. The son sings: I love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be.”

 

The grown and grieving son returns to his home and goes into the nursery where his new baby daughter is sleeping, He picks his baby up and rocks her as he sings. “I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” 

 

Notice that there is a juxtaposition between “love you forever” and “like you always”.  There is a difference; Always is time limited for all occasions, and Forever means constantly, enduring for an endless amount of time. 

 

Even a deep love for another person can occasionally become weary. It doesn’t mean we stop loving, it means we are frustrated with the other person’s ability to meet our expectations. Like is infused with a measure of judgement and impatience —translation “you are annoying and plucking my last nerve.” 

 

When my children were teens, I used to tell them “I love you but right now I don’t like you. Go to bed and we’ll start over tomorrow.”  (In retrospect it was kinda harsh!)

 

Returning to the book - both mother and son pledge to love and like. What that means is; “I’ll try, I won’t give up, and you will always have a special place in my life and heart. No doubt - - admirable intentions. Newsflash: loving others is WORK!  

 

In Hebrew, endure means perpetually, without a beginning or an end. God’s love endures forever, and faith allows us to believe, whole heartedly that God loves us.  God’s Spirit resides in our heart encouraging us to have a higher more perfect love.

 

At every age, stage, and even when we rage God’s love does not waiver. It is forever...ONLY God is capable of having an enduring forever love, because God is love - it is His very essence. 

 

Intellectually we know that God loves us, but as humans we crave evidence of God’s love. We want to feel, that God loves us. We want to feel He is holding, caring, and protecting us. Unfortunately, feelings are fleeting, but faith gives us footing. What we really want is to have firm footing.  

 

Confidence in God’s love will grow when I sit silently and meditate on His Word. Gradually the need to “feel” will be transformed into an unshakeable sustaining faith. 

 

Faith assures me that God will love and sustain me throughout my entire life. He carries and sustains me always and forever.

 

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” 

-Isaiah 46:4

 

God promises to love me forever and always and it fills my soul with hope. I am inspired to more perfectly love and like others always...

Prayer for Today

Father God, help me embrace your promise that you will love me forever. Empower me to be a vessel of your love that I may serve others in genuine and meaningful ways. Through faith I believe you will love me forever. Hear the cry of my heart –   I want to love you forever. Amen. 

Posted by: AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 21 2022

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

-Matthew 16:18

 

March Madness is an annual wild ride in college sports. NCAA college basketball, both men’s and women’s, are exciting for so many reasons, but especially because anything can happen. Teams are ranked in four regions from 1 to 16. A casual fan could well-expect very few high-ranked teams to be upset by teams who rarely even make the cut for the tournament. For example, few people would ever pick a 15 seed (2nd lowest) to beat a 2 see (2nd highest) in the first round of this tournament. In fact, only 3% of people who filled out a bracket predicted the upset of St. Peter’s over Kentucky this weekend, whereas almost a third (30%) of folks had the Kentucky Wildcats to reach a coveted Final Four game. It’s only the 10th time in history that a 15 seed beat their competitor in the first round since the championship began in 1938. 

 

Why is that so shocking? It has happened 9 other times, after all. However, even casual sports fans or non-sports fans can see on paper what a surprise this was. A quick comparison reveals some obvious differences… UK’s $18.3 million basketball budget to St. Peter’s $1.6 million, a home gym capacity of 20,545 to 3,200, a school enrollment of 31,536 to 3,009, and a recruitment class that included 3 five-star, 5 four-star, and 2 three-star recruits to St. Peter’s roster with zero! And yet, St. Peter’s Peacocks, who practice and play in the Run Baby Run Arena (real name), defeated the Wildcats handily. Everyone loves a David and Goliath story, especially watching one unfold in the arena, rather than living it. And historically, Christians have not fared well in arenas and coliseums, even if Medlock Bridge has more than a few full coliseums each Sunday.

 

It would be understandable for us as Christians in a modern context to not choose our team to go the distance in facing the challenges of a modern world, especially at our small gatherings and churches that meet in chapels, our Great Halls, or our homes online, just as it would have been for the Early Church or the followers of Jesus in the dark hours between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Those followers of the way were much less than 3% of Israel, let alone the Roman world. And yet, God chose a handful of men and women, led by a guy named Peter to establish the Church of Jesus Christ, shattering all expectations of what a ragtag group of never-heard-ofs could do. Few churches our size can boast even St. Peter’s budget, and yet we can do extraordinary things no one expects. From Habitat houses to food pantries, blood drives, foster families, mission trips, scouting and service groups, addiction recovery, and community engagement, we can do mighty and surprising things no one expects. We are up to that challenge every season. Let’s go, team.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me ready to do extraordinary things no one expects. Make me one who serves and loves in mighty ways. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 18 2022

hen Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

-Esther 4:13-14

 

This past weekend, the youth group headed to Beech Mountain for the annual ski trip. We last were able to go right before quarantine. Even with a wind chill of -15°, we had an incredible weekend. The highlight is our tradition of a Sunday morning worship service and communion. The outgoing and incoming youth elder help to serve the elements and the youth elder who has served the previous year charges the new elder with their duties. This year, Joseph prepared words to charge Niko, both of whom preached on Youth Sunday.

 

Joseph spoke about how he’d observed the gifts and character of our new elder and that he was absolutely the right choice to lead in this role. And then he charged him to now do the work, to step up and use those gifts to serve our church and all those in need. Esther received a similar charge from Mordecai. He called on her to use her position and voice because the Lord had prepared and placed her for this moment to save her people from death. What a great reminder for all of us. Even as we return to greater and greater freedom as we emerge from the pandemic, as we search for a pastor, as we plan mission trips and VBS and reach out to our members and visitors, as we encourage new worshiping communities and serve the Johns Creek community, we are being prepared and placed.

 

Lent is a great season for reflection. Like Esther, we take a look inward at the gifts God has given us and outward to see in what place God has placed us to serve people. We have what we need. Now we must do the work. This year, as you’re asked to serve our mission partners, join us. Tomorrow, when go build with Habitat, this summer on mission trips and with VBS, in the search for a new pastor and educator, when volunteers are needed to teach and supervise children in the nursery, we are prepared for such times. And now we are called to step up and do the work.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me a doer of your word and not a hearer only. You have prepared me for such a time as this. Help me to hear your call and step up. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 16 2022

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:1-8 NRSV

 

Easter is one month away! Ash Wednesday was two weeks ago... so where are you on your Lenten journey this year? What spiritual disciplines are you striving to practice during this season of penitence and reflection?

 

I try to set aside time to read scripture and pray every day. I have to admit that when I started trying to do this years ago, I was doing it just because it was a discipline--it's what Christians are supposed to do, right? Then I discovered that if I ever got sidetracked and didn't take the time to read and pray, I really missed that time and felt completely out of sorts.

 

Our relationship, our journey with God is closer when we worship. Not just on Sunday, but every day when we read scripture and pray. When we take the time to nourish that relationship, we ourselves are nourished!  When we reach out for God, we discover that we are already being held.  

 

Consider the psalm passage at the beginning of this page:  O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  The psalmist openly declares his need for God, comparing it to his need for water, with the knowledge that one cannot survive without it. He praises God for his power, glory, and steadfast love, and declares that he will praise God as long as he lives. He was fainting from thirst a moment ago, and now he describes being satisfied as with a rich feast! He sings for joy in the shadow of God's wings, clinging to God, upheld by his right hand... this is what happens when we spend time with God, when we make decisions throughout each day to seek that relationship which is so graciously offered to us! We find that we are eternally loved, and we are strengthened to continue our journey sharing that love with others.

Prayer for Today

Holy God, we are amazed and grateful that you meet us where we are. You feed us, you strengthen us, you encourage us. We praise you for your boundless love. Help us to do your will, sharing that love with others. In Jesus' holy name we pray. Amen.

Posted by: AT 01:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 14 2022

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit, so letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. -Romans 8:5-6

 

We are in the Season of Lent which began on Ash Wednesday and lasts through Easter. It is a time of extra reflection on the life and teachings of Jesus. It is a season for us to be focused on turning away from wrong actions and dedicating ourselves to living the kind of life Jesus taught us to live.

 

I was not raised in a family or church which taught us to fast or give up something during Lent. Several years ago for Lent, I decided I would make a practice of spending time reading the Bible and my devotional and praying the first thing every morning instead of whenever I got around to it during the day – which often didn’t happen. It made such a difference that I still do it. Since that time, I have decided to do something nice for someone every day during Lent. It has made me look for things I can do to bring a smile or be helpful to others.

 

Our church has many flyers and booklets that offer devotions and many ways to make Lent meaningful. They talk about things like being more mindful and thankful for the things and people around you, having a giving box where you add things to give to others, or having a grateful journal or box where you record things you are grateful for each day. Take a look at the many items available in the Welcome Center or Atrium. There are suggestions for busy families as well as more involved readings. It’s not too late to start! Find something for you and/or your family which will make Lent more meaningful and draw you closer to the God who gave His Son for our redemption and whose resurrection we celebrate on Easter.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, please be with us and guide us through this Lenten Season as we strive to draw closer to you. Amen. 

Posted by: AT 01:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 11 2022

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

-John 15:12

 

Thousands of stories are emerging from the invasion of Ukraine. One story in the news this week was of a moment of peace. A Russian soldier surrendered to Ukrainians. The villagers he surrendered to offered him warm food and tea, and helped him to call his mother on video. They could have taken advantage of the young man’s vulnerability and hopelessness. Instead, they met him with compassion. They offered care.

 

Recently, I had need to use an AED. These automatic emergency devices scan a person electrically and determine if they need CPR or a rescue shock. They record heart rhythms and monitor a person until trained medical personnel arrive. In order to help keep people attentive and focused on the person in distress, the machine speaks instructions. If no defibrillator shock is needed, the calm automated voice simply states, “continue care.” What a great reminder for all of us.

 

As the world around us swirls with chaos, as it always has, scripture reminds us to remain calm. The words of Jesus from Holy Week come through clearly. “Love one another as I have loved you.” In other words, just as Jesus has done patiently and gently and compassionately every time someone is in pain, in need, in trouble, in sin, in loneliness has come to them, continue care. This week, watch the news - international and local. Listen to the announcements in worship of upcoming mission needs and projects. Contribute, volunteer, and continue care.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me one who is keenly aware and focused on the needs of others. Help me continue to offer care. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 09 2022

Have mercy upon me O God after thy great goodness; according to the multitude of thy mercies, do away mine offences. Wash me throughly from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my faults and my sin is ever before me.

-Psalm 51:1-3

 

As you may know, there are often short bits of text right before a Psalm starts. Some say, “For the director of music,” and some say, “A psalm of David.” Well, Psalm 51 has quite the introductory text. It says in the NIV:

 

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

 

I sure hope that some editor doesn’t scribble down a little note explaining some horrible sin I had committed when describing some piece of music I’ve written. I don’t think that piece would sell well! But for us, now, in 2022, it offers a little context to understand what these words originally meant. Knowing that these words were written by David as he felt great remorse over a terrible sin gives the words life today. While adultery may not be on your list of past sins, the truth is we have all done things that bring great pain to others and ourselves and we feel bad about them. Thinking of something you wish you hadn’t done, read this psalm and see if you can relate to the words.
 

All of this is not very uplifting, is it? We want to shy away from these kinds of thoughts and feelings and focus on the happy stuff. That’s probably why people tend to like happier, more upbeat music. But we are now one week into Lent, and this is a season for us to turn inwards and focus on our spiritual journey, our shortcomings, our harmful actions, and our distance from God. One interesting part about verse 3 of this psalm is the part about sin being always before us. To me, this acknowledges that, even in forgiveness, that sin still lingers in front of us on our path. Forgiveness is not the end of the story. During this Lenten season, take some time to ponder on past sins and where you see them still lurking in your life today. We cannot change the past nor can we change our inherent nature, but we can change our behaviors and actions. I wish for myself and for all of you that this Lenten season may be one of spiritual and personal growth so that we may make the body of Christ healthier together.

Prayer for Today

God of Great Goodness, we are challenged during these forty days and nights to repent and bring our broken, shattered hearts before you. Cleanse us with your love and forgiveness and create in us a pure heart that we may spread the love of Christ instead of hate and pain. Let us build up your Church, not for ourselves, but so that you may delight in our works. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, March 07 2022

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

-Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

-John 16:33 (NIV)

 

“The only constant in life Is change” is a quote attributed to Heraclitus a philosopher who predated Socrates in 500 BC.  Many of you may recognize it, or if you had not can surely relate to it. How our lives and the world we live in can change so quickly, one day it looks like the two year pandemic is finally receding and life can return to normal, yet the next day, a totalitarian dictator can bring the world to the edge of disaster waging an unprovoked war on a sovereign nation and his Slavic brothers and sisters. While the US and government and NATO are helping by providing aide, we are not able to help as much as we should for fear of a wider war. With all our modern communication technology and social media, it almost seems like we are there with the Ukrainians in their suffering. After 20 years of our own wars in the middle east, we all yearn for peace.

 

In the Wednesday Shepherds Men’s group, we have been reading and studying a book by Max Lucado titled “You were Made for this Moment”. Max’s book is about Esther in the Bible, a story of two Jews: Queen Esther and Mordecai saving the Jewish nation while exiled in Persia from a madman. Max in his book shares an interesting story. In 1892 the boll weevil arrived in Alabama from Mexico, by the 1920s, the pest was destroying most of the cotton crop in the south and could not be eradicated. In 1916 on a trip through Virginia and South Carolina a seed seller by the name of H.M. Sessions learned that peanuts were impervious to the boll weevil. So, he came home and sold the seeds and by 1919, Alabama became the largest producer of peanuts in the nation. Max makes the observation, had there been no boll weevil there would have been no peanut harvest.

 

Sometimes we tend to forget that God is for us, not against us. God is near us, not away from us and lives within us. We have to try and not be done in by bad news. We have a good God, that has a good plan, and it is revealed in his good book. We all want peace in this world, but the only true peace comes through Jesus. Jesus is the only constant in life and as prophesied in Isaiah 9:7, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus and Holy Spirit. Help us to always remember that trust in you is all that matters. Although we often do not trust you in all things, we are forgiven for our doubts, and we should never forget that you are the only constant in this world and our lives. Help us always to remember that you will make things right, whether it is boll weevils or dictators. Help us always to remember that through your Son, that all things are made right it in this world and that we never forgot your promise of everlasting peace and justice. Amen.

Posted by: AT 03:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, March 04 2022

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

Коли я піду хоча б навіть долиною смертної темряви, то не буду боятися злого, бо Ти при мені, Твоє жезло й Твій посох вони мене втішать!

-Psalm 23:4

 

“Yea though I walk…” Familiar words we recite in times of great loss and fear, funerals and times that feel hopeless. It’s being uttered repeatedly in earnestness and hope in bunkers throughout Ukraine currently. The pictures above are from a mass being celebrated this week. This week, we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. We receive the mark of the cross in ashes and a reminder that we come from dust and to dust we shall return. It reminds us of our mortality and marks a season of reflection, sacrifice, and penitence. And we are reminded that in life and in death, we belong to Jesus Christ.

 

Our brothers and sisters in bunkers in Ukraine this week will be keenly aware of their mortality, surrounded by death and the ashes of their own cities and homes. As we enter these next 40 days, we will reflect, and we will respond as a nation and world, perhaps requiring sacrifice as we place sanctions or see a rise in prices of fuel and goods and so forth. It will be hard for us and harder for them. We will watch the news and worry for them and for the world.

 

And in the midst of this chaos and tragedy and mortal danger, we as believers have hope with our believer brothers and sisters in those bunkers. We trust in the words of our Ash Wednesday traditions and services… in life and in death, nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. Let us remain connected, aware, and in solidarity with all who suffer and pray for peace. This week and for the Lenten season, remain vigilant and prayerful. Do not become overwhelmed by the news, but informed and compassionate, so we may lend our help and resources as we see need.

Prayer for Today

Lord, make me neither complacent, nor overwhelmed. Send your spirit to keep me hopeful and helpful to all in need, trusting you are with us. Amen.

Posted by: AT 03:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, March 02 2022

How To Cross A River

 

I was contemplating what to write for the Reflections devotion, and randomly came across the article “How to Cross a River Safely." (Disclaimer - all the survival advice given as to crossing a river, or attack by crocodile or bear is not assurance of survival.) The advice on how to actually survive crossing a river or an alligator/ bear attack is followed by a relevant and reflective scripture. Only God’s wisdom is without error.

 

1.   Look for a safer crossing if the water is fast and knee-deep or more (Duh!). Always ford a river at its widest point, the water will be shallower and slower.

 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it. -Isaiah 30:21

 

2.   Wear sandals or water shoes to improve footing. Move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You're less likely to fall since you don't lift your feet as high when shuffling.  

 

You've made room beneath me for my footsteps, and my feet didn't slip. -2 Samuel 22:37

 

3.   Face upstream, lean into the current, National Parks Service recommends keep your eyes on the far shore. You may become dizzy if you look down at the swirling water.

 

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. -Hebrews 12:2

 

4.   If you're with a group, link arms and cross together. This creates more contact points with the streambed, gives everyone more solid footing.

 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend

themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. -Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

 

Then I thought what if there are alligators in the river? 

 

1.   If you happen to lock eyes with an alligator on land, run away as fast as you can in a straight line. If a gator grabs you in the water, don’t give up. Fight and fight hard!

 

I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. -Revelation 3:11

 

2.   Crocodilians are most active and most dangerous at dusk and at night.  Best advice is to learn where crocodilians live and stay away. The only sure way to survive an encounter with an alligator is to never meet one in the first place.

 

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. -James 4:7

 

 

Then I wondered about how to survive a potential bear attack: 

 

1.   Not to worry- take off your hiking boots, put on your tennis shoes and run faster than the other hikers. Wear a bear bell to warn off the bear. Firing a gun doubles your chance of incurring serious injury as compared to using bear spray.

 

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. -2 Timothy 4:18

 

After reading all the advice on survival I decided to up the definition. The most succinct definition was “to continue to live or exist, especially despite danger or hardship.” Our life journey with God will most assuredly include “crossing” challenges. So we need spiritual survival skills. A recurring theme of survival was Learn.

 

But as for you, continue in what you have learned

and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it. -2 Timothy 3:14

 

Timothy admonishes us to remember what we have learned to continue. We are to honor both the lessons and our teachers. Israel crossed the River Jordan to the Promised Land. 

 

As believers we are symbolically crossing the Jordan River. In Christ we are freed from the bondage of sin and granted access to forgiveness. At our life’s “crossings” God will never abandon us.  The first verse of the poem At the Crossing Over Jordan written 1897 by Charles Bentley brings clarity to this devotion-

 

When we near the river Jordan,

With its rushing, swelling tide,

Let us put our trust in Jesus as we go;

We shall hear his gentle whisper,

“Fear not, I am by thy side,”

At the crossing over Jordan he’ll be there.

 

Finally, let us remember God is faithful to provide protection, and a future for each of us:

 

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.

They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

 

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

-Hebrews 10:23

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to trust You with an unwavering and courageous faith. Help me to remember you will never depart from me thou art ever with me. I praise You Lord for you are ever faithful to lead me safely across all rivers. Amen.

Posted by: AT 12:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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