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.
The sound of a siren increased to an ear-piercing level as an emergency vehicle sped by my car. Its flashing lights glared through my windshield, illuminating the words "hazardous materials" printed on the side of the truck. Later, I learned it had been racing to a science laboratory where a 400-gallon container of sulfuric acid had begun to leak. Emergency workers had to contain the substance immediately because of its ability to damage whatever it came in contact with.
As I thought about this news story, I wondered what would happen if sirens blared every time a harsh or critical word "leaked" out of my mouth? Sadly, it might become rather noisy around our house.
The prophet Isaiah shared this sense of awareness about his sin. When he saw God's glory in a vision, he was overcome by his unworthiness. He recognized that he was "a man of unclean lips" living with people who shared the same problem (Isaiah 6:5). What happened next gives me hope. An angel touched his lips with a red-hot coal, explaining, "your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (v. 7).
We have moment-by-moment choices to make with our words-both written and spoken. Will they be "hazardous" material, or will we allow God's glory to convict us and His grace to heal us so we can honor Him with everything we express?
Prayer for Today
Dear God, help me to see how my words affect other people. Show me how to encourage them. Amen.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is in theaters now and one of the most incredible films of Tom Hanks' career. It's about America's pastor, Mr. Rogers, and very much for adults and teens. The messages and themes are more important than ever. One of those poignant messages is one of the ideas Fred tried to impress on all of us throughout his life and ministry, a mantra of sorts. "Anything human is mentionable. Anything mentionable is manageable."
This is critical for all of us to learn, so we can navigate the tough subjects with which we wrestle, from faith and friendship and family to suffering, and as Fred says in the movie, death. Most of us are taught as polite Southerners or good Mid-westerners or pragmatic Northerners that speaking about hot topics like religion or politics. This is largely because we have forgotten that important childhood lesson from Mr. Rogers. The passion, the goodness, the mad or frustration we feel is mentionable and manageable. We can express ourselves in managed ways and "stop stop stop when we want." A skill that is essential to authentic and caring relationships and gatherings... like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This week, we will gather with the people we love, and many parties and gatherings in the weeks to come. We can be polite (or rude) or we can be authentic and loving. Fred said repeatedly that love wasn't a perfect state of caring. It requires of us to do the work. We may have to cover tough subjects or deal with relatives with whom we have had hard times over the years or faced mutual loss. We will have to offer and receive forgiveness, which Fred called, "It's a decision we make to release a person from the feelings of anger we have against them." In other words, we aren't called to just be polite and avoid the tough stuff. We are called to work very hard to love one another and manage our emotions together. I hope your gatherings will be full of that kind of authenticity and love. And I hope you have a beautiful day in your neighborhood.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to mention what matters and ask others for help. Because that's okay too. Amen.
When it comes to fear, we often seem to have something of a love/hate relationship with fear. For the most part, we don't like to be afraid. It makes us feel uncomfortable - at least for a while. Brain research tells us that when we are afraid, it activates the "fight or flight" parts of the brain that go back to our most primitive brain structures. When something scares us, we tend to react quickly - maybe because that response is what saved our ancestors from the lion prowling in the forest looking for the next meal. But, we still react the same way now when we are afraid -- even if there is no real lion anymore.
However, there are some of us who seem to like it when we are afraid! Many of us will actually pay someone to scare us. Between 1995 and 2013, we paid $7.6 billion to go to watch movies that make us feel afraid. And that doesn't include books, TV shows or video games that do the same thing. One psychologist suggests a reason for this: "Fear is a very normal human emotion. One way of mastering that fear is to put yourself in a fearful situation that you know is going to have some external controls." (Rahul Mehra) That psychologist goes on to say that it is often the assurance of safety that makes the fear worth the price of admission - the knowledge that, in the end, it is going to be okay. That feeling of the adrenaline rush, combined with the assurance that we made it through, feels good to some of us.
So, why is the message of "Fear Not" found in four of the stories about the birth of Jesus? Is it simply because folks are terrified when a real angel appears in each story, or is there more to it than that? That is what we will begin talking about this Sunday as we start Advent and look forward to the good news of the birth of Christ!
Prayer for Today
Loving God, when we face our fears in life, help us to remember you promised that you will always be with us, no matter what we face. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.