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 trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: 'He is good; his love endures forever.' Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud." - 2 Chronicles 5:13, NIV
The Bible often talks about music with trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, offering fervent praises to God, though at JCPC, we often use piano, organ, and other somewhat less boisterous instruments. True to the many references in the Bible, this week, we'll be praising God together online with the sound of a trumpet, played by our very own Victoria Melin. Despite the uncertain storms we face, may the sounds of the trumpet open our eyes to the rays of light shining through the clouds.
It's fitting that Gray's new sermon series is titled, "Living Through the Storm." We are certainly living through today what seems like a prolonged series of storms. The scripture for this week's service is the familiar account of Noah's ark - certainly the flood to end all floods! Do you remember how it ends? God sets his rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant between God and the earth. It's a symbol of his promise to never again send a flood to destroy all life. It's helpful to us as this time to remember that we can trust in God's promises. One of the ways to remember God's promises is through music.
If you came to the Drive-Through Offering a few weeks ago, you received a CD from us and hopefully had a chance to pass it on to someone in need. Even when we're physically apart, our belief is that the power of music to offer hope and comfort can be one of many ways for us to both connect and reach out to those in need. Surely the author of Chronicles did not know about SoundCloud when they wrote, "the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud", but it's fitting that we are sharing music that reaffirms God's promises on this platform. As we add more songs, please take some time to find someone who needs to be reminded of God's promises and send them the link so we can join, "in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord" - even as we are physically distanced for the common good.
Prayer for Today
God of the Ages, we believe that you are good, that your love endures forever, and that we can trust in your promises. Help us to sing your praises, even during the storms of life. Amen.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
There seems to be a cultural tradition which ties Mother's Day to church attendance. Sadly, not so with Father's Day. It's as if the stereotype is that mothers want their children all dressed up and at church, while fathers want to be left alone to sleep in. My home church even played into this growing up. But scripture tells us that parents, and perhaps especially fathers, should lead the way to worship and serving others. I've been especially inspired in recent years by dads who choose to spend this second Sunday in June getting up to take their kids with us to the shelter to serve breakfast to the homeless. What a lesson in faith and service.
Typically, our 8 year old rises with the sun, and them wakes me for breakfast. His 13 year old brother sleeps much later. So I was stunned to be awakened this Sunday morning by the teenager. His only request wasn't food or video games or his phone. It was a request to make breakfast for his little brother. He wanted to serve him and bring him joy. Two things occurred to me in that moment of pride. One, was that he found greater joy in serving someone else than a few more minutes sleep. And the second was that he found joy in it because he had a relationship with his brother and loves him.
I know that not all of you reading this are fathers or have kids at home, but neither does my teenager. What we can all learn from that example is that there is more joy in serving than sleeping, and that to find the real joy in serving others is about forming relationships. I encourage you to be in worship regularly (online with your family) or in person when we can again, and to join us in service. The relationships you will form with those you serve and those who serve with you will become your greatest joy. The kids and moms and dads who go with us every month have discovered that joy. And I'll tell you a secret... we'd love to share it with you.
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me an eager servant, leaping from the mattress to mission. Amen.
"I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the LORD."
- Psalm 122:1, KJV
Truer words have never been spoken! For many weeks we have been worshiping online. I'm grateful for those of you who have watched the service, and for our team that has worked so hard each week creating this way to worship God. Heidi and Christian, our Co-Directors of Music, have accompanied, sung, composed, arranged, and recruited other musicians to inspire us all. I am not sure how we would have done this without them. Brian and Neal have both preached and helped in leading worship. Our behind the scenes team members include Jeff Arnold and Greg Frangipane, who have posted the sermons each week on social media. And my son, Mason, has edited together all of the video clips every Saturday and loaded them up on YouTube for us all to enjoy. I want to express my deepest thanks to each one of them!
On Monday night, our Session voted to begin worshiping on campus July 5th at 9:30 a.m. Our "Drive-through Offering" experiences have felt a little like worship. So, on July 5th we will begin with what we are calling "Drive-in Worship." A number of churches are already doing this. Our Session is concerned about both the safety of our members of all ages, and our need to gather together in worship. "Drive-in Worship" will allow us to watch safely from our cars while hearing the service, either through PA speakers or on our FM radios. We plan to do this in our West parking lot next to the ballfield.
Our next step will be outdoor worship on the front lawn. We've had online worship services, so now we will have "On-lawn" worship services! Our plan when we do this is to practice social distancing using large circles drawn in the grass where people can sit in chairs or on blankets, wearing masks, as we worship together outdoors in God's beautiful creation. If it rains, then we would use "Drive-in Worship" as our backup. We chose 9:30 a.m. to avoid the heat. Our plans are to do this until our Session thinks we can safely return to worshipping indoors. More details will be shared as we get closer to July 5th. Also, we will continue a weekly online worship service for those who need to worship that way.
Prayer for Today
Loving God, it is good to gather with sisters and brothers in Christ to worship you. We need to do this, and we have missed each other. Bless our plans to honor you through worship in the coming days. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ . Amen.
I think the "why" questions are at the heart of our searching as human beings. We are constantly searching for the meaning and purpose in the experiences of our life. These last few months, I have been asking a lot more "why" questions.
Our pace of life may have changed since March, but it still may be difficult to find the rhythm that helps you be open and connected to God throughout your day. I would invite you to take a moment today to listen for God.
Be still. Feel your heart beat. Sense the life that is running through you. Take a deep breathe. Then listen to the words of Psalm 46.
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.
May the words of Psalm 46 travel with you today and in the coming days as you listen for God's comfort and respond to God's call.
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.
We have been venturing out of our homes as of late and I must say that the past few evenings have almost felt Fall-like. It is good to be outside in nature and experience the blessings of God's creation. On Friday night my cul-de-sac neighbors shared an evening cook-out with the appropriate spacing between us. As the sun was setting God blessed us with a spectacular sunset!
I must say that there is nothing like a beautiful sunset to heighten the senses to the blessings of God.
Jesus' teachings have an extraordinary knack for awaking our senses to the blessings of God; however, often through experiences other than sunsets. Read through the section of The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5: 1-12 which we call The Beatitudes. These blessings beckon us to look in places we might not look to see God at work. Here are a few examples:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Do these examples of blessings sound like they have a place in our world with all its strife, injustices, and death? I sure think it does especially because Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven and how it breaks into our lives. It is in the broken places that God's light shines the brightest. Jesus call this/us blessed.
Prayer for Today
Shine your light, Gracious God, through our brokenness. When our lives crack, shine within us your mercy, your forgiveness, your comfort and your peace. Amen.
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:"
- 2 Corinthians 5:18, NIV
This past Tuesday, the weekly Bible study I lead did something different. Instead of looking at the Bible passage for the upcoming Sunday sermon, we looked at last week's adult Sunday School lesson from "The Wired Word." This excellent resource looks at a very current event in light of scripture. Last week's lesson was about racism. Our Tuesday Bible Study looked at four passages from scripture that guide us in thinking about the challenges of racism. Talking about such issues is difficult, but our Bible Study struggled well with these four texts. Given all that is going on in our world and our community related to issues of race and racism, as Christians we need to lead the way in talking about this and providing guidance for our world.
I want to invite each of our Bible Study/Small Groups to break from what you're doing presently and find a time in the near future to look at this lesson from June 7th. You can find it on our "Church@Home" web page and in the sidebar here under "Quick Links". It provides an excellent resource to consider what the Bible says, to ask insightful questions, and to discover what we as Christians need to do. It also provides many other links and resources for anyone who wants to continue going deeper into this issue.
Many of you know that I am part of an interfaith group of religious leaders here in Johns Creek. We have been meeting for a little over a year and have come to know, respect, and trust each other. Last week, we created a joint statement focusing on racism. It was published last Friday in the Johns Creek Herald Newspaper. I have included the link here if you would like to read it. My prayer is that each one of us would take the next step as followers of Christ and enter into God's "ministry of reconciliation." Through God's grace, I believe we can make a difference in our world!
Prayer for Today
Thank you, God, for reconciling us to you through Jesus. Help us to be agents of reconciliation in our world by bringing your just peace to all. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
"I was on a bus. Big kids put food in the back of the bus from people who brought cans and boxes for people who don't have food. Everyone wore masks and mommy and baby brother sat in the front and waved to thank people for feeding the hungry people." That's how our eight year old described his first mission service project this week. He understood why we gathered in masks and gloves to pack the church bus full of food.
This Sunday, we broke from our normal routine. Typically, we get up as a family and watch the worship service together and then share a meal. This week, we got up and prepared for the tithe-by. Jessica manned the driver's seat of the bus with Marshall, while Gabriel supervised the loading of the back. Vincent and the dozen youth and parents gathered the food from JCPC folks dropping it off and separated it by category before loading it in the bus. Over 20 boxes were filled and 50 cars stopped by with food and donations.
The most important thing we do as a family is join our faith family to worship with and serve others. The most important thing we do as a faith family after worshipping together, where we praise God, read God's word, and learn how to serve, is to do that work together. It is my greatest joy to bring the boys to JCPC and teach them how to spend their time and gifts and resources to help God's people in need. And I really love when they have learned how and why we do it. We will do this again on Father's Day Sunday. If you're a father or want to honor yours, there's no better way than to show your family and others your commitment to helping those in need. I hope we will see you there!
Prayer for Today
Lord, make me your hard working servant, eager to help those in need. Amen.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . In the same way, let your light shine before others . . . -Matthew 5:14,16a, NIV
This past Sunday, the light was shining at JCPC. According to what I've been told, our church was first named "Church of the Hills" because we are literally on a hill. But this past Sunday, I think we lived up to our original namesake by letting our light shine from the hill of our campus. Many came by for our first Drive-by Offering, which was more than simply handing in our gifts as we waved. Neal and I greeted each car, checked in briefly, asked for prayer concerns, and offered to pray for those needs or to give a blessing. Many folks shared some deep hurts they, or someone they cared about, were experiencing. Hearing Neal pray for our folks may have been the highlight of the day for me.
Then we invited folks to share their offering, if they had one, with our elders who were holding the offering plates while wearing masks and gloves. I watched as many of those encounters turned into conversations and a time to catch up.
Heidi and Christian then shared the CD of music they had created from our recent online services. They told folks the CD was not only a gift to comfort them, but something they could pass along to someone who needed it. They could also download the music from our website on the Church@Home page link and enjoy it that way.
Then most of the folks who came brought canned goods, pasta, and/or monetary gifts over to the church bus where Brian and the youth received them. They filled the back of the bus with food to support "Hands of Christ" and help those who are really struggling at this time.
More than one person asked if we could do it again soon. Our Stewardship Ministry Team decided last night the answer was a resounding "Yes!" So, if you missed out on this or want to do it again, come Sunday, June 21, from 10:00 a.m. until Noon and join in the joy! I know you will be glad you came.
Prayer for Today
Thank you, Lord, for times when we can be with each in safe ways to connect and give back to your work in the world. Help us to remember that you use your gifts to make a difference in the lives of others. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
"From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, 'We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.' "God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'"
I was reading a reflection and considering this artwork entitled, "The Way to Wonder" connected with this passage from Job 28.
Job was trying to seek out wisdom and understanding in the midst of his situation. These past few months have brought many questions, uncertainty, comfort and hope. These words from the artist Lisle Gwynn Garrity in the devotion bring new meaning to our current situation for me. "The Hebrew word for "fear", yirah, literally translates to 'awesome'. True wisdom lies in breathless reverence for God's mystery and expansiveness-for God's presence that is beyond what we can control, or reason, or make far too small."
As I continue to navigate the uncertainty of the coming days, I stand in awe of all that God has created and those that seek to build bridges, bring hope and create peace. What situations have brought you to lament? What has God done that brings you awe? We take time during VBS each summer to consider God sightings where we look for evidence of "God in action everywhere around us, every day of our lives! It's the small things like a smile or a sunset, and it's the BIG things like being healed from sickness, or being rescued from a storm".
Go into your week looking for God sightings and share them with someone when you see them.
Prayer for Today
Creator God, Unravel our need for answers into awe for the wonders of your expansive mystery. In Christ's Name, Amen.
We had church yesterday! Well, sort of, kind of, maybe, well yes! Almost 50 cars of JCPC members and friends arrived on campus yesterday. Here's a picture of Steve Navarro welcoming folks back to JCPC as well as waving to cars passing by.
In conjunction with our online worship service we invited you to return to campus to receive prayers and blessings, receive a CD of songs of hope, to receive your offering and to bring food for Hands of Christ. Gray and I were talking midway through and we both exclaimed we were having church; an alternative worship service to fit the day.
As I reflected upon this church gathering and immediately Jesus' words came to mind:
"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
This teaching of Jesus is found midway through Matthew 18. Since it comes midway through the chapter I wanted to refresh my memory regarding what preceded the teaching. Well I found that the parable of the shepherd who had 100 sheep comes before this teaching.
I thought how appropriate this text is to our day and time but in a different context. Rather than one sheep wandering off from the 100 we have been surviving in a shelter in place phenomena which causes the entire flock to be physically distanced from each other. On Sunday morning, the flock began to return to our church on the hill; JCPC, and it sure felt like church! With the heat building it sure felt like a good ole fashion southern prayer meeting.
Prayer for Today
Lord we look forward to the day when we can all come back to our sanctuary to worship you. Keep us strong in our faith and bolster our spirits as we wait for that wonderful day. In the meantime grant us Your Spirit as two and three gather in your name to do your work. Amen.