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10 Reasons to Love Lent

photo-1441349128520-19a430210237_optYou do realize, don’t you, that lent is just around the corner? Do you think it’s appropriate to calmly sit there, reading the Internet and eating chocolate? Don’t you feel anxious and appalled? What kind of person are you!

I’m just kidding. But for real, Lent is just around the corner. And that’s wonderful because it’s my favorite season of the year. I love it more than Christmas, more than Easter, and certainly more than ordinary time. It is exactly the right kind of space for me to be the person I really am. Which is surely the point. Here are ten reasons to be happy about lent.

One
In the last ten years, for me, the months before lent have always turned out to be awful (see always true post about homeschooling in February) so that by the time Lent arrives I’m basically already feeling terrible about myself, and have nearly already hit bottom so that I just touch my toe down and start crawling back up.

Two
A couple of years ago January and February were So Bad that I instituted, as my spiritual discipline, Lenten Flowers. I even started a board on Pinterest. Every week I bought myself flowers and photographed them so that I could always live in their glory.

Three
What, you say! Lent isn’t about glory! Yes it is! The most glorious thing in life is to find yourself in a pit, a pit that you dug for yourself through your own sin and stupidity, with no way to get out however hard you try, and then to look up and see that God, who didn’t have to, nevertheless had mercy and came and died so that you there in your pit could be rescued, set up right, free to live on into eternity. For the person who is overburdened by sin and sadness, this is the best season, the most glorious time in the church year.

Four
But I don’t feel bad about my sin! you say. Well, that’s a great pity. You can’t revel in the wonder of the cross if you haven’t bothered to notice the mire of the pit. You can overcome this problem by relishing the words in the confession prayer, “The burden of them is intolerable.” If you happen to think as you say these words, as I some times do, ‘No it’s Not, I’m tolerating it just fine,’ you can then pause and consider what you’re actually saying, what sin actually does, and what hope you actually have. Then, over time, you begin to surely feel how intolerable your sins are and how remarkable it is to be rid of them.

Five
Lent is a microcosm of the Christian life. It is the 40 years in the wilderness, the 40 days in the ark, the 40 days of temptation. It is all about facing down the reality that in life it very often it feels like there is no food and no water and that I loath this worthless food–that no matter what God provides to the Christian, there is always an aching after something more, a dissatisfaction, a restlessness. It’s not just because of all the sin, it’s because once you’ve seen the cross, it’s hard to stick it out for the whole distance, you want to just jump to the end and be happy.

Six
This wanting to jump straight past the suffering to the end is a big problem in the west right now. We have no patience any more, no ability to sit and think, no willingness to suffer. Lent only makes sense if you settle down and purpose to endure for a while, to be unhappy without despair, to be hungry without starving, to be so humble that God can yet lift up your head.

Seven
Everything about lent, even your own attempt at some kind of sacrifice or discipline, points to the cross. Say you decide to give up something, like chocolate. There you are, day after day, reminded of how much you love chocolate, how much you wish you could just have a bite. Instead of thinking less about chocolate, you find that it overcomes your thoughts. You think about it all the time. Perhaps you even fail and one time eat chocolate. There you are, a miserable failure. At which moment, Rejoice! Of course you are! Did you think that just avoiding chocolate would somehow make you a winner in lent? No matter What you do in this life, what kind of temptation you try to avoid, what kind of goodness you try to embody, you can’t do it. At the end of the day you won’t have anything left of your efforts to be good and just and merciful and right. And that is Why, at the end of 40 days, we have Good Friday and Holy Saturday and Easter. It was so bad that Jesus came and died instead of you.

Eight
Lent is also completely charming because the Christian can, for “religious reasons” take a break from the world for a bit. Are you exhausted by politics? By the Internet? By Facebook and Twitter? By the shouting that you have to respond to each fresh hideousness that is now the substance of our common political reality? Then put it away for a while and remember the one who can handle it all and is not surprised by anything. Let him worry about the refugee crisis and the Russian thing and all the poverty and all the trouble. Unplug (except for this blog, cough) and let Jesus be the thing you think about for a while.

Nine
An inescapable joy creeps in as you go on in lent. In the darkness of the wilderness, in the dust and the details of life, you begin to realize that there is an endpoint, that this too shall pass, that the only constant unchanging reality of the cosmos is God himself. The days build together towards the triumphal entry and then there you are, with a whole week to gaze upon the wonder of the cross, the power of God to overcome the totality of our evil and suffering. You have to be stone cold not to be moved to wonder when beholding the cold, toppled stone on Holy Saturday.

Ten
Lent is for sinners. And you are a sinner. So this season is specially made for you. It’s the perfect gift designed just for you, to draw you closer towards a perfect High Priest, one who sympathizes with you in your weakness, in your hunger, in your loss, in your anxiety. He ripped open the curtain, the veil that separates you from the Glory and Holiness of God. You can go up close and speak to him, can sit and rest while all around you scramble and strive. It’s the best thing! And you have two days to get ready!

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Observing Lent

lent-5Cars?  Candy?  Coke?  What have you been influenced to buy since you saw 30 second ads that cost $5 million each during the Super Bowl?

Thinking about such extravagance is a great incentive to reflect seriously upon Lent.  How much of yourself will you “spend” in appreciation of Christ’s suffering and death for you?

No candy, no movies, no bingo – these are merely superficial deprivations!  In reality, the question is, how will your personal relationship with Jesus be enriched this Lent?

Here is one plan that lets Him work through you:

Each day during Lent, set aside some time – yes, even just 30 seconds – to talk to God about what you can do to imitate his caring for the poor.  When you finish, put aside a dollar or two, and at the end of Lent, send it to an organization, such as Central Church, that provides a missional outreach to the poor.

We thank God for the opportunity to provide free warm and nutritious food for body and soul to many people in the City of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, as we work to cultivate a season of peace and joy for the people God has placed in our lives.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Beaver County is among the poorest counties in western Pennsylvania.  People come to Central Church who haven’t eaten for days.  Some have been out of work for years and don’t expect to find work anytime soon.  They have no money.  They’ve run out of benefits.  They feel that life will only get worse.  They are hungry and need someone to care.

Central Church provided over 10,000 free, nutritious meals to our community in 2013.  In 2014, that number increased to 11,500, and the numbers of the hungry coming to us continue to increase as we move through 2017, all through the generosity of many small givers and an active congregation of less than 25 dedicated souls.

Every meal that we serve is hot, nutritious, and wholesome.  A warm welcome and a promise from God go a long way to lift a heavy heart.  When someone knows how much God cares, they don’t feel lonely and powerless anymore.

Please consider joining us with a Lenten gift to those in need.  Your gifts meet desperate needs for food, and you pave the way for hurting people to be blessed.

 

 

 

 

What Do Muslims Believe?

This article is adapted from one that first appeared in Today’s Christian Woman.

We should befriend those who practice Islam, but to do so we need to understand what they believe.

about-islamToday’s neighborhoods are diverse, and Christians often rub shoulders with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. To choose relationship is, I believe, reflective of God’s nature.

Jesus told us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13–16). When we interact with people whose beliefs differ from our own, we become the salt with our friendship. Salt seasons and brightens, makes better, and preserves. No matter what your friend believes, you can serve, listen, and love.

Being forthright about your religious differences within the context of your friendship is being light. In a world full of darkness, it wouldn’t make much sense to keep 50 lights in one room forever—just as it doesn’t make much sense to only pursue friendships with other believers. Light does its job when it penetrates the darkness, which means that doing our job as Christians means we need to encounter others’ opposing views. Thankfully, disagreement doesn’t inhibit our ability to befriend and love someone. But we need to understand opposing views to love others well and best share truth. With this in mind, there are distinct differences between Islam and Christianity.

As a simple overview of a very complex issue, I offer three areas in which the difference in Christian and Muslim beliefs is defining. These ideas may be a starting point for conversations with your friend.

  • First, in Islam, Allah (God) is utterly unknowable. To think in terms of a God who can be known and who desires a relationship with his creatures is actually considered blasphemous in Islamic beliefs. He is a distant God who is to be feared. In place of relationship, there is only submission. Allah only reveals his will, not himself, hence the Muslim practice of ritual prayers. These memorized prayers are offered five times a day to appease a transcendent force with no personal interest in his creatures.

Contrast that with the God of the Bible, who reveals himself, knocks at the door of our hearts, and encourages us to enter into an ever-increasing relationship with him. He calls us his “friends” (John 15:15).

  • Second, Islam requires a strict adherence to good works as the means to reach heaven. At birth people are considered sinless with unlimited spiritual potential if they faithfully adhere to the teachings of Allah, as reflected through the words of the prophet Muhammad. It’s good works that open the doors to one of the seven different levels of heaven. But there’s no advocate to intercede with Allah when one falls short of the level of good works required.

In Christianity, it’s only through the blood of Jesus Christ that we are in relationship with God and given the promise of eternal life. Good works spring out of that gift of relationship with God through Jesus; they aren’t the means to the relationship.

  • Third, while Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet, it rejects his divinity and claims that Muhammad is actually the superior prophet from God. He is the one considered to have brought God’s final revelation. The Qur’an (3:59–60) says that Jesus was, like Adam, created from dust.

Contrast that with Jesus’ own claim that he is the only way to God (John 14:6), and that he and God the Father are one (John 10:30). Jesus’ divinity and reflection as the final revelation of God are central to what it means to follow him.

You’re off to a great start simply by embracing a relationship with your Muslim friend. Now add light to that friendship—listen and engage in conversation around truth. Be sure to breathe prayers to God about your conversations, and remember, truth is spoken best with love, humility, and it need not raise its voice; it speaks for itself.

Nancy Ortberg is a church leadership consultant and popular speaker. This article is adapted from one that first appeared in Today’s Christian Woman.

“Jesus Our Hope” – 2017 Lenten Study by Pastor Jan

jesus-our-hopeYou are invited to join with the folks of Central Church during the upcoming Lenten season in a short daily devotional authored by our own Pastor Jan.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 and running through Easter Monday, on April 17, our “Food for Thought” page will feature daily Scripture readings and a brief meditation to help align you to Lent and the coming Easter.

Please join us as we embark on this journey of Lenten reflection!

 

Hope to See You at Church This Weekend

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Happy Friday!

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Pray

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Be Joyful in Hope

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We Rise By Lifting Others Up

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You Are a Child of God

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I Keep My Eyes Always on the Lord

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Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Faith and Works

Faith and WorksIn today’s study passage, Jesus clearly communicates that our love for others can’t be separated from our belief in him.  While he isn’t saying that our works save us, he is stressing a principle repeated by his brother James: “faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26).

If we are Christ’s true followers, then God’s love will compel us to do acts of kindness for “the least of these.”

Interact with God’s Word:  Matthew 25: 31-46

  1. What’s your immediate reaction to today’s passage?  Think about why you reacted that way.

 

  1. What do verses 32 and 33 say about Jesus’ role at judgment?

 

  1. What do you think Jesus wanted to communicate by saying he was “one of the least of these”?

 

  1. How does this passage help us better understand the value and importance of the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22: 37-40)?

 

  1. If Jesus were to come today, would you end up on the sheep side or the goat side? Why do you feel this way?

 

Spend Time in Prayer:  Confess times you’ve failed to demonstrate your faith through good deeds; ask God to help you have your eyes wide open for opportunities to serve and demonstrate his love.

 

Matthew 25:31-46

The Final Judgment

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

 

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – A League of Their Own

Love Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”Matthew 25:40

Dig Deeper: Matthew 25:31-46

On his way to work one day, Chicago insurance broker Bob Muzikowski saw a derelict ball field full of trash in a gang-infested neighborhood. The kids there could use a real Little League to play in, he thought. He teamed up with a friend to create the Near North Little League. In “pretty wild” early practice sessions, coaches dealt with 250 boys long on enthusiasm but short on fundamentals. Each game began with a prayer. Cursing was strictly forbidden.

“While I had no illusions that I’d change the world, I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with these kids,” said Muzikowski, converted not long before. “My faith had taught me that being a Christian means truly believing what Jesus said about loving my neighbor.”

The next year, 400 kids joined the league. Today 900 fatherless kids in 100 Little League teams are learning self-respect and community values. Reporters wonder why a wealthy businessman lives among the poor, coaching other people’s kids. Muzikowski answers, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘When you’ve paid someone to do it unto the least of these. …’ What he said was, ‘when you have done it. …'”

—Charles Colson in How Now Shall We Live?

My Response: I will take time to reflect on today’s Key Bible Verse, prayerfully considering how the verse applies to me and my own neighborhood.

Thought to Apply: I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.—Henry Ward Beecher(preacher, orator, writer)

Adapted from How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 2004).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

 

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Meeting the Need

Love Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: Seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited.  – Matthew 9:36, NASB

Dig Deeper: Matthew 9:35-38

A Sunday school class planned a ministry activity to sort and organize items donated to a shelter for battered women. The shelter is a secret location where women and children stay, temporarily when they have escaped dangerous living situations. They often bring few items with them—and have nothing with which to care for themselves or their children. People from the community donate clothing and useful items, but the shelter staff was too busy to organize them and use them.

So the Sunday school class from a local church sorted and rearranged the sheds and listed what was available. They found many items the shelter and its residents needed immediately.

As they worked, some of them talked with women who were staying at the shelter. Others talked with the children. At the end of the day, they joined hands and prayed with the supervisor of the center. To follow up, one person from the class found donated Bibles for the women to read at the shelter and take with them as they leave.

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor

My Response: What needs similar to the one above could my Sunday school class or men’s group help meet? How could I motivate others to join in this act of service?

Thought to Apply: Only a life lived in service to others is worth living.—Albert Einstein (theoretical physicist)

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

 

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Eyes Wide Open

Love Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  – Luke 10:27

Dig Deeper: Luke 10:25-37

Shayne and Corey Earley were born with a rare genetic condition that practically guarantees they’ll never see their fifth birthday. They have to be fed intravenously and must be aspirated frequently to help them breathe. The cost of caring for Shayne and Corey has been astronomical. Before long, the Earleys found almost all of their income going to the boys’ care and were unable to pay their bills and their mortgage.

As neighbors learned of the Earleys’ plight, they started to help out. One resident dealt with their creditors and got them off the Earleys’ backs. Another resident organized fund-raising events for the Earleys, and a local garage fixed their cars for free.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Men, let’s keep our eyes open for those who may be in need. It could be a homeless person, a lonely senior citizen struggling to get by, or a young person who has trouble fitting in. Let’s teach our kids the value of helping someone out, as well. Serve in a soup kitchen as a family, take meals to a shut-in, invite a lonely person over for dinner, or just put an arm around a hurting child. Let’s use the example of the people [in this story] as an inspiration to extend a hand of friendship to someone in need.

—Bill McCartney in 4th and Goal

My Response: I will keep my eyes wide open for opportunities to serve.

Thought to Apply: Your neighbor is the man who needs you.—Elbert Hubbard (writer, publisher)

Adapted from 4th and Goal (Tyndale, 2002).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

 

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Dishing Out Service

Love Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16

Dig Deeper: Matthew 5:13-16

The group Ken leads from his church went to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant for dessert one evening. As they ate, they couldn’t help but notice the harried look on their waitress’s face.

“Are you okay?” someone asked as she whizzed by.

“I’m okay, it’s just that our dishwasher quit tonight and all the servers are now serving and washing. It’s a little overwhelming. …”

That was all the information Ken’s group needed. As soon as they finished their pie, they sprang into action. Two took on the dishwasher, several toted plastic dish containers.

The waitress walked past the head volunteer dishwasher in the kitchen and with a startled look on her face asked, “Aren’t you the guy at table 10? Why are you back here, doing dishes?”

“Because you needed some help! We believe God’s love is better shown than just talked about.”

“But I don’t think we can let you just do the dishes like this. I’d better check with the boss.”

Within a few minutes that waitress had begun gossiping the gospel to all the other servers: “They’re doing it to show us God’s love. …”

—Steve Sjogran in Changing the World Through Kindness

My Response: Opportunities to serve in small ways surround me every day. What could I do about it?

Thought to Apply: Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.—Frederick W. Faber (British priest, hymn writer)

Adapted from Changing the World Through Kindness (Regal, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

 

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Everybody Knows Zack

Love Your NeighborKey Bible Verse: When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it.  – Galatians 6:10, NCV

Dig Deeper: 1 Thessalonians 2:8

If you were to walk the streets with Zack, you’d be convinced that he knows everyone in his neighborhood. He’s never too busy to stop and say hello. After his MBA, Zack purposely looked for a job that would put him in daily contact with the people in his neighborhood. All of the regular shoppers at the [neighborhood grocery store he manages] know Zack.

Zack is known for his willingness to help. He regularly takes care of his neighbor’s boxer—[doing so allows him] to be engaged in the life of the career-driven couple who live next door. He’s also become a surrogate son to the elderly lady down the street. Without Zack, her sidewalks would never be shoveled in the winter, and he regularly delivers her groceries.

In the summers, Zack does everything he can to make his deck barbeque central, inviting someone to have a meal with him almost every weekend. Zack is a natural evangelist, but not in a forced, button-holing way. By the time Zack begins to talk about his relationship with Christ, the people around him are already attracted to who he is, and they already wonder what makes him tick.

—Paul Tripp in A Quest for More

My Response: If I wanted to be known for my “willingness to help,” what changes might I need to make in the way I use my time?

Adapted from A Quest for More (New Growth, 2007).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

 

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Imagine the Possibilities

Love Your NeighborWho Said It … Richard Land

Richard Land has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988.

During his tenure, Richard has represented Southern Baptist and other Evangelicals’ concerns in the halls of Congress, before presidents, and in the media. In 2005, Richard was featured in Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

What He Said … Imagine the Possibilities

What if just half of those Americans who claim to be evangelical Christians were truly to practice their faith in their local communities as responsible citizens?

Every volunteer social organization in the country seeking to meet the needs of less fortunate people would be transformed overnight. There’d be so many volunteers they’d have to be put on waiting lists.

The databases of crisis pregnancy centers and prison transition ministries and foster-care agencies would be crammed with the names and numbers of families ready to take in young women and ex-cons and children who need hospitality, practical help, and loving care.

Food pantry shelves would overflow. Homebound senior citizens would never be isolated. School children would have mentors for literacy programs and reading enrichment, and adults committed to staying involved in their lives. Nursing-home residents wouldn’t pass time in empty days, neglected by family and ignored by society.

Even those not influenced to accept Christ by such radical, positive changes in society would live better lives.

Adapted from Imagine! A God-Blessed America (Broadman & Holman, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Encouragement

encouragement-2The 23rd Psalm is quite possibly the best loved and most quoted psalm in the Bible.

Penned by King David, this psalm provides comfort for the grieving, hope for the hopeless, and encouragement to persevere through dark and desperate times.

As you read, study, and mediate on these familiar words, look for fresh insights that will deepen your trust in your good and loving shepherd.

Key Study Passage:  Psalm 23

  1. In verse 1, David claims, “I have all I need.” How is that possible? How do you think David defines “need”?
  2. Consider the image created in verse 2: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” When was the last time you experienced the kind of peace and tranquility pictured in this verse?
  3. What is your role in having your strength renewed (v. 3)? (See Job 17:9; Ps. 138:3; Isa. 40:31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10.)
  4. List ways that a shepherd might “protect and comfort” his sheep (v. 4). When have you recently felt protected and comforted by God? What did God’s protection and comfort look like in this situation?
  5. Look for ways you experience God’s “goodness and unfailing love” (v. 6).

Spend Time in Prayer: Read Psalm 23 slowly, letting God use each verse to speak life-giving truth into your heart. Read the psalm a second time, turning each verse into a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, or supplication.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

See You at Church This Sunday!

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Ash Wednesday – March 1, 2017 – Joint Worship Service

Ash WednesdayCentral Church will join with the Beaver Falls Ministerium on Ash Wednesday – March 1 – for a joint worship service at First Presbyterian Church (across from the Post Office) at 7 pm.

Rev. Darryl Lockie from College Hill UMC will provide the message, and other pastors, including our own Pastor Jan, will participate in the worship service.

Other combined Lenten worship services are currently being discussed at the Beaver Falls Ministerium, so stay tuned for further developments.

In the meantime, please mark your calendars to join us at First Presbyterian Church at 7 pm on March 1 as we begin our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Ultimate Life Coach

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: The Eternal One will never leave you; he will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength.  – Isaiah 58:11, The Voice

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 58:7-14

Believe in God’s ability to mentor you, to teach you, to groom you, and to be your life coach. You have heard of the coach-of-the-year award. Well, God is the coach of all generations, and he is offering to teach you to live life as he intends.

God’s inspiring Word contains compelling evidence of his desire to be your companion for life. He is there when you need to grow. When you call on him for a lift, he will hear. He is always with you.

Let these additional words of encouragement inspire you to turn to your heavenly Father:

  • “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:8).
  • “‘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'” (Jer. 29:11).
  • “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast” (1 Pet. 5:10, NIV).

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What verses from this week’s readings have encouraged or helped me the most? I will try to commit at least one of those verses to memory.

Thought to Apply: Without the message of the Scriptures we would have nothing with which to encourage one another.—Gene Getz (pastor, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Best Guide Ever

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.  – Psalm 69:32

Dig Deeper: Psalm 69

God encourages us. We may not be able to meet with a mentoring friend each time we need encouragement, but at any time we can chat with our heavenly Father. He listens to us and promises to meet us in our time of need. As David declared in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (NIV, et al.).

Your Lord genuinely desires to hear from you and develop an intimate, hope-filled relationship with you. Talk to him through heartfelt prayer, and let his Spirit affirm you.

God is a holy mentor. Are you skeptical that God wants to play the role of mentor in your life? Consider what he intends when he says in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Jesus promised his support, too, when he stated this in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

These Scriptures confirm the truth that God desires to guide us throughout our lives. Trust him; you could have no better guide.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: In what areas of my life do I need God’s guidance right now?

Thought to Apply: I think God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong and courageous heart.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German theologian, pastor)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Encourage Yourself

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:8

Dig Deeper: Philippians 4:4-9

As beneficial as the support of positive companions is, we still need to encourage ourselves.

For my own self-encouragement, I have an expandable folder labeled “When I Need a Lift.” I keep my folder in a drawer next to the desk in my home study.

This folder contains numerous letters and cards from loved ones and friends that I have accumulated over the years. It serves as tangible evidence of lives I have touched or lives that have reached out to touch me. It is a reminder of joyous moments when I let the Lord work in me and through my life. Flipping through this folder brings joy to my heart when I need it most.

Perhaps the best part about this encouraging tool is that it takes no effort at all to start and maintain. Just grab a folder and start filling it with Scriptures highlighting God’s promises to you, notes from family members sharing their love for you, special cards from birthdays and other occasions, e-mails of special significance to your life, photos that remind you of your blessings and value, and whatever else tends to lift your spirit when you’re down and not thinking clearly.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What do I usually do when I’m down or having a bad day? How might I benefit from creating and maintaining a “When I Need a Lift” folder? What would help me get the most out of this “encouraging tool”?

Thought to Apply: Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.—George M. Adams (politician)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Central Church on FaceBook!

facebook-2We’ve got an exciting new way to increase our ministry in the community and we need your help with launching our new tool, Social Reach Daily by Outreach!

Go to our Church Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Central-United-Methodist-Church-of-Beaver-Falls-PA-362949807093157) and check out our new daily inspirational post. We’re going to have one of these posted each day.

It would be really helpful if you would “like” it and then share it to your own timeline.

Soon, the inspiring images you share will show up in the newsfeeds of your Facebook friends. Not only will your Facebook friends see our Church name, they can like, share or leave a comment on the image, giving us the opportunity to reach those that are hurting, those that need uplifting and those that do not yet know Jesus.

As you share the post, please take a moment to pray for those who will see it.  Pray that they will be encouraged and challenged, and that God will use these simple posts to draw others closer to Him. This is a great way to be actively engaged in praying for our friends who do not yet know Jesus.

Share our inspiring daily posts every day or as often as you can to help us reach those individuals and to help us introduce our Church to them!

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Nourishment

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Companionship with those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a tool God often uses to nourish us with encouragement. Fellowship with believers is a divine resource that we should not miss.

The Lord also uses fellow Christians who have suffered a hardship or endured a painful experience to encourage others who are going through similar situations. Let them love on you and restore you.

And one of the ways God works all things for good (Rom. 8:28) is by comforting us in our times of trouble and so equipping us to comfort others: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NIV).

Whether you start with an encouraging friend, an uplifting mentor, or the companionship of other believers, make sure to regularly feed your mind, heart, and soul with encouragement. Take the necessary measures to guard against becoming mentally and spiritually malnourished.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: When have I been comforted or encouraged by someone who has faced past difficulties or struggles? When has God used my own struggles to comfort and encourage someone else?

Thought to Apply: Often the most loving thing we can do when a friend is in pain is to share the pain—to be there even when we have nothing to offer except our presence and even when being there is painful for ourselves.—M. Scott Peck (psychiatrist, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Listen to Your Heart

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain. – Proverbs 10:11

Dig Deeper: Proverbs 10:10-14

When we need the nourishment of food, our stomachs get our attention, either with hunger pains or the sounds of gurgling. We tend to respond to these signs of hunger like responding to the call of a dinner bell. We seek snacks and sit down for meals like clockwork. However, we often ignore the longing of our hearts for a serving of life-sustaining encouragement.

When we deprive ourselves of encouragement, our attitudes and self-esteem dwindle. A shortage of inspiration negatively affects our performance and severely stunts our growth. A lack of affirmation shrivels our confidence and hope.

Are your mind and soul starving for encouragement? Listen to your heart. Is it signaling that it is feeding time? If so, take the initiative, and tend to this need.

This is my challenge: find a dependable, encouraging friend or mentor to build you up with affirming words and needed encouragement. Strive to meet with this person at least once a month. Let your mentor’s uplifting spirit feed you with right thinking and positive motivation. Consume that fruitful energy as if you were drinking a high-impact smoothie. Let your friend’s encouraging words satisfy your inner hunger and thirst.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: A friend who speaks words of encouragement into my soul is … Who needs to hear words of encouragement from me?

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

encouragement-2Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

Who Said It … Steve Kubicek

Steve Kubicek has more than 30 years of corporate experience, including 18 years as an executive with Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Company—the world’s largest publicly traded copper company.

Retired since 2005, Steve leads a men’s group at his church and is involved in various other ministries. He is the author of Up and In.

What he Said … Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

Encouragement spurs on the downtrodden and heavy-burdened like a cool, refreshing drink can restore a weary traveler on a sunny day. Imagine packaging liquid encouragement in bottles and offering it to the masses. Just think of the spirit that would prevail throughout the world if we could all reach into our cabinets or refrigerators and pull out a bottle of refreshing encouragement, the lemonade for the soul, which truly would be an uplifting drink.

Medical science has observed that our bodies require a balanced supply of nutrients for good health and long-term sustainability. When the body lacks an essential nutrient, physical symptoms appear that highlight the deficiency. These symptoms serve as warning signals so that we can recognize the issue and take remedial measures. Does the same principle hold true for the essential life ingredient of encouragement? I contend it does. Our bodies signal us when we need to correct our encouragement deficiency. We receive warning messages when we are about to go down like a sinking ship.

Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Christian Life

christian-life-2With Judas out of the picture, the 11 remaining disciples gathered at the mountain where the resurrected Jesus had told them to meet him.

When Jesus showed up, they all worshiped him, even those who struggled with their doubts. Then Jesus prepared them for the most exciting adventure ever with these words:

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  1. Before Jesus gave his disciples specific instructions for reaching the world, he said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” Why is this significant? (See Luke 10:22; John 5:19; Eph. 1:19-22; Col. 1:15-19.)
  2. Do you believe the instructions in today’s passage apply to every Christian? Why or why not? (See John 8:31-32, 15:4-9, 17:9-26.)
  3. Why is it essential to realize that we can’t live the faith adventure on our own power? (See John 15:5; Eph. 2:4-10; James 4:4-10;2 Pet. 1:2-4.)

Key Study Passage:  Matthew 28:16-20

Spend Time in Prayer: Pray for two or three men you’d like to see come to faith or live as better disciples. Ask God to show you how you might help at least one of these men on their faith journey.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Never a Dull Moment

christian-life-2Key Bible Verse: Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God.  – Luke 9:2

Dig Deeper: Luke 9:1-6

When Jesus called the disciples to follow him, the average person in the first century never traveled outside a 30-mile radius of their birthplace. These men were planning on living their entire lives fishing the Sea of Galilee, but Jesus sent them to the ends of the earth. He took them adventuring with him—they hiked the Mount of Transfiguration, sailed the Sea of Galilee, and went on long camping trips.

Along the way, they witnessed remarkable miracles on a regular basis. And they did more than witness them. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish and ate it. They toasted the water that Jesus turned into wine and then drank it to the dregs. They hugged Lazarus while he still had his grave clothes on. You can’t put a price tag on those kind of experiences, but once you’ve had them, they define you forever.

The very nature of the gospel is Jesus inviting the disciples on an adventure. To do what they’d never done and go where they’d never gone. Never a dull moment!

Jesus is calling you to the same adventure as his original disciples. He is offering you a life full of daring. Don’t you want in on the action? The moment you say yes, the adventure begins.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What adventure might Jesus be inviting me to? What would keep me from taking on this adventure?

Thought to Apply: I am discovering that in trying to find God’s will and the shape of the Christian life I have begun an adventure so great that its total completion will always be ahead. —Keith Miller (Christian writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (BakerPublishingGroup.com)

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Join the Adventure

christian-life-2Key Bible Verse: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12, ESV

Dig Deeper: John 12:44-46

Jesus was the quintessential adventurer. Leaving the comfort of heaven, he entered the four dimensions of space and time. He created and set out on the craziest adventure of them all: restoring broken image-bearers to himself. He didn’t do it with angel armies. He didn’t overthrow the Roman government or claim the kingship that was rightfully his.

He was a middle-of-the-marketplace Messiah, who rubbed elbows with the masses. He hung out at wells and in living rooms and on hillsides and invited anyone and everyone to join him. Jesus didn’t come with an agenda; he was the agenda. He came that he might draw all men unto himself. With his grace, with his truth, he lets us get in on the action with a life-altering invitation: “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:19).

When Jesus invites us to do life with him, he invites us to rub elbows with those he loves: the lost, the broken, the misled, and the misfits. Just like Jesus, we need to find ourselves in the middle of the marketplace. If we are separating ourselves from the world around us, we are off mission. And even worse? We are missing out on the adventure Jesus has for us.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What ministries in my church or service programs in my community might help me more consistently “rub elbows with those [Jesus] loves: the lost, the broken, and the misfits”?

Thought to Apply: We can find and fulfill our purpose by responding to the clear, simple call of Jesus Christ: “Follow me.” He is the doorway to fulfilling our destiny, where our divine design and God-ordained purpose live in perfect harmony. —Charles Swindoll (pastor, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (BakerPublishingGroup.com)

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.

 

 

Live the Adventure – Boldly Go

christian-life-2Key Bible Verse: The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” – Mark 4:41

Dig Deeper: Mark 4:35-41

Jesus meets us where we are [and] says, “I’ve got a place for you. A new life. A new character. A new way of seeing things. How would you like to go on an adventure?”

Sometimes getting a clear view of Jesus is the greatest challenge [to following him]. Time and distance can obscure him and make him insipid.

Dorothy Sayers [said]:

The people who hanged the Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality. … We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

I don’t want to muffle up the shattering personality. I want to revel in it, then reflect it.

When we go adventuring with Jesus, he takes us places we never dreamed we could go [and] gives us ideas we never thought we could have.

Source of quote: A Matter of Eternity: Selected writings of Dorothy L. Sayers.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: In what ways has the church in America tamed Jesus? According to the four gospels, what is Jesus like? What sets him apart from other religious leaders?

Thought to Apply: “Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain; if we perish in the seeking, why, how small a thing is death!”—Dorothy Sayers (British crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group (BakerPublishingGroup.com)

Prayer for the Week: Dear God, whether my adventure is in a 9-5 office, on a foreign mission field, or someplace else, may I live in a way that draws others to you and to the adventure you’ve prepared for them.