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Pentecost Service – Beaver Falls Ministerium – 5-31-2020

Central Church joins today with other churches in the Beaver Falls Ministerium to celebrate Pentecost Sunday in this combined online worship service:

Take the Divine Dare – Too Risky?

listenWho Said It … Ben Carson

Ben Carson had a childhood dream of becoming a physician. Growing up in a single-parent home with dire poverty, poor grades, and low self-esteem appeared to rule out that dream. But his mother, with only a third-grade education, challenged her sons to strive for excellence.

As a brain surgeon, Dr. Carson has gained worldwide recognition for successfully separating several Siamese twins, and for refining techniques for radical brain surgery to stop intractable seizures.

What He Said … Too Risky?

We can’t remove all risk from faith. The idea of pursuing a personal relationship with a God we can’t see or touch, whose existence can’t be proven scientifically, seems a risky proposition in itself to many people.

Making that relationship the central motivation of your life, the foundation of your most basic values, and the inspiration of your life goals may seem an unreasonable, terrifying, even paralyzing risk.

Some people of faith pay a terribly high toll for taking a stand. Because I’m out in public doing a lot of speaking, I hear from other scientists who tell me they share my Christian beliefs but don’t feel they can be public about them. It’s just too risky to go against the politically correct conventions of the scientific community.

I can’t help wishing more of them would take heart and remember the rallying cry of the apostle Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Adapted from Take the Risk! (Zondervan, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: I want to live for something bigger than myself, Lord. Give me courage to take the risks that go with the rush of having a significant impact for your kingdom.



Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Living in the World

living-in-an-unholy-worldJude devotes his short letter to warning Christians everywhere about those who live in opposition to God and his followers.

They twist God’s words, he says, seeking to deceive and destroy the unwary.

But since God’s Word and the gift of eternal life have infinite value and have been entrusted to us, he urges us to work at grasping his truth and faithfully defending it.

Interact with God’s Word:  Jude 1:12-13,17-21

  1. How are people whose interpretations veer from balanced biblical teaching like reefs? … like irresponsible shepherds? … like clouds that produce no rain? … like fruitless trees? … like ocean breakers? … like planets?
  2. To what apostolic warnings (v. 17) might Jude have been referring? (See Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.)
  3. Why did Jude (v. 18) consider him and his readers already in “the last times”?
  4. How (v. 19) do people who “follow their natural instincts” instead of relying on the Holy Spirit create divisions in the church?
  5. What defenses against error (v. 20) does Jude mention? What is the doctrinal and ethical core that comprises our “most holy faith?”

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for a balanced understanding of his Word that helps you confidently navigate complex situations based on your grasp of the basic principles he has revealed.

Jude 1:12-13,17-21

12 When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. 13 They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.

17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.



Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Deceptive Spirits

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teaching that come from demons.  – 1 Timothy 4:1

Bonus Reading: Jude 1:12-13

The Greek word translated as “deceptive” in [today’s Key Bible verse] is planos, the word from which our English word “planet” is derived. The ancient Greeks called those bright orbs deceivers. Why?

In ancient times, the navigators of ships knew that they could, with reliability, sight in on most stars to accurately determine their location and thereby sail the right course to their destination. They also learned that the “deceivers” (planoi)—the wandering stars—would only lead them to confusion or destruction if they tried to determine their position by them. They, of course, didn’t know that those “stars” were actually planets that revolved around the sun.

It isn’t difficult to see why the Holy Spirit stirred the apostle Paul to use this word to warn us about the demonic enterprises of these last days. We dare not take our directions from the no-such-thing-as-absolute-truth relativism of our culture’s attitudes toward almost everything. And we would be wise to see the profound analogy between the erratic movement of a non-light-producing planet and the deceiving spirits of this world.

—Jack Hayford in The Anatomy of Seduction

My Response: Why is succumbing to deception often followed by moral compromise?

Thought to Apply: We are oftener deceived by being told some truth than none. —Fulke Greville (English courtier)

Adapted from The Anatomy of Seduction (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.



Longest Time – Quarantine Edition

Here, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, just for fun is the Phoenix Chamber Choir of Vancouver, BC, Canada with a topical reworking of the Billy Joel classic:

Working Toward the Day of Reopening

Our Trustees continue to work hard around our building, making the adjustments and drafting the procedures whereby we can resume our Sunday worship services – hopefully sometime this Summer when the necessary disinfecting equipment and supplies which are currently on backorder, arrive.

In the meantime, the outside of our building has received a springtime spruce-up, with the grass cut and flowers planted under our bulletin board and wooden cross in our front yard.

We even have new flowers planted in our two large urns by the Sixth Avenue doors to the Sanctuary.

Stay tuned for additional updates as preparations for our reopening day are finalized!

Until then, remember that you can hear Pastor Jan’s Scripture and sermon each Sunday morning at 10:30 on WBVP (except for this coming Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, when the Beaver Falls Ministerium will provide the Community Pentecost Service at 9 am).




Develop Your Spiritual Insight – A Godsend?

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: “But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord?'”  – Deuteronomy 18:21

Bonus Readings: Deuteronomy 18:22; 13:1-3; Jeremiah 14:14; Galatians 1:8

Phil told my wife and me about attending a meeting of two or three thousand people where a priest said, “A young man is here fighting leukemia.” Phil was fighting leukemia but thought that in such a crowd there probably were several fighting leukemia.

But the priest continued, “This man is also going through a divorce.” Phil thought, Well, that’s two for two.”

Then the leader predicted that this young man would have chemo treatments and return “next September to testify to answered prayer.” That’s what happened: Phil returned to testify to his perfect healing.

Was this priest a true prophet of God? I don’t think so. Though an inaccurate prediction disqualifies a prophet, a correct prediction doesn’t automatically prove that the man or woman is to be followed.

I asked Phil, “How would this man answer this question: What does a person have to do to enter heaven?” Phil answered, “He’d say that you have to follow God and be a good person.” That, of course is “another gospel.”

—Erwin Lutzer in Who Are You to Judge?

My Response: How does a spokesperson’s lifestyle bear on the validity of his message?

Thought to Apply: The gift of discernment has been neglected in charismatic circles, but is the gift that most needs to be sought and cultivated, because its exercise is the key to the right use of all the rest.—Tom Smail

Adapted from Who Are You to Judge? (Moody, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.



Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Religious Campus Tour

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!  – 2 Timothy 3:5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:160, Luke 22:70; John 10:30; 14:6; Acts 4:12

Let’s listen in on a few classes at a so-called Christian college.

  • An Old Testament Studies classroom: Professor Rationalist says, “These legends—the creation account, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus’ miracles—are symbolic stories to teach principles. Scientists offer no verification that any of these events really happened.”
  • A New Testament Studies classroom: Professor Skeptic says, “Jesus was a popular teacher in his day, but we have no evidence that divinity should be ascribed to him.”
  • A Religion 101 classroom: Professor Universalist says, “There are many religious roads, but they all lead to God. All sincere people of faith—Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Age—will arrive at the same glorified place. It’s bigoted to believe otherwise.”

If anything, deceptive teaching is harder to discern when professors mix their own non-literal views of Scripture and religious humanism beliefs with biblical Christianity. Don’t think that Satan considers colleges with a Christian heritage off limits. He’s prepared to use any tactic to distract and deceive you from being on that narrow way that leads to life.

—David Wheaton in University of Destruction

My Response: One clue that a professing Christian may not be a possessing one is …

Thought to Apply: God never meant for man to scale the heavens by strides of human wisdom.—William Cowper

Adapted from University of Destruction (Bethany, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.



New General Conference dates announced

Organizers have announced that the next General Conference will be Aug. 29-Sept. 7, 2021, in Minneapolis, despite pleas from young adult delegates who are in college that the decision-making body not meet at the start of the academic year.

However, the organizers are still looking for ways to ensure delegates, even if they can’t meet in person, can participate online in what many expect to be a historic legislative meeting.

The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly — postponed from this May by the COVID-19 pandemic — faces multiple proposals to resolve longtime debate around LGBTQ inclusion by splitting the denomination along theological lines.

The postponed General Conference will remain at the Minneapolis Convention Center as originally planned.


Memorial Day: For What Shall We Live?

Here on Memorial Day, below please find an insightful reflection by Roger Brady, retired as a general from the United States Air Force,that appears in today’s issue of Christianity Today online:

Whether we wear a uniform or not, we all have sacrificial service to offer.

Memorial Day: For What Shall We Live?

Image: Ken Holmes / Lightstock

Memorial Day likely conjures up memories for all of us. Mine start from when I was too young to know what the day meant.

When I was a young boy, it was a family time, a holiday from school or other obligations, and a time for picnics, multi-generational baseball games in an open field, and reunions with seldom-seen relatives.

Over the years I have gained a much greater appreciation for this day and what it means. From my first assignment in Vietnam to my last in Germany, I was continually reminded of the extraordinary sense of commitment and service in the young men and women with whom I was privileged to serve.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

During my last assignment, as 33rd commander of the US Air Forces in Europe, I routinely received invitations to speak at memorial events at one or more of the many cemeteries in Europe where young Americans are interred. I was particularly moved by an event in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe.

The heavy traffic that normally circles that beautiful edifice at a frantic pace had been stopped, and a crowd had gathered to remember and honor French and American men and women who had given their lives in the horrible wars of the 20th century. Many living veterans of those conflicts wore the uniform they had first donned at a much earlier age, and some of them still bore the scars of war. It was humbling to be in their company that day.

For four decades, I was honored to serve with thousands of dedicated young men and women. Some of them would die in service to their country. We were extremely sad at their loss as we comforted their loved ones and each other. They gave their very best, and we were reminded that we must do the same. They died serving something bigger than themselves—the transcendent ideals that make America the country we cherish.

For us as Christians, this day should have an even more poignant meaning. Many of the same values that our nation hopes to nurture and the traits military members are challenged to embody are consistent with those perfectly modeled for us by our Savior. He was the quintessential example of service and sacrifice.

In his letter to the Roman church, the apostle Paul said, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7–8).

But before he died, he lived. Boy, did he live! To the consternation of those watching him, he invited himself to the home of a hated tax collector named Zacchaeus, he challenged the hypocrisy of religious leaders by coming to the rescue of a prostitute, he exposed the meaninglessness of their religiosity by healing the sick on the Sabbath, and he challenged bigotry and insensitivity by publicly engaging in conversation with a Samaritan woman that his society said was unworthy of his time.

As Christians, this example is our heritage also, regardless of our earthly citizenship. Citizenship in his kingdom, after all, is the one that counts. Do not mistake what I am saying. I am grateful every day for that I am a citizen of America, and there is no other place on earth I would rather call home. Like most Americans, I am here by virtue of circumstances over which I had no control. I cannot explain it. I can just be thankful for it.

Patriotism and Piety

As I now view life in America as a private citizen, I am struck by the similarity of our expressions of patriotism and faith. Occasionally I wonder if we get the cross and the flag confused. As American Christians, we are indeed twice-blessed, but we should not get the two confused. America is an imperfect place, an unfinished project, an ideal we hope to make a reality.

Our citizenship in the kingdom of God is a gift extended to us freely by God’s grace. Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:8–10).

The society in which Jesus lived also had many problems. There was hypocrisy, bigotry, poverty, and oppression of the weak by the strong, and he condemned all of that. America is probably a better place than that for even the most marginalized of our citizens, but it is not always what it should be for all of us. As Christians, regardless of our earthly citizenship, this is part of the work he left us to do. Is it our duty as Americans? Yes, it is—but even more so as citizens of his kingdom.

I do not always understand how God’s providence works. I cannot explain why those extraordinary individuals we now call our “founding fathers” came together when they did. They created a country based on their belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” Their belief in these universal, eternal truths—however imperfect their understanding and expression of those truths—yielded a society in which people of faith can function with more freedom than anywhere else in the world.

Does this mean that God favors America? I often hear people express that belief, but what I read in his Word is that he favors people who rely on him, who place their trust in him, and who proclaim him as their God, regardless of their earthly citizenship. Does that ensure their health and wealth and a life of ease? No, it ensures us of the opportunity to be his sons and daughters, to tell others of the salvation that was freely given to us, to share in his suffering, and to live with him eternally.

The American writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, once said we should give loyalty to our country always and to the government when it deserves it. I believe he meant that our only true loyalty is to those eternal principles to which governments aspire but do not always demonstrate. There may well come times when our government takes a path we cannot in good conscience follow, and we must stand where God stands. But it is right that we devote time to remember and honor those fellow citizens who gave their all for us—we are forever in their debt.

Living a Life of Service

Most Americans will never serve in the military—actually less than one percent of our population do so.  And even among those of us who do, very, very few of us are asked to give that last full measure of devotion.  So what is the question for us on this day as we remember those Americans who died on our behalf?

I believe that question is —for what shall we live?  Whether or not we wear the uniform of our country, we all have a service to offer, a service to those ideals that reflect God’s universal truths and that our American ancestors captured in the formation of this country.

When Jesus left this earth to take his place at the right hand of the Father, he left us, his bride, the church, to carry on his work.  So when evil strikes in the form of a school shooting or when nature unleashes its fury and devastates property and lives, when children suffer, when people are hungry or homeless and ask “Where is God?!” we must be there and have them see him in us.

We must bring his comfort and his healing to this world. When we live lives of service to those around us, we honor the God who saved us and we honor all those who gave that last full measure to secure for us all the things we enjoy in this nation.  Someday we will find ourselves at the end of our lives looking back, and we will ask ourselves what it was all for.

At that moment, we will all want to recall a life of service to something larger than ourselves, to children who needed our teaching and our example of service, to people whom we gave a hand up in time of need, to friends and colleagues whom we comforted in times of sorrow, lives with whom we shared the many physical and spiritual blessings that have been bestowed on us.

If we live that life of service, we will have fulfilled the challenge of the Savior when he said, “Whatever you did for one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).

So on Memorial Day, and every day, we need to ask ourselves, for what shall we live? How are we doing at fulfilling not just the ideals of our American forefathers but those universal values set in place by the one who made us in his image, who sent his only begotten son to secure our salvation, the one who “created us in him to do good works?”

Roger Brady retired as a general from the United States Air Force. He speaks and writes on principled leadership and serves as minister of adult education in his local congregation. His books include Forget Success!! and Nothing Has Changed.

Develop Your Spiritual Insight – In vs. Of

living-in-an-unholy-worldKey Bible Verse: Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind.  – 1 Corinthians 14:20

Bonus Reading: 1 Cor. 5:9-13

I know a man who desperately needed to buy a warehouse, but when a liquor company offered to sell him one, he balked. He asked me if he should buy it.

“There’s no sin in purchasing real estate from the sinful,” I told him, “unless you cheat someone else or use it sinfully yourself.”

“Yes,” he objected. “But what about using my money to prosper them.”

“Look,” I explained. “We live in a complicated world. You buy groceries at stores that sell liquor, fly on airplanes that give it away in first class, and stay in hotels that have bars. In the world isn’t the same as of it.”

On the other hand, a deep, close bond in business or a relationship with an unsaved partner is rife with danger. Unbelievers, sensing they’ll also be blessed for the sake of the righteous, often want to partner with Christians. Potiphar and Pharaoh saw that hope in Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar saw it in Daniel.

The biblical admonition, “don’t team up with those who are unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14) is ignored at great risk. Ahab was spared because he was with Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 18:1-27), but Jehoshaphat nearly died because he was with Ahab. Don’t link your destiny with another uncommitted to the God you serve.

—Mark Rutland in God of the Valleys

My Response: To function in the world without becoming aligned with it, I need to …

Adapted from God of the Valleys (Servant, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.

Memorial Day Blessing!

Memorial Day 3As we reflect upon the blessings that we have as a nation, and the high cost that has been paid for the security of our land, please join us…

 In giving thanks for those who have served in our armed forces, risking their lives for our liberty.

 May God bless those who have sacrificed and the families of those service members who have done without in duty to our country.

 On behalf of Central Church, may you have a blessed holiday weekend!


Memorial Day

Develop Your Spiritual Insight – Steep Learning Curve

living-in-an-unholy-worldWho Said It … John Ensor

John Ensor is Executive Director of the Urban Initiative Program of Heartbeat Inter-national. H.I. trains Christian communities in providing life-saving, life-changing assistance to women and couples unprepared for pregnancy. J

ohn is completing a two-year effort to establish ultrasound-equipped Pregnancy Help Clinics in needy neighborhoods of Miami, a city with nearly 40 abortion facilities. John previously served as a pastor and founded a network of six clinics in the Boston area.

What He Said … Steep Learning Curve

Because I wanted it badly, I looked right past the red flags. I ended up back where I started, but poorer, embarrassed, and feeling used and stupid. I’m talking about a used car. I went online and was defrauded out of $4,000. Proverbs 14:15 had me fingered: “Only simpletons believe everything they’re told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.”

The webmaster knew about people at their predatory worst who feed on the gullible. So right there on the website, in a section about online fraud, he spelled out the sure signs to look for. He also provided straightforward guidelines for doing things right when buying a used car online. But never dreaming I’d be a victim of fraud, I failed to read the link before barging ahead.

One Proverb (14:12) warns about the path that seems right but ends in death. I think this refers to our tendency to follow our own judgment without informing it with the wisdom of others or instructing it with a sense of right and wrong, wise and foolish.

Adapted from Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart (Crossway, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to so saturate my outlook with your Word that I readily spot whatever counters its teaching.



Central Church on WBVP Sunday!

Local reaction to the Corona Virus pandemic has forced the suspension or cancellation of large gatherings, including worship services across Pennsylvania.

WBVP, WMBA and 99.3 F.M. are moving to be the “pulpit” of the airwaves during this time.

Members and friends of Central Church can tune in at 10:30 A.M. on Sunday, May 24, to hear a recorded version of this week’s message from Central Church by Pastor Jan!


Here’s where to tune in:


Be sure to tune in this Sunday at 10:30!


Culture Can Be Redeemed – Living in the World

holy-livingWe think of salt as seasoning, and also a melting and water-softening agent. But until recent times, its primary use was to preserve. That made it a metaphor for permanence.

The term translated “everlasting covenant” in Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5, is literally “covenant of salt.” “Season all your grain offerings with salt,” God told his chosen people (in Leviticus 2:13), “to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.”

Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 5:13-16

  1. What is the value of seasoning that has no flavor? What is implied here about the value of Christians who make no effort to affect the world around them?
  2. What are some ways Christians can affect their society positively, bringing out its best flavor?
  3. What warning does Jesus’ remark about flavorless salt being thrown out carry for Christians who simply blend in with their culture?
  4. What qualities of Jesus’ disciples make them a source of light in their communities?
  5. What are some ways in which Christians hide their light?
  6. How can our good deeds lead not to smugness but to praise for our heavenly Father?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for courage to stand out from the crowd coupled with a selfless caring that makes the faith you live attractively compelling

Matthew 5:13-16

13 You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Deep End Economics

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  Psalm 112:9

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians :7-13

An Arizona church had a clothing drive to help a ministry that operates a summer day-camp for hundreds of poor children. One of their favorite activities is going to a city swimming pool. But a swimsuit is required at the pool, and few children own one. When this need was announced at the church, an out-of-town visitor was moved to donate $1,000 to buy swimsuits!

David, a church member, checked out several stores. At the store that offered the best discount, he carefully selected 150 children’s swimsuits, and piled them all in front of the cashier! Several people behind him reacted with dismay, knowing this big purchase would delay them. An older woman asked if he had a large family. “No,” he laughingly replied, and explained who the swimsuits were for.

The woman continued to watch as the clerk totaled the cost. Finally, the total reached $1,000, which paid for 125 suits. David told the clerk he’d put the remaining 25 swimsuits back on the sales rack. “No!” the woman interjected, “I’d like to pay for those.” David, astounded by this woman’s generosity, was sure he’d just seen another example of Kingdom mathematics.

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor

My Response: A community need my church is—or could be—addressing is …

Thought to Apply: A true community’s members are making the transition from “the community for myself” to “myself for the community.” —Jean Vanier (Canadian social worker)

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Fairest Lord Jesus”

Here is a special arrangement, “Beautiful Savior,”  of the familiar hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” by F. Melius Christiansen.

This anthem has ended Concordia’s Concerts for over 70 years, and has also been the concluding selection for the Genevans of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA for many years.

The Concordia Choir (Moorhead MN), René Clausen, Conductor performs at Orchestra Hall.

Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature
O thou of God and man the Son
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown
Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands
Robed in the blooming garb of spring
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer
Who makes the woeful heart to sing
Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight
And all the twinkling starry host
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heaven can boast
Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations
Son of God and Son of Man
Glory and honor, praise, adoration
Now and forevermore be thine

Culture Can Be Redeemed – Extreme Outreach

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: … shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Philippians 2:15

Bonus Reading: Mark 2:14-17

A striking example of engagement with the world is the story of Craig Gross and Mike Foster and their quest to redeem the porn industry. Founders of (now under the umbrella of Fireproof Ministries), these two men have withstood withering criticism from within the Christian community for their attempts to reach out to the purveyors (and the victims) of the multibillion-dollar pornography empire.

They attend porn conventions (with their wives, no less), handing out “Jesus loves porn stars” T-shirts and challenging people to go without porn for seven days. They even inaugurated a “porn Sunday” in 2005, calling on churches to wake up to the reality of porn and porn addiction in their midst.

I don’t know these men personally but I have benefited from their ministry (their accountability software is on my computer) and admire their courage in seeking to bring the light and life of Jesus into the darkest of places. They didn’t wait for the lost to come to them—they went to where those people were and by their actions demonstrated the grace and truth of the gospel.

—Mike Erre in The Jesus of Suburbia

My Response: A hangout for the unchurched that I could “salt” with a Christian presence is …

Thought to Apply: Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it. —John Stott (British preacher)

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Children of the Heavenly Father”

The Concordia Choir of Moorhead, Minnesota, conducted by René Clausen, performs “Children of the Heavenly Father” at Lagerquist Concert Hall, Tacoma, Washington on Feb. 26, 2014.

Children of the Heavenly Father, arr. Rene Clausen

Children of the heavenly Father, safely in his bosom gather; Nestling bird or star in heaven such a refuge ne’er was given.

God his own doth tend and nourish, in his holy courts they flourish; From all evil things he spares them, in his mighty arms he bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord his children sever; Unto them his grace he showeth, and their sorrows all he knoweth.

Though he giveth or he taketh, God his children ne’er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely, to preserve them pure and holy.

– Caroline V. Sandell Berg (1832-1903)


Culture Can Be Redeemed – Refurbished Reputation

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  – 1 John 3:18

Bonus Reading: 1 John 3:16-19

Our church recognized that its reputation in the community had deteriorated as the church grew. We were known as “the church that causes traffic jams.” Add this to the fact that we paid no taxes and you’ll see why the local government saw us as takers rather than contributors to the community.

So we went to the city manager and asked, “What can we do to serve the community?” He looked at us skeptically and said, “I’ll get back to you.” Three months later he called and asked us to deliver more than 17,000 town directories to every household. “Can you do it?” he inquired. We said yes.

Our church is large, but it was still a challenge to martial more than 200 volunteers to give a September Saturday to deliver these directories. We found the volunteers, and we decided to make this practical service event into a prayer walk—praying for every home in our community as we walked. The service project/prayer walk opened new ideas and opportunities for community outreach, and we entered that fall with a new sense of anticipation of God working through us.

—Paul Borthwick in Stop Witnessing and Start Loving

My Response: Is my church viewed as a negative, irrelevant, or positive factor in my community? What might change that?

Thought to Apply: According to the New Testament, God wills that the church be a people who show what God is like. —Stanley Grenz (theologian)

Adapted from Stop Witnessing and Start Loving (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”

Here is the first verse of this popular hymn sung by the Concordia Choir of the Lutheran school, Concordia College, during their 2011 concert.

It is a perfect presentation.

I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light the world.
The star of my life is Jesus.

In Him there is no darkness at all.
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

I want to see the brightness of God.
I want to look at Jesus.
Clear Sun of Righteousness, shine on my path,
and show me the way to the Father.

I’m looking for the coming of Christ.
I want to be with Jesus.
When we have run with patience the race,
we shall know the joy of Jesus.


Culture Can Be Redeemed – Proactive Culture Changer

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Philippians 4:8

Bonus Reading: 2 Cor.10:3-5

Film executive Micheal Flaherty, now 40, was first an educator who designed a program that dramatically increased the enrollment of minority students at elite Boston prep schools and co-founded a successful charter school.

After the Columbine tragedy of 1999, Flaherty noted that while Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott loved wholesome films, the gunmen preferred dark flicks like Natural Born Killers. This inspired him to transition professionally to Hollywood to make movies that would positively influence youth.

He contacted his old college roommate Cary Granat, then president of Dimension Films. Granat caught Flaherty’s vision and they co-founded Walden Media.

Most of Walden’s films are adaptations of well-known novels. Flaherty hopes to provide librarians, teachers, pastors, and parents with resources for teaching kids positive, even biblical, values. In an industry skittish about portraying religious themes, Flaherty is bucking the trend. “We’re after great stories,” he says, “and a key element of a great story is faith.”

Walden’s credits include The Chronicles of Narnia megahits, plus adaptations of children’s classics such as Charlotte’s Web, and Amazing Grace, about the life of William Wilberforce. They are starting to give Hollywood a good name.

—Drew Dyck in Today’s Christian

My Response: I think Christians are known more for darkness-cursing than candle-lighting because …

Thought to Apply: Better to light a one small candle than to curse the darkness. —Chinese proverb

Adapted from Today’s Christian (3-4/07).

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



This Is Why Choirs Might Need to Stay Silent for a While

choirsBased on an extensive study of a COVID-19 outbreak in a chorale in Washington state, churches that reopen should use caution when it comes to choirs and even congregational singing.

Last week the CDC issued a report about disease transmission among the Skagit Valley Chorale, which held two-and-a-half-hour rehearsals in Mount Vernon on March 3 and March 10. An alarming 87 percent of members later became sick, and two died.

On March 10, no cases of the novel coronavirus had yet been reported in Skagit County, about an hour from Seattle, and area schools, churches, restaurants, and other venues were still open. Local health officials issued the first social distancing recommendations—limiting groups to 250 people—on March 10, but officials say “widespread community knowledge” of the guidelines hadn’t yet occurred.

Practice Provided ‘several opportunities’ to Spread Germs

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church
“Many singers in our choirs say that their lives are impacted dramatically by singing here,” says Bill Mathis, Music & Fine Arts minister at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, whose choirs are shown here.

Only 61 of the chorale’s 122 members attended the March 10 practice, but 53 became ill, including the two fatalities. Thirty-three members had positive COVID-19 tests, and the other 20 were presumed to be infected. The singers’ median age was 69, and only one-third reported having underlying health conditions.

Singers don’t recall anyone sneezing or coughing, though one person later reported having cold-like symptoms days earlier. Some seats were empty, while others were less than a foot apart. Although members say they avoided physical contact, they conversed during a snack break and while setting up and putting away chairs.

Officials credit the group’s quick, responsible actions for preventing further illness. When symptoms emerged, the director emailed members as well as health officials, who conducted contact tracing. Members self-quarantined and fully cooperated with investigators, providing vital insights about exposure and transmission.

Singing Can Transmit Virus, Officials Say

In its report, the CDC notes, “The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.”  It also warns about the impact of people labeled “super-emitters,” who seem to “release more aerosol particles during speech than do their peers.”

Dr. Howard Leibrand, a Skagit County health officer, tells the New York Times, “When you project your voice, you can project more virus, so it seems like this would be a pretty good indicator we shouldn’t be going back to large groups singing in an enclosed space, i.e., church, because that would be the same sort of situation as this.”

The chorale’s experience, says the CDC, “underscores the importance of physical distancing,” as well as “avoiding group gatherings” and wearing face coverings in public during the pandemic.

As churches prepare to reopen, leaders face a variety of challenges to safeguard worshipers and communities. The increased risk of germ transmission through singing means that music will be one of the many aspects of in-person services requiring adjustments.

As for the Washington chorale, it wants to spare other groups the grief of losing beloved members. By sharing its ordeal, it hopes to “personalize this virus for others” and “encourage everyone to stay home and stay safe.”

Culture Can Be Redeemed – Who Do We Appreciate?

holy-livingKey Bible Verse: So let’s not get tired of doing what is good … We will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 12:9-13

A group wanted “to do something special beyond its church walls to make God smile!” They decided “to honor, encourage, respect, and applaud” the young adults working as cafeteria workers and nurse’s aids at a nursing home. They sent a warm letter to 14 workers, inviting them to a dinner and celebration in their honor at the home of one of the group members.

After an icebreaker, a group member thanked the workers for their service to the elderly and announced the team’s plan to serve them this evening. The church women cooked, and the men served the dinner and cleaned. After the meal, the guests and hosts each told a little about themselves.

Several group members spoke, and the leader read scriptures such as today’s Key Bible Verse designed to affirm that each person is created in God’s image for a special purpose. Each guest received a decorative bowl from Mexico, a houseplant, and an encouraging book. To end the evening, the workers stood in a circle and received a group blessing.

One letter of thanks said, “It was wonderful to be appreciated. I’ll never forget it. The book really made me think how much I can achieve.”

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor

My Response: A way I’d like to “make God smile” is …

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Culture Can Be Redeemed – Three Ways to Relate

holy-livingWho Said It … Mike Erre

Mike Erre is the teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, California, where he lives with his wife, Justina, and their two children. He is the author of Why Guys Need God.

Mike is an avid fan of Buckeye football, the music of Pearl Jam, and the mythology of Star Wars.

What He Said … Three Ways to Relate

The Jews of Jesus’ day responded to the Greco-Roman culture of their occupiers in three ways: embracing it (Sadducees), separating from it (Pharisees), or attempting to take it over (Zealots).

Today’s Christians relate to culture in similar ways. Some, like the Amish and Mennonites, attempt to withdraw from culture. Many evangelicals partially withdraw by forming a Christian subculture with its own schools, music, novels, and movies. Still others—today’s collaborationists—have excised those parts of the Bible offensive to modern ears. And Zealots no longer advocate armed revolt but rather use political and legal power to attempt to return the West to its “Christian” roots.

Jesus only direct response was to the many questions of his contemporaries, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). But how he interacted with his culture speaks volumes. He didn’t withdraw from it (like the Pharisees) nor embrace it (like the Sadducees). He didn’t advocate armed revolution (as did the Zealots). He simply sought to redeem culture wherever he found it.

Adapted from The Jesus of Suburbia (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Since you’ve called me to be salt and light, I’m not free to just blend in. Empower me to make a positive impact where you’ve placed me.



Central Church – Online Worship Service – Sunday, May 17, 2020

On this fifth Sunday after Easter, when the coronavirus prevents us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit for with our online worship experience!




To begin, simply click on the photo below to join with the folks who have already made their way into our digital Sanctuary:




A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

Like “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” this hymn, based on the text by Charles Wesley,  is sung to a number of tunes, so here are the top three.

If you’re from the United States, you probably are familiar with this hymn sung to BEECHER.  It isn’t the most melodious hymntune, and there aren’t many good recordings of BEECHER, but here’s one:

There has been a movement over the past few decades to switch this hymn to HYFRYDOL.  It’s a lovely tune, one of the best we have, and it works just fine, although many prefer saving HYFRYDOL for “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!” and “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.”

Here’s the wonderful St. John’s Church in Detroit:

Lastly, here’s the tune most commonly sung in the United Kkingdom – the lovely Welsh tune BLAENWERN.

This recording is from William and Kate’s wedding a few years ago:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,

pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.


Central Church on WBVP Sunday!

Local reaction to the Corona Virus pandemic has forced the suspension or cancellation of large gatherings, including worship services across Pennsylvania.

WBVP, WMBA and 99.3 F.M. are moving to be the “pulpit” of the airwaves during this time.

Members and friends of Central Church can tune in at 10:30 A.M. on Sunday, May 17, to hear a recorded version of this week’s message from Central Church by Pastor Jan!


Here’s where to tune in:


Be sure to tune in this Sunday at 10:30!


Rated Trustworthy – Integrity

integrityThis passage is saturated with God’s passion for integrity and justice. In it, as in many prophetic passages, Isaiah deals with more than one time period.

He touches both on how God will deliver Judah from Assyrian aggression (see 37:30-38 for a record of the fulfillment), and with the reaction of Jerusalem’s residents, both those in the ancient city and those in the New Jerusalem (v. 5 and Revelation 21:2).

Interact with God’s Word:  Isaiah 33:1, 5-6, 14-16a

  1. Name some non-monetary treasures that people are often driven by.
  2. Judging by what you think and dream about (v. 21), what are your treasures?
  3. How susceptible are these treasures (v. 19) to losing their luster or being wiped out?
  4. What are some treasures (v. 20) that can withstand these hazards?
  5. How does what you assign value to tend to define what will command your time and efforts?
  6. Why do you think desire is a more potent motivator than duty?
  7. What (v. 21) is the correlation between your treasures and your desires? If what you concentrate on and dream about changes, could your treasures remain unchanged?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you concentrate more on His eternal heavenly economy and lessen your preoccupation with earth’s transitory economy.

Isaiah 33:1, 5-6, 14-16a

1 What sorrow awaits you Assyrians, who have destroyed others
but have never been destroyed yourselves.
You betray others,
but you have never been betrayed.
When you are done destroying,
you will be destroyed.
When you are done betraying,
you will be betrayed.

5 Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven,
he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
6 In that day he will be your sure foundation,
providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.

14 The sinners in Jerusalem shake with fear.
Terror seizes the godless.
“Who can live with this devouring fire?” they cry.
“Who can survive this all-consuming fire?”
15 Those who are honest and fair,
who refuse to profit by fraud,
who stay far away from bribes,
who refuse to listen to those who plot murder,
who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong—
16 these are the ones who will dwell on high.
The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress.
Food will be supplied to them,
and they will have water in abundance.

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Cost of Doing Business?

integrityKey Bible Verse: The wicked accept secret bribes to pervert justice. Proverbs 17:23

Bonus Reading: Micah 7:2-4

When Christians are known as commitment-keepers and scrupulously ethical business people, we stand out from society’s background noise of deceit, deception, and dishonesty. And that positions us positively in the marketplace.

The business of a friend of mine required frequent interaction with a certain branch of government in Cook County, Illinois. Usually one of his assistants handled those transactions, but one day when no one else was around, my friend went to the county building himself.

He encountered a petty form of extortion that everyone else had been tolerating for years as merely a cost of doing business. But instead of participating in the illegal activity, my friend simply said, “No, I’m not going to pay off.”

He didn’t shout or cause a scene. But his quiet but decisive refusal set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a federal grand jury investigation, a government crackdown, and eventually one little corner of county government getting cleaned up.

The truth is that the ethical temperature of a company, an industry, or an entire nation will notch up only when individuals make the commitment, one by one, to morality in business.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: What kind of “pay offs” have I been tempted to make?

Thought to Apply: This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers. There are men who can’t be bought. —Carl Sandburg (journalist, historian, biographer, & poet)

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.

A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”


Here’s another Fanny Crosby hymn that some count among her finest, though its popularity has waned a bit in recent times.

Here we have Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia singing “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” in a memorial service for Samuel Hsu, who was a Julliard-educated pianist, musicologist, and professor.


All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.



Rated Trustworthy – Clean Hits on the Gridiron

integrityKey Bible Verse: The Lord knows I shouldn’t have done it,” he said to his men. “It is a serious thing to attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.”  – 1 Samuel 24:6

Bonus Reading: Job 1:6-8

Some linebackers don’t play fair. They try to knock an opposing quarterback out of a game by driving their helmet into his ribs when his arm is up.

Others look to hit an opponent’s knees. If a player loses his knees, he loses his livelihood. Players who take cheap shots like these lack class—and integrity.

I refused to take cheap shots. If a guy had his back turned and wasn’t part of the play, I wouldn’t hit him. I’d go full-tilt within the rules. If the quarterback still had the ball, even though his back was to me, I would hit him hard, but high. I wouldn’t hit him low. I’d hit him right.

Once I accidentally hit an opponent the wrong way and hurt him, but the referee didn’t make the call. I told the ref, “It was my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I did it. You should penalize me.” I wanted the ref and the other player to know I was honest and would take responsibility for my mistakes.

The ref thought I was nuts. If Buddy Ryan had known, he’d have yanked me back to the sidelines. I don’t even want to think about what Ditka would have said.

I wanted to win, but only by competing at the highest level.

—Mike Singletary in Mike Singletary: One-on-One

My Response: In my line of work, I take “cheap shots” when I …

Thought to Apply: I value people with a conscience. It’s like a beeper from God.  —Robert Orben (screenwriter, humorist)

Adapted from Mike Singletary: One-on-One (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Rated Trustworthy – Buyer on the Take

integrityKey Bible Verse: He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him. Acts 24:26

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 12:1-5

My friend Dean Borgman was until recently the CEO of Sikorsky Aircraft, a manufacturer of Black Hawk and other helicopters. Dean had traveled to a smaller Mideastern country to pin down specifications for 12 new-model helicopters it planned to buy. His company was eager to make the sale.

Oddly, the first scheduled event was a private dinner for Dean only at the home of the country’s military chief. After initial pleasantries, his host brazenly made clear that he could determine who would be awarded the contract, and expected to be significantly “rewarded” for his support.

Losing this order could ultimately cost Sikorsky hundreds of millions of dollars. But the request violated U.S. government contracting laws, his company’s ethics policy, and, above all, his values as a Christian. So Dean politely but firmly closed off the conversation—and his host abruptly cut the evening short.

The helicopter order went to a European supplier. Dean was disappointed, but knew he’d done the right thing. In an ironic twist, the military chief was removed from office not long after this incident. Meanwhile, Sikorsky’s stature as a company that could be trusted grew.

—John Beckett in Mastering Monday

My Response: On a smaller scale, how have I dealt with unethical practices I’ve encountered?

Thought to Apply: You must consider the bottom line, but make it integrity before profits. —Dennis Waitley

Adapted from Mastering Monday (InterVarsity, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “For All the Saints”

Here is a recording of the great Vaughan Williams tune (SINE NOMINE) by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.


Rated Trustworthy – A Better Deal

integrityKey Bible Verse: No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. Psalm 89:34

Bonus Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:4-6

Soon after I agreed to go to Alabama on a scholarship, a Florida State representative phoned. “We know you told Alabama you’ll go there,” he said. “But it’s not yet signing day, and we’ve recruited the best quarterback and the best wide receiver in the country.

Like you, they’d verbally committed to attend different schools. Then both came to visit Florida State. Once here, they realized we’re the school for them.”

The quarterback, I learned, planned to go to Penn State before changing his mind, and the receiver originally planned to enroll at Notre Dame. “We want you, Shaun,” the man pleaded. “With you as the top running back, we’ll have an unbeatable combination.”

The lessons I’d received as a kid at home and in church were so strong, I didn’t even feel tempted. “I appreciate the offer,” I told him, “but I’ve given Alabama my word.”

“You didn’t write anything down,” he countered.

“I didn’t have to,” I replied, “to know what I said.”

To talk me out of my decision, he made a lot of promises about what Florida State would do for me.

“I said I’d go to Alabama,” I told him. “That’s what I meant; that’s what I’ll do.”

—Shaun Alexander in Touchdown Alexander

My Response: How has internalizing God’s Word reinforced my ability to resist temptation?

Thought to Apply: Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of tricks and duplicity than straightforward and simple integrity in another. —Charles Colton (author)

Adapted from Touchdown Alexander (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



Central Church – Coronavirus Update

Nikita Kachanovsky

  1.  The Church of Antioch and the Church in Jerusalem:

In Acts 8, a massive disruption upset the Christian world. Led by Saul of Tarsus, massive persecution drove Christians from their home base of Jerusalem.

Up to that time the new Christian movement was centered in Jerusalem and was confined to Jews.  By the end of the book of Acts, the church was more Gentile than Jewish and the church at Jerusalem was a side note.

What made the difference? During the disruption, one church used it as an opportunity to innovate, and innovation changes the world.

In Acts 11:19 we see the Jewish Christians scattering from Jerusalem, telling only other Jews about Jesus.  But in Antioch it was different.

  • The Christians there spread the gospel and opened their doors to both Jews and Greeks (innovation #1, Acts 11:20-21).
  • Not only was this church open to non-Jews, they sought out Jews with scandalous pasts, creating an opportunity for the same Saul of Tarsus to provide leadership now that he had become a follower of Jesus (innovation #2, Acts 11:25-26).
  • When a famine struck Judea, the church at Antioch is the first church recorded in Scripture to voluntarily collect resources and intentionally send it off to assist another church (innovation #3, Acts 11:27-30).
  • So it should be no surprise that the church at Antioch, not the church at Jerusalem, was the one the Holy Spirit directed to change the world through intentional gospel-spreading, church-planting mission trips (innovation #4, Acts 13:1-3).

What was the church at Jerusalem doing during that time?  Forcing Peter to defend his actions of entering a Gentile’s home (Acts 10-11) and trying to get the Gentile Christians to become Jewish (Acts 15).

Admittedly painting with a broad brush here, the church at Jerusalem treated the dispersion of their people as an interruption.  They kept waiting for things to go back to ‘normal’ and the way things were (centered in Jerusalem and around the Jews).

The church at Antioch correctly saw the persecution as a massive disruption.  Disruption leads to innovation. Innovation changes the world, and that’s exactly what the church at Antioch did almost 2000 years ago.

2.  Covid-19 Disruption:

The COVID-19 crisis is another massive disruption (not interruption).

This is the moment for the church at Antioch to rise up, to blaze boldly into the hybrid digital world we all now live in and spread the gospel in new and powerful ways.

As church thought leader Carey Nieuwhof accurately questioned, “are churches behaving like malls in the age of Amazon?

Churches that treat the COVID-19 crisis like a minor interruption are like malls, like the church at Jerusalem.

If we are waiting for this crisis to pass so that things can go back to normal, we might be waiting awhile.  There will be a “new normal” we will eventually settle into, but it won’t be the old normal.

A worldwide pandemic disrupts the world in ways that will forever change us.  Churches that leverage the massive disruption of the COVID-19 crisis are innovating in the age of Amazon, like the church of Antioch.

3.  Adapting at Central Church:

Here at Central Church, we are moving to adapt during the worst part of this crisis, and will continue to adapt as our society moves toward the “new normal”, whatever that may look like.

  • Our Church ladies serving a free, hot lunch to the community on “Soup Tuesdays”

    Our free community feeding ministry has had to adapt in two major ways.

First, in conjunction with to the CDC and PA Dept. of Health regulations, we have moved from a dine-in to a take-out-only format.

Unfortunately, this social-distanced feeding, while required and prudent, lacks the fellowship and socialization components that having folks sitting together in our Fellowship Hall, but getting the food to hungry people will have to take precedence during the early stages of society’s CORVID-19 response.

Second, as others in downtown have discontinued or postponed their feeding ministries due to the COVID-19 risk, we at Central Church have vastly expanded our free meals to cover every day, Monday through Friday, plus two Saturdays each month.

While previously, we were serving at a rate of 13,000 meals a year, we are now serving at a rate of 36,000 meals a year, as the number of newly unemployed are added to our regular visitors.

Whether we will be able to sustain this expansion remains to be seen, but the folks of Central Church, in conjunction with our partners and friends, believe that people who would otherwise have to go without eating are more likely to become sick, whether by COVID-19 or by another disease.

By ensuring that families can continue to have at least one hot, nutritious meal each day, we believe that are helping in a small way to help stem the flow of new COVID-19 cases.

  • Central Church’s Congregation welcomes you!

    Similarly, our weekly worship services have had to make some significant adaptations as well.  While we all prefer to meet together in our Sanctuary to worship as one, such in-person gatherings are just not possible during the early stages of the CORVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of weekly corporate worship, we have moved to a weekly broadcast of our Scripture and sermon on WBVP every Sunday morning.

We have also added a weekly worship service on our Facebook page that can also be accessed from our website.  This service includes more of the elements of our normal corporate worship, and enhances our sermon with an expanded Powerpoint presentation to help bring out the main themes of the sermon.

  • Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Central Church!

    Looking forward to the time when we can once again join together in our Sanctuary for corporate worship, we are making plans and preparations to reflect the lower, but continuing, CORVID-19 concerns.

We have made arrangements to add hand sanitizer stations at each entrance to our building – one at the Fellowship Hall door, one in the back of our Sanctuary, and one in the 13th Street Vestibule.

We are also looking to add a supply of masks so everyone who wants one can be covered during our worship services.

We are making plans for how the Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, restrooms, and other common areas of our building can be disinfected and sanitized after every use.

Finally, we are taking a look at each component of our worship service to see how they can or should be adapted to our “new normal” realty.

Things like the use of bulletins, hymnals, and pew Bibles have to be viewed through the lens of how they can be disinfected after each use.

Other things, like the safest way to collect our tithes and offerings, or how to take communion, are being reviewed as well.

Larger congregations must also consider how to break their worship services into multiple services of 25 or 50 people.  (Oh, to have such problems!)

As you can see, although we cannot presently gather together for worship or meetings, the mission and work of Central Church continues, and our dedicated Trustees are busy reviewing options and making plans so we can all gather together again safely.

  • If you have any ideas or thoughts about what we should consider or arrangements that we should make, please post a comment below or send us an email at

Rated Trustworthy – Everyone Does It? Not Us

integrityKey Bible Verse: Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and will believe. 1 Peter 2:12

Bonus Reading: Job 31:1-4, 9-12

I have spent my career in the music business. In this world—driven mostly by fear and ego—I want to be remembered as someone with character.

I want to deal honestly with people, telling them the truth about our potential business together or why it’s not going to happen. I want to deal with employees in a straightforward manner.

God is constantly building my character—and yours—through our everyday choices. These determine our course in life, and, ultimately, what will be said about us when we’re gone.

In 1994 my company, Warner Alliance, took a stand on a gospel singer who’d had an affair with one of his background singers. We terminated the singer’s contract. The local newspaper marveled that a for-profit organization would take a clear-cut moral stand.

All too frequently we hear of another corporate scandal, another doping scandal in sports, another case of plagiarism by a journalist or student—even another instance of a minister stealing sermons off of the internet. As my former pastor observed, “North America continues to need preaching on ethical issues such as this, but what it desperately needs is positive examples.”

—Barry Landis in Devotional Ventures

My Response: A Christian whom I’ve watched raise the integrity bar is ____.

Adapted from Devotional Ventures (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.




Happy Mother’s Day from your friends at Central Church!

Rated Trustworthy – Taking Stock

integrityWho Said It … Michael Zigarelli

Michael Zigarelli is dean of Regent University’s School of Business. Back in 2000-2001 he was named the university’s professor of the year.

While Mike holds a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in employee management, he has also studied theology, so management and law are fused with ethics and practical theology in his teaching and writing.

His most recent books are Influencing Like Jesus and The Christian on Monday Morning. Mike and his wife Tara live in Virginia with their four children.

What He Said … Taking Stock

I had a dentist who told me during one of those monologues-to-the-mute that he’d gotten insider information on a new, top-secret technology that a dental company was about to roll out. Based on that tip (an illegal tip, mind you, and he knew it), he bought lots of stock in that company, netting him “a 1,000-percent profit” of about 30 grand. “Not bad for a week’s work!” he chuckled to his captive audience.

After regaling me with his market killing and completing his tooth filling, he made a sales pitch for me to bring my four kids to see him. Sure, I’ll sign them right up! I thought, amused at how someone so smart could be so dumb. You do illegal things and then brag about them, and I should trust you with my kids?

His 1,000-percent profit story culminated in 0 percent influence with me. People filter our words through our behavior. Efforts to persuade will get us nowhere unless we’re becoming the type of person others will follow.

Adapted from Influencing Like Jesus (B&H Publishing, 2008)

Prayer for the Week: Please give me the boldness, Lord, to demonstrate Your righteousness where You’ve placed me.



The Founding Mothers of Mother’s Day

Mother's Day 1In the late 1860s, before there was an official Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S., a Methodist mom organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

When Ann Jarvis was working to establish Mother’s Day as a national event, and when her daughter picked up the mantle from her, they were not thinking about greeting cards and flowers.  Instead the Methodist women who invented the idea in America wanted to honor mothers in a deeper way.

They were thinking about the work of women and the significant testimony that women could give about the need for peace.  Ann Reeves Jarvis organized women’s clubs in the 1860s to serve suffering mothers and children.

Women came together with their sisters in their locations to respond to the needs that they could see. For Ann, she was in a coal mining part of what is now West Virginia. And she could see the needs of women and children. And she could see the effect of the economy of her day on the people that she cared for most directly.  She started mothers clubs. And she talked to them about hydration for fevered babies, about sanitation and nutrition. And then the Civil War came along and they put a field hospital right outside Grafton.

Ann recruited nurses for military hospitals, and after the war formed friendship clubs to promote reconciliation.  Ann Jarvis was convinced that mothers, women, but especially mothers, had to work for peace because they could see the ravages of war in their husbands and in their sons, in a way that was so focused and so clear that their voices would be powerful. And that’s what’s at the genesis of the current Mother’s Day.

In May 1908, Anna Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia.  There was also a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Phila00delphia on the same day.

Mother's Day 2In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in the USA. Others like Julia Ward Howe and Juliet Calhoun Blakely also advocated for a Mother’s Day type recognition in the U.S. in the late 19th century also.

Mother’s Day is celebrated in a variety of countries.  In Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.  In Ethiopia, families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

In the United States, Mother’s Day in 2020 will be celebrated on Sunday, May 10.

Central Church on WBVP Sunday!

Local reaction to the Corona Virus pandemic has forced the suspension or cancellation of large gatherings, including worship services across Pennsylvania.

WBVP, WMBA and 99.3 F.M. are moving to be the “pulpit” of the airwaves during this time.

Members and friends of Central Church can tune in at 10:30 A.M. on Sunday, May 10, to hear a recorded version of this week’s message from Central Church by Pastor Jan!


Here’s where to tune in:


Be sure to tune in this Sunday at 10:30!


Central Church – Online Worship Service – Sunday, May 10, 2020

On this fourth Sunday after Easter, when the coronavirus prevents us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit for with our online worship experience!




To begin, simply click on the photo below to join with the folks who have already made their way into our digital Sanctuary:




Walk Away from Worry – Trusting in God

trusting-in-godLegitimate concern that leads to planning and action is healthy and can alleviate worry.

Worry, on the other hand, is unhealthy, tends to immobilize the worrier, and reduces his ability to trust in God.

Maybe that’s why Jesus devoted a good chunk of his teaching on the mountainside to the topic of worry.

Interact with God’s Word:  Matthew 6:25-34

  1. What reason (v. 27) did Jesus give for not worrying about our needs?
  2. What did Jesus observe (vv. 26-30) about the welfare of birds and flowers?
  3. What conclusions about worrying (vv. 26 & 30) did Jesus draw from this?
  4. What (vv. 31-32) should distinguish Jesus followers from the unbelievers around them?
  5. What frees them up to be different?
  6. What is promised in verse 33? What must we do to receive this promise?
  7. What does verse 34 tell us about daily struggles? Why do you think Jesus ended his words on worry with these sobering thoughts?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Three times in this passage, Jesus told his disciples not to worry. Ask God for the resolve to treat this as a command rather than take-it-or-leave-it advice.

Matthew 6:25-34

25″That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28″And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31″So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34″So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”

Okay, so today you’ve got choices, but you might like to try all three.

Today’s hymn is one of the greatest of all time, and one of the best-loved, also. Today, you have videos of the top three tunes for this hymn.

For most of us, definitely most of us Americans, and probably all the more casual hymn-singing types out there, CORONATION is the most familiar.

Here’s St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York with a rousing version of this hymn, set to CORONATION.


The next tune is probably the favorite among professional church musicians, but it’s fairly challenging for the average congregation, but give DIADEM a try.

Here is First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska with Sterling Procter’s brilliant brass arrangement accompanying.


Catch your breath, and get ready, there’s one more.

This one is probably the earliest tune pairing, MILES LANE. It’s probably the least favorite of the three, but it’s still a great tune.

Listen in particular in the first verse to the way the melody captures the line, “Let angels prostrate fall.”

The threefold, ascending “crown Him!” is pretty inspiring as well.

Here’s Duke University Chapel.


All hail the power of Jesus’ Name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all!
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all!

Crown him ye martyrs of our God,
who from his altar call:
praise him whose way of pain ye trod,
and crown him Lord of all!
praise him whose way of pain ye trod,
and crown him Lord of all!

Hail him, the Heir of David’s line,
whom David Lord did call,
the God incarnate, Man divine,
and crown him Lord of all!
the God incarnate, Man divine,
and crown him Lord of all!

Ye heirs of Israel’s chosen race,
ye ransomed of the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all!
hail him who saves you by his grace,
and crown him Lord of all!

Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget
the wormwood and the gall,
go, spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all!
go, spread your trophies at his feet,
and crown him Lord of all!

Let every kindred, every tribe,
on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all!
to him all majesty ascribe,
and crown him Lord of all!

Drive-By Birthday Parade for Pastor Jan!

Here’s a Call to Action for all of Central Church’s members and friends, as well as anyone who knows Pastor Jan:

Monday, May 11 is Pastor Jan’s Birthday!




Jan’s daughter, Mallory, is organizing a Quarantine Birthday Parade of cars down Sixth Avenue at 6:30 pm. 

The cars will be forming up at the SOMA Church (6th Avenue & 14th Street) before driving down to 18th Street where Jan will be waiting.

Pastor Jan will be standing near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 18th Street, approximately in front of 1824 Sixth Avenue.

In support of appropriate social distancing, please take a drive down Sixth Avenue at 6:30 and give a honk to Pastor Jan as you cruise by!


Charitable Giving “Nonitemizer” Deduction included in CARES Act

While many in our community are navigating the CARES act for reasons pertaining to their local churches or other small business or for income assistance during this time of uncertainty, there is also a charitable contribution provision that is worth noting for members of our community looking to support COVID-19 relief efforts as well as continuing the efforts of their local churches and other other non-profits.

The CARES Act creates a $300 “nonitemizer” deduction for 2020.  For the nine out of ten individuals who do not itemize deductions on their federal income tax returns, this is a new incentive for increased charitable giving.

Married-filing-jointly taxpayers will get an above-the-line deduction of up to $600.

The deduction:

  • Will apply to donations made for all of 2020
  • Only for people who do not itemize their taxes
  • Donors who itemize their taxes are eligible for the existing charitable deduction
  • Only for cash donations (not property in kind)
  • Can be used by the charity for any purpose (not limited to COVID-19 relief efforts)

Walk Away from Worry – Rose-Colored Glasses?

trusting-in-godKey Bible Verse: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many troubles and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 43:1-4

Some people will tell you that the best way to overcome worry is to put it out of your mind. “Just don’t think about it,” they’ll say. But you can’t do that for long. The best way to overcome worry is to face the truth: You’ll have trouble in the world, but God will enable you to get through it.

Paul wrote from a prison cell, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Philippians 4:12-13).

The providence of God isn’t shallow. Jesus didn’t say, “Nothing bad is ever going to happen to you; everything is going to be fine, so quit worrying.”

If you think nothing really bad will happen to you, your peace is unrealistic and temporary. You’re going to be devastated when hard times hit—and they will hit.

God’s providence doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen to you, but it does mean that God will reinforce and strengthen you through whatever tragedy you face.

—Bob Russell in Jesus, Lord of Your Personality

My Response: A threat I need to pray for the strength to face is ____.

Thought to Apply: The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.  —Tom Watson (founder of IBM)

Adapted from Jesus, Lord of Your Personality (Howard, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You’ve told me, God, to give You my worries because You care about me. Help me hand them over.



A Hymn of Hope and Comfort: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

So here’s a great, grand hymn, fully of majesty and comfort for a troubled time.

There is no shortage of wonderful recordings of this hymn available, and here is a particularly good one from Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  (They sing “Redeemer” instead of “Jehovah.)

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim though this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand;
bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through;
strong deliverer, strong deliverer.
be thou still my strength and shield,
be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side;
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee.

– William Williams, 1745


New Men’s Room LED Light!

Here’s a photo of the beautiful, new LED light shining in our Men’s Room!

A few weeks ago, we replaced 3 of the ceiling lights in our downstairs hallway with brand-new, super-energy-efficient LED lights.

That process was no easy feat since the holes in our ceiling that housed the old fluorescent fixtures required special adapters that we had to install in order to get our new LED flat panel lights to fit.

While we celebrated that improvement at the time, we were also able to install the fourth LED light in our Men’s Room.

You might remember that the old, fluorescent lights in the Men’s Room and elsewhere in our Church were installed WAY BACK in the 1970’s.

For those of us who immediately don’t think that the 1970’s are that far away, just think about it – that’s almost 50 years since those lights were installed.

Those fluorescent fixtures were huge improvements at the time over the dingy and expensive light that we previously had from ceiling incandescent fixtures, but technology and time marches on, and today, our new LED fixtures provide more light at half the cost of fluorescent, giving us improvements to our building while saving us energy costs every single day.

For the Men’s Room in particular, the ballast for the old, 1970’s-era fluorescent light was failing, burning out new fluorescent tubes on an expensive and regular basis, and, most recently, blinking out into darkness every once in a while (which was quite disconcerting if you happened to be using the Men’s Room at the time!)

Celebrate this and all of the other recent improvements, and give a big Thank You to our dedicated Trustees the next time you see one of them (maybe with a fist bump, an elbow rub, a wave across a socially-distanced room, or whatever Eskimo-like greeting we’re supposed to give in this new coronavirus era)!