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Give God Glory – What True Worship Does

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: Not to us, O LORD, but to you goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.  – Psalm 115:1

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 89:8-18

Failure to worship consigns us to a life of spasms and jerks, at the mercy of every advertisement, every seduction. Without worship we live manipulated lives. We move in either frightened panic, alarmed by specters, or deluded lethargy, soothed by placebos. If there’s no center, there’s no circumference. People who don’t worship are swept into a vast restlessness, epidemic in the world, with no steady direction and no sustaining purpose.

  • True worship centers our attention. We begin to see Him—not our own ego—as the center of everything. We start thinking solely in reference to God and His agenda.
  • It gathers people together.  As we worship, we become part of a family. It’s an inclusive, not exclusive, activity.
  • It reveals truth. Familiar patterns of life suddenly expand to become new vistas of experience. We’re uplifted and renewed in mind and spirit.
  • It makes us sing. We can’t hold it back. Worshiping Christians are always singing. Indeed, Christians can sing even when others weep.
  • It affirms. We respond to God’s great promises with a resounding “Amen,” with thousands of voices united in saying “Yes!” to God.

—Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder

My Response: How has worship moved me beyond my personal agenda?

Thought to Apply: The life that is too busy for worship is busier than God intended it to be. While work exhausts, worship renews.—Stuart Holden (British pastor)

Adapted from Reversed Thunder (Harper & Row, 1988)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Give God Glory – Chip Removal

Passionate WorshipKey Bible Verse: I went into your sanctuary, O God … Then I realized how bitter I had become. Psalm 73:17, 21

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 73:13-26

I have often gone into church with a huge spiritual chip on my shoulder. I find things misspelled in the worship bulletin. Look at how little the man in the next row put in the offering plate; he ought to feel ashamed. The preacher should have studied more before coming out to preach.

Then the praise begins! Dumb songs! The choir mumbles. One choir member has over-dyed her hair. The alto soloist sounds too nasal.

More praise! And now, somehow, church doesn’t seem quite as dumb as it did when we first took our place in the pew. The more we sing, the better the over-dyed lady in the choir looks. Finally, she doesn’t look bad at all. Gradually the church seems better and all things offensive look better.

But why? Because we’re being changed. That’s what praise does to us. It scrapes away our negative spirits and replaces them with a smile and a better attitude.

There’s a sense in which we “fake it ’til we make it.” In practicing a happier mood, we somehow become happier people. It really is easier to praise ourselves into a new attitude, than to attitude ourselves into a new way of praise.

— Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: Next time I feel down, I’ll try the praise antidote.

Adapted from Loving God Up Close (Warner Faith, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 14th Sunday after Pentecost – 8-29-2021

On this hot, humid fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when the Delta variant of the coronavirus again prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

  • Today’s online worship service includes a favorite HYMN with lyrics so you can sing along!


AND…

  • Both the video on Facebook and the video on YouTube now have closed captions (if you turn them on) so you can read along with the spoken words during the service!
    •  To activate captions in Facebook, click on the Settings “gear” symbol in the bottom right corner of the image, and then click on the “Off” button to change it to “On” for “Auto-Generated Captions”.
    • To activate captions in YouTube, click on the “CC” icon in the lower right corner of the image to toggle captions On and Off.
      • A brief comment on our new closed caption capability – The closed captions on our videos use voice-recognition software similar to that used on Television broadcasts, and with similar accuracy!  Sometimes, the captions are not entirely accurate, so if you read something incongruous, back up the video a few seconds and listen carefully for what is actually being said.

To begin, simply click on one of the links below to join with the folks who have already made their way into our digital Sanctuary.  You can find this week’s online worship service on both Facebook and YouTube at the following coordinates:

(If the video doesn’t come up after clicking on the link, just copy and paste the address into your browser search bar.)

 

 

Give God Glory – One Thing

African WorshipWho Said It…Tim Hughes

First encountering enthusiastic praise to God at age 11 led Tim, a Brit, to profess his own faith. Five years later, he attended one of the first annual festivals of Soul Survivor, soaking up a passion to reach his own generation for Christ through music.

At 18, Tim spent a year in South Africa working with kids and leading worship. Tim is now a Dove-award winning songwriter of songs like “Here I Am to Worship.”

What He Said…One Thing

The Prince of Peace congregation was gathering. Sweat poured down my face. Looking toward the front of the church, I saw no drums, amps, or keyboards—not even any microphones or speakers. How on earth were we going to worship?

Then a loud voice pierced the silence. Instantly all the people were on their feet singing their hearts out. Beautiful harmonies and melodies filled the air. Infectious joy and heartfelt adoration lit up their faces.

I was confused. This was the impoverished Inanda Township in Durban, South Africa, where aids is rife and suffering part of everyday life.  Surely their songs should be dirges!

But as the service progressed, the reason for their joy struck me. Although well aware of their present, they’d encountered Jesus and were wholly consumed with Him. Whatever life threw at them couldn’t rob them of the glorious riches of knowing God. They understood where they were going.

Worship, I learned that Sunday morning, isn’t about music.

It’s about Jesus.

Adapted from Here I Am to Worship (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are entitled to praise from all Your creatures, O God. Free me up and energize me to do my part.

Faith Handoff – Discipleship

DiscipleshipTimothy is the first second-generation Christian mentioned in the New Testament. His grandmother Lois and mother Eunice had probably heard Paul preach in Lystra during his first visit there.

They had become believers and faithfully influenced Timothy for the Lord. But his father apparently wasn’t a Christian. Paul stepped in to recruit Timothy as an aide, and also to act as his spiritual father.

Interact with God’s Word

2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:2

  1. How was Paul intentional about discipling Timothy (see Acts 16:1-5)?
  2. How had Timothy acquired his understanding of the “great truths” that he was to pass on (2:2a)?
  3. How was Timothy to evaluate and safeguard what he had learned from Paul (2:2a and 1:14)?
  4. How can you tell that Paul’s assignment to Timothy (in 2:2b) was to do individual mentoring?
  5. What kind of mentoring would produce learners able to pass their faith on?
  6. How would your church expand if every believer was winning someone else to faith and equipping him to pass on his faith?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to set spiritual multiplication in motion in your church. Ask Him to begin the process with you, turning you into a reproducing disciple.

2 Timothy 1:13-14

13 Hold on to the pattern of right teaching you learned from me. And remember to live in the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 With the help of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard what has been entrusted to you.

2 Timothy 2:2

2 You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 8-27-2021

 

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of August 27, 2021, showing another weekly deterioration over last week.

Note:  Starting 8-12-2021, we have shifted from using the PA Dept. of Health statistics to using the CDC statistics for Beaver County.

The primary differences are that the CDC divides the middle category into two categories, and some of the category labels have changed.  Here’s the comparison:

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 165.3 to 203.7 (an increase of 38.4, or 23.2%) in the HIGH category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has moved down from 9.5% to 8.5%, in the Moderate category.

(Allegheny County’s figures moved up during the past week from 80.5 and 5.1% to 93.3 and 5.2%.)

    • Beaver County is now classified as SUBSTANTIAL on the original PA DOH scale and HIGH on the CDC scale.

(If both metrics are Moderate, the PA Dept. of Health’s recommended school instructional model is Hybrid Learning.)

  • The Delta COVID-19 variant first identified in India is more contagious and can cause more severe illness than other known variants.  The variant can produce 10 times the amount of virus in people’s airways as the one first identified in the UK.  In other words, it’s more contagious than the viruses behind MERS, SARS, Ebola, the 1918 flu, and smallpox.

  • Vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections – an estimated tens of thousands of people in the US each week – may spread delta as easily as unvaccinated people.  However, they’re less likely than the unvaccinated to get infections in the first place – or to get severely ill or die.

 

  • Of all the people who died of COVID-19 last month, 99.8% were unvaccinated, making it more important every day that we do all that we can to protect the people who come to our Church.

On April 5, the CDC issued a “Science Brief” outlining that, in addition to people becoming infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects,  the principal mode by which people are infected with COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.


  • Small Group Meetings (Sunday School, AA, other meetings):

The current guidance on when and how gatherings can take place is based upon the threshold of infection rate.

For Indoor meetings/Sunday School to resume, the 7-day average of daily cases for gatherings that include unvaccinated folks should be:

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 29.1, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

As the pandemic continues, we are continuing our efforts to:

  • Disinfect Central Church prior to every worship service and feeding ministry event using EPA-registered products in compliance with CDC standards to kill germs and reduce the risk of spreading infection, and in compliance with EPA criteria for use against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and

  • We are also employing HEPA-13 air filtration equipment to help reduce any airborne coronavirus in our Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall. 

  • Our new HEPA-13 air filtration equipment is rated to remove COVID-19 from the air, and provides 5.7 complete air changes every hour in our Sanctuary (every 11 minutes),  (5.0 air changes per hour is the EPA’s general recommended standard.)  

Central Church

Faith Handoff – More than Lunch

Men at LunchKey Bible Verse: Then he selected twelve of them to be his regular companions. Mark 3:14

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:1, 6-10

Greg, who taught high school, intentionally explored ways to invest in young lives. He even established a fund with which to take young men out to lunch. If you know male teenagers, you know they never turn down a free lunch!

But these meals weren’t merely to have casual conversation or establish friendships. Greg targeted certain young men in his class, invited them out for lunch, and then was intentional about providing accountability, direction, and insight into their questions, commitments, and decisions.

These kids so yearned for this depth of communication and relationship that they eagerly responded to Greg’s effort. But for this to happen, Greg needed to be intentional, to make a time (and financial) commitment, and to risk by going beneath the surface in a relationship with a young person.

The payoff was huge, however, as Greg became a spiritual guide to a generation of young men whose lives he pointed toward living in light of eternity. Greg has performed weddings, attended graduations and reunions, and stayed in contact with his protégés as they made an effort to keep him in the loop of their lives. He was their spiritual guide.

—Daniel Egeler in Shaping the Next Generation

My Response: How could I turn an acquaintance into an intentional growth opportunity?

Thought to Apply: Significance is making a difference in the lives of people over time.—Phil Downer (Discipleship Network of America president)

Adapted from Shaping the Next Generation (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Is It Okay for a Christian To . . . (Google Autofill)


Is it OK for a Christian to . . . (Google Autofill)
Have you ever Googled “is it okay for a Christian to . . . ” and then filled in the blank with everything from watching Game of Thrones to cremation, attending a gay wedding to getting a tattoo, practicing yoga to drinking wine?

You’re not alone. But don’t get the answer off the internet. There’s a better way.

I sketched the following out on a whiteboard at the start of a weekend series offered at Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck), and one of my faithful staffers polished it up a bit for better consumption. I used it as a schematic of sorts on how to walk through things that present themselves to us in our modern day.

Let me take you through “is it okay for a christian to” and see what you think.

Image by Church & Culture Team

Image by Church & Culture Team

Finding out whether something is “okay” begins with the top left box, that reflects going to the Bible to see what it has to say. If you want to know whether something is okay for a Christian, then you need to start with the authoritative guide for Christ-following.

The Bible gives you one of three answers: permission, prohibition or principles.

If blanket permission is granted, your investigation is complete. You are free to partake or pursue. If there is a direct prohibition, then you are not.

But most of the time, particularly in regard to many of the issues puzzling Christians in our culture, there is neither a blanket permission nor prohibition. More often than not, the answers are thrown into the “freedom” box of life.

But it’s not cut-loose freedom; it’s freedom within the confines of a set of biblical principles. These principles form the boundary lines for freedom in Christ.

So is that the end of it?  You simply pursue the freedom you’ve been given in light of the principles of the Bible?

No.

There’s Another Box, Best Labeled “Wisdom.”

While you and I may have joint freedom in Christ on a particular issue, it might be foolish for me to exercise it, but not for you.  We all have backgrounds and dispositions, histories and inclinations, strengths and weaknesses.

Less sophisticated is just common-sense wisdom.  Just because you’re free to do something doesn’t mean it’s smart.

(You may be free to get that tattoo but having “I love Samantha” inked on your arm at 16 may not be smart when you might start dating Sarah at 17, or want to marry Sharon at 23.)

Finally, there is the consideration of living out our lives before a watching world. In this regard, the apostle Paul gives two primary guidelines: first, do not do anything that would lead the world to believe you have disavowed Christ and worship another god; and second, do not exercise your freedom in a manner that would lead a fellow believer in close proximity into sin themselves.

Let’s call these ideas “witness” and “weakness.”

This is the gauntlet you run the questions of life through.

Sounds simple enough, but knowing how to do so is one of the principle lessons of discipleship, and few invest the time and energy needed to engage its dynamics.

As mentioned, at Meck we completed an eight-week journey through “is it okay for a christian to?” Here were the eight topics we explored:

Is it okay for a Christian to . . .

… watch Game of Thrones? (or anything rated “R”)

… drink wine or smoke marijuana?

… gamble?

… practice yoga?

… participate in, or even go to, a gay wedding?

… vote for _________? (many ways to fill in this blank!)

… get a tattoo, be cremated or have cosmetic surgery?

not go to church?

If you’re interested in the series, you can get it here.  It was one of the most popular series in the history of our church through various metrics we track.

Why?

People want to know what’s “okay.”

They just don’t know how to find out.

This article about “Is it Okay for a Christian To . . .” originally appeared here.


Central Church

5 Snares of the Enemy

Here is an article by Chuck Lawless outlining some of the traps set for Christians and Non-Christians by Satan.


Snares of the Enemy
Every one of us is responsible for his or her sin, but we still wrestle against an enemy who seeks to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). In fact, we could list multiple snares of the enemy, where he tries to trap us in sin.

 Here, though, are some reminders we likely all need:

5 Snares of the Enemy

1. He magnifies the temporary and minimizes the long-term.

Sin does bring pleasure at times—but the enemy doesn’t want us to see that it’s only fleeting. Nor does he want us to recognize that temporary pleasure leads to bondages and judgment.

2. He elevates the fear of missing out over the joy of obedience.

“Look at what you’re missing if you follow God,” is a refrain the enemy has used on us since the Garden of Eden. He dangles the bait in front of us, makes it look inviting, and wants us to forget the joy that obedience can bring.

3. He promotes the secrecy of sin over submission to God.

Just like Adam and Eve hid in the Garden, so the enemy wants us to hide. In fact, he wants us to remain in the darkness, never submitting to God and never confessing our sin.

4. He encourages listening to the world’s voice over the Word of God.

Like a commercial designed to convince you in 30 seconds to buy something, the enemy capitalizes on the world’s offers of pleasure, power, and possessions. And, he often wins because we don’t know the Word well enough to counter him.

5. He pushes independence and isolation over fellowship with the people of God.

Many of us find ourselves most vulnerable to temptation when we’re alone—when we foolishly try to fight the enemy on our own. Genuine Christian fellowship is a counter to this tendency.

In which of these five snares of the enemy do you find yourself most vulnerable?  How do you live in victory in your life?

This article about the snares of the enemy originally appeared here


Central Church

Faith Handoff – More than Lunch

Men at LunchKey Bible Verse: Then he selected twelve of them to be his regular companions. Mark 3:14

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:1, 6-10

Greg, who taught high school, intentionally explored ways to invest in young lives. He even established a fund with which to take young men out to lunch. If you know male teenagers, you know they never turn down a free lunch!

But these meals weren’t merely to have casual conversation or establish friendships. Greg targeted certain young men in his class, invited them out for lunch, and then was intentional about providing accountability, direction, and insight into their questions, commitments, and decisions.

These kids so yearned for this depth of communication and relationship that they eagerly responded to Greg’s effort. But for this to happen, Greg needed to be intentional, to make a time (and financial) commitment, and to risk by going beneath the surface in a relationship with a young person.

The payoff was huge, however, as Greg became a spiritual guide to a generation of young men whose lives he pointed toward living in light of eternity. Greg has performed weddings, attended graduations and reunions, and stayed in contact with his protégés as they made an effort to keep him in the loop of their lives. He was their spiritual guide.

—Daniel Egeler in Shaping the Next Generation

My Response: How could I turn an acquaintance into an intentional growth opportunity?

Thought to Apply: Significance is making a difference in the lives of people over time.—Phil Downer (Discipleship Network of America president)

Adapted from Shaping the Next Generation (NavPress, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – Case Study

Harvard Business School ClassKey Bible Verse: Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here.  – Acts 17:6

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 28:18-20

The Harvard Business School normally evaluates international corporations. But for the first time in its history, the school took a look at a church.

On the day that they discussed the case, Dr. Leonard Schlesinger began by turning to a student in the front row. Looking her in the eye, he asked, “Okay, what do you think of the one-sentence mission statement of Willow Creek Community Church?”

“Well,” she said, “they say they’re trying to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.”

The popular professor shook his head… “No! No! No!'” he said vigorously. “I didn’t ask you what the mission statement was. I want to know what you think about it! What’s your visceral reaction? How do you feel about it?”

The young student was clearly flustered but said, “Uh, I don’t really come from a religious background. But when they say that they’re trying to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ, it sounds to me like they’re well … like they’re trying to turn atheists into missionaries!”

And then, collecting her thoughts, she added, “And frankly, sir, I see that as being one hell of a challenge!”

—James Emery White in You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life

My Response: I’ll ask God for His power to accomplish the otherwise impossible.

Thought to Apply: The only adequate answer [to an aggressively pagan world] is for Christians to recover the New Testament power of spiritual aggression.—Karl Barth

Adapted from You Can Experience … a Purposeful Life (Word, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – How Daws Told It

Navy MenKey Bible Verse: Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!  – Matthew 4:19

Bonus Reading:  John 1:40-42; Matthew 4:18-22

Twenty-three years ago, I took a born-again sailor and spent time with him, showing him how to reproduce spiritually after his kind. It took lots of time. I taught him how to study God’s Word and how to fill the quiver of his heart with the arrows of God’s Word, so that the Spirit of God could lift an arrow from his heart, place it to the bow of his lips, and pierce a heart for Christ.

He found a number of men on his ship who’d go to church with him, but none would go all out for the Lord. He came to me after a month of this and said, “Dawson, I can’t get any of these guys to get down to business.”

“Listen,” I told him, “You can’t have two until you have one. Ask God to give you one man after your own heart.”

He began to pray. One day he came to me and said, “I think I’ve found him.” He worked with this new believer, and those two fellows began to grow and spiritually reproduce. On that ship 125 men found the Savior before it was sunk at Pearl Harbor. Men off that first battleship are in four continents as missionaries today. It was necessary to make a start, however. The devil’s trick is to stop anything like this before it gets started.

—Dawson Trotman in Born to Reproduce

My Response: I’ll ask God to give me one man to disciple.

Thought to Apply: Men are not soul winners because of what they know, but because of Who they know, how well they know Him, and how much they long for others to know Him.—Dawson Trotman

Adapted from Born to Reproduce (NavPress, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – A Matter of Principle

Navy ManKey Bible Verse: Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:2

Bonus Reading:  2 Timothy 1:13-14

In 1933, Les Spencer was a young sailor aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia off the California coast. While washing dishes, he received a telegram: “Meet me at the San Pedro dock at 4 p.m. I’ll be wearing a dark coat, light trousers, and tan shoes. Dawson Trotman.”

Les didn’t recognize the name. But curious, he showed up at the dock. A man emerged from the crowd of Navy men, stuck out his hand, and made fast friends with the sailor. For the next three months, Dawson spent hours teaching Les about the Bible, evangelism, and follow-up.

Then one day Les brought his friend Gurney Harris to the Trotman house. He told Daws, “Give this man what you’ve been giving me.”

“No,” Dawson replied, “I’m not going to. You’re going to give this man what I’ve been giving to you.”

Les protested, “But I’ve never been to Bible school; I don’t know how. I can’t.”

Daws replied, “If you can’t give to Gurney what I’ve given to you, then I’ve failed.”  The founder of The Navigators believed in spiritual multiplication—that Christians shouldn’t just make disciples, they should reproduce disciples who are also disciplemakers.

Les accepted the challenge.

—Robert D. Foster in The Navigator

My Response: How open am I to the challenge of becoming a disciple maker?

Adapted from The Navigator (NavPress, 1983)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

Faith Handoff – Team that Couldn’t Lose

RelayRace Baton DropWho Said It…Greg Ogden

While serving as pastor of the Saratoga Federated Church in California, Greg developed a discipleship program—Discipleship Essentials (InterVarsity, 1998)—that has since been used by more than 15,000 people.

Greg has taught lay equipping and discipleship at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is now executive pastor of discipleship at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Illinois.

What He Said…Team that Couldn’t Lose

At the Olympic games in 1988 in Seoul, Korea, the American 4 x 100 relay team was poised to break the world record and assume its position as the best in the world. It had peerless athletes. The only question was whether it would crack the world record.

Yet as the final leg of the race approached, the unthinkable happened. The Americans dropped the baton. The crowd, electrified moments earlier, was left in stunned silence. The American team had arrogantly relied on its inherent speed and failed to sufficiently practice the handoff so crucial for completion of the race.

“Every Christian must see himself as the link to the next generation,” writes William Barclay. We need to practice the handoff. When all else fails, read the directions. It is not that Jesus’ way has been tried and found wanting; it has largely been talked about but not implemented. Return to small, reproducible, long-term relationships as the means of transmission of the gospel from one generation to the next.

Adapted from Transforming Discipleship (Inter-Varsity, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me become a disciple You can use to form and shape other disciples.

What Makes Hell, Hell?

Here for our consideration is an important article by Paul David Tripp giving a description of three of the attributes of Hell.


It is perhaps the most uncomfortable aspect of Christian theology to talk about, but if we have any tenderness in our hearts, it should make us passionate communicators.

What is it? 

The belief in the existence of hell, a place of eternal punishment for the wicked.

We cannot escape this doctrine in the Word of God. If you live a life of unrepentant spiritual adultery, denying God’s existence, breaking his wise commands, and forsaking his glory for your own, you will spend eternity in hell.

What is hell, and what makes hell hell? For at least three reasons, this sad and ominous reality should produce both grief and motivation.

1. Separation from God

Every person, believer or unbeliever, benefits from the existence, power, and grace of God. The Lord’s presence is what holds the world together and gives the universe its order, beauty, and regularity. Imagine what would happen if, for just one moment, God withdrew his presence. Everything around us would explode into utter chaos!

Now, imagine that chaos, with absolutely no end. It’s impossible to communicate the horror of this reality. Hell is an existence far beyond any darkness that any human being has ever experienced.

2. Inhumanity

Read Romans 1:29–31 and consider how far humanity has tumbled from the perfection that was the Garden of Eden: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (ESV)

The King James Version translates “heartless” as “without natural affection” – progressive loss of an individual’s humanity. Remember, the Apostle Paul was writing about his present society, where God was still exercising restraint. Imagine the inhumanity that would ensue if God allowed every wicked impulse free rein because he completely withdrew his presence.

3. Unending Torment

Jesus describes hell as a place where “the fire never goes out” and where “the worms that eat them do not die” (Mark 9:43, 48, NIV). God will say to some, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, ESV). It truly is a place of torment forever and ever (see Luke 16:23 and Revelation 14:11).

You might be thinking, “This doesn’t sound like a devotional of encouragement?  Why write such an explicit piece about the horrors of hell?”

The fact that we think eternal punishment is harsh and makes God less than fair demonstrates how far we have strayed from the biblical understanding of how destructive evil is and how gloriously holy God is.

The biblical description of hell’s torment is a gift to us from God, a mechanism for us to weigh the magnitude of the sinfulness of our sin and to remember what is truly important in this temporary life.

So yes, be encouraged (and sobered) by the warning of hell. Celebrate that all who have put their trust in Jesus (by grace alone) will never see the dark side of eternity. Agonize over the eternal, God-separated torment that awaits those who have rejected that rescuing and forgiving grace.

And then act. The doctrine of hell must shake us out of complacency. You should not be able to read what I have just described with a nonchalant passivity. Any genuine follower of Jesus will wish that no one would ever experience eternal punishment and want to participate in communicating the message of eternal salvation.

Today, ask the Lord to free you from your claustrophobic bubble of temporary comforts. Pray that the Spirit prompts you to prioritize eternal destiny over physical pleasures. Love your neighbors by telling them about heaven and hell.


Central Church

 

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Going All Out

Chariots of FireKey Bible Verse: I will gladly spend myself and all I have for your spiritual good.  – 2 Corinthians 12:15

Bonus Reading:  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Eric Liddell won the 400-meter race in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, as featured in the movie Chariots of Fire. Afterward, he said that knowing he wasn’t expected to win, he went “all out.”

Along with developing his athletic skills, Eric shaped a servant’s heart, overcoming shyness to speak for the Glasgow Students Evangelistic Union both before and after his Olympic feat. He then served as a missionary in China. After Japan invaded and occupied China, Eric was among some 1,800 civilian “enemy nationals” forced into an internment camp at Weihsien.

Knowing the times were desperate, Eric went “all out,” as he’d done in the 400, to help others. He taught in the improvised school, organized and coached an athletic program that included rugby and basketball, planned and spoke at Sunday services, taught Bible classes, organized weeknight activities for teens, resolved bitter conflicts between fellow internees, and carried coal and water for the weak. “Uncle Eric” somehow found time to give many personal attention and care. For one girl, he made a beautiful notebook filled with drawings.

Having shaped a servant’s heart his whole life, Eric was mentally prepared to reach out with God’s love to those in great need.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: What am I doing to shape a servant’s heart?

Thought to Apply: God is not looking for more stars; He’s looking for more servants.—Howard Hendricks

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 8-20-2021

 

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of August 20, 2021, showing another weekly deterioration over last week.

Note:  Starting 8-12-2021, we have shifted from using the PA Dept. of Health statistics to using the CDC statistics for Beaver County.

The primary differences are that the CDC divides the middle category into two categories, and some of the category labels have changed.  Here’s the comparison:

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 142.1 to 165.3 (an increase of 23.2, or 16.3%) in the HIGH category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has moved up from 7.4% to 9.5%, in the Moderate category.

(Allegheny County’s figures moved up during the past week from 63.7 and 5.1% to 80.5 and 5.1%.)

    • Beaver County is now classified as MODERATE on the original PA DOH scale and HIGH on the CDC scale.

(If both metrics are Moderate, the PA Dept. of Health’s recommended school instructional model is Hybrid Learning.)

  • The Delta COVID-19 variant first identified in India is more contagious and can cause more severe illness than other known variants.  The variant can produce 10 times the amount of virus in people’s airways as the one first identified in the UK.  In other words, it’s more contagious than the viruses behind MERS, SARS, Ebola, the 1918 flu, and smallpox.

  • Vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections – an estimated tens of thousands of people in the US each week – may spread delta as easily as unvaccinated people.  However, they’re less likely than the unvaccinated to get infections in the first place – or to get severely ill or die.
  • Of all the people who died of COVID-19 last month, 99.8% were unvaccinated, making it more important every day that we do all that we can to protect the people who come to our Church.

On April 5, the CDC issued a “Science Brief” outlining that, in addition to people becoming infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects,  the principal mode by which people are infected with COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.


  • Small Group Meetings (Sunday School, AA, other meetings):

The current guidance on when and how gatherings can take place is based upon the threshold of infection rate.

For Indoor meetings/Sunday School to resume, the 7-day average of daily cases for gatherings that include unvaccinated folks should be:

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 23.6, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

As the pandemic continues, we are continuing our efforts to:

  • Disinfect Central Church prior to every worship service and feeding ministry event using EPA-registered products in compliance with CDC standards to kill germs and reduce the risk of spreading infection, and in compliance with EPA criteria for use against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and

  • We are also employing HEPA-13 air filtration equipment to help reduce any airborne coronavirus in our Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall. 

  • Our new HEPA-13 air filtration equipment is rated to remove COVID-19 from the air, and provides 5.7 complete air changes every hour in our Sanctuary,  (5.0 air changes per hour is the EPA’s general recommended standard.)  

Central Church

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Drive Away?

Car TroubleKey Bible Verse: “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”  – Matthew 25:40

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:14-3:5

Walking out of the packed mall, I prayed, “God, help me connect with people in ways that make a difference for Your kingdom.” As I neared my car in the lot, I noticed a pickup with a man working under the hood. “Not now!” I silently objected, “I’ll be late for my meeting.” “Can I help?” I asked, hoping he’d say no.

He said yes. I cranked the starter when he said to. Between cranks he said he’d done lots wrong but had worked with a Christian in his former job. Now unemployed, he was traveling to where he hoped a job was waiting. Learning that I was a Christian, he asked about Jesus’ forgiveness. Our discussion turned to the Bible. He would read it, he said, if he had a copy.

I helped him borrow tools from a nearby shop, talked through repair options with him, and kept cranking the starter till he got the engine running and the distributor adjusted. I offered to buy him dinner, but he didn’t have time. After he left to return the tools, I placed a note and money for a Bible or a meal on his steering wheel.

When I got home, my daughter asked, “Did you help a guy in a parking lot?” He’d called to thank me.

—Stephen Sorenson in Like Your Neighbor?

My Response: I’ll pray Stephen’s shopping-mall prayer today.

Thought to Apply: We must not spare our hand where it can perform a service [nor] assume that our schedule is our own to manage.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pastor)

Adapted from Like Your Neighbor? (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Christ’s Triumphal Procession

Roman Triumphal ProcessionThe images Paul evokes in this passage are to us both exotic and familiar.

The exotic: a Roman victory parade, in which a long string of POWs and war booty were marched by the reviewing stand amidst a cloud of incense burned to the gods.

The familiar: a reference letter sent to others to introduce and commend a colleague.

Interact with God’s Word

2 Corinthians 2:14-3:5

  1. In light of 2:14, is seeing yourself as a free agent who volunteers time for Christian service an adequate understanding?
  2. Can you state as Paul did (2:14) that “wherever we go he [God] uses us”?
  3. Do the widely differing responses to witness that Paul encountered (2:15-16) match your own experience?
  4. How should your service be impacted by awareness (2:17b) that God has sent you? … that He’s watching you?
  5. Did Paul’s assertion (3:1-3) that the people he’d worked with were all the endorsement he needed mean that all their conduct was exemplary?
  6. Did Paul take the credit for lives being transformed (3:3b-5a)? Who did he credit?
  7. How did Paul’s statement in 3:5b answer his own question in 2:16b?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to give you power and confidence in service as you rely on His Spirit to make you successful.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

14 But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing.

16 To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 17 You see, we are not like those hucksters—and there are many of them—who preach just to make money. We preach God’s message with sincerity and with Christ’s authority. And we know that the God who sent us is watching us.

2 Corinthians 3:1-5

1 Are we beginning again to tell you how good we are? Some people need to bring letters of recommendation with them or ask you to write letters of recommendation for them. 2 But the only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves! Your lives are a letter written in our hearts, and everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.

3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ prepared by us. It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts. 4 We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. 5 It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God.

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you. — John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Skill Position

Throwing a Football to a ChildKey Bible Verse: God has given to each of you … spiritual gifts … so that God’s generosity can flow through you.   – 1 Peter 4:10

Bonus Reading:  Mark 9:33-37

José Morena spends his workdays sweeping trash, wiping toilets, and scrubbing floors as a custodian at Lincoln Elementary School in Oxnard, California. Though he excels at his work, it isn’t what he’s known for at the school.

During recess, Morena’s a quarterback. With his ring of keys jangling from his belt loop, he throws spirals to pint-sized receivers. His presence on the field makes the friendly games more fun and prevents spats, according to the students. He does the same on the basketball court.

Morena also helps the teachers in the classroom. Because he’s bilingual, he can translate between teachers and parents. He also stands in for teachers when they have to leave their classrooms. Morena has two daughters of his own, but he also acts as a father figure to many students, particularly boys, who don’t have fathers at home.

The kids on the playground light up when asked about Morena: “José has always been there for me. He’s someone you can talk to, and he understands,” says ten-year-old Amber Castillo. He’s living proof that you don’t have to have an impressive job or powerful position to impact lives. Being important is about serving others, about being a role model for kids.

—Bill McCartney in 4th and Goal

My Response: Who am I uniquely positioned to serve today?

Thought to Apply: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.—Charles Dickens

Adapted from 4th and Goal (Tyndale, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Skill Position

Throwing a Football to a ChildKey Bible Verse: God has given to each of you … spiritual gifts … so that God’s generosity can flow through you.   – 1 Peter 4:10

Bonus Reading:  Mark 9:33-37

José Morena spends his workdays sweeping trash, wiping toilets, and scrubbing floors as a custodian at Lincoln Elementary School in Oxnard, California. Though he excels at his work, it isn’t what he’s known for at the school.

During recess, Morena’s a quarterback. With his ring of keys jangling from his belt loop, he throws spirals to pint-sized receivers. His presence on the field makes the friendly games more fun and prevents spats, according to the students. He does the same on the basketball court.

Morena also helps the teachers in the classroom. Because he’s bilingual, he can translate between teachers and parents. He also stands in for teachers when they have to leave their classrooms. Morena has two daughters of his own, but he also acts as a father figure to many students, particularly boys, who don’t have fathers at home.

The kids on the playground light up when asked about Morena: “José has always been there for me. He’s someone you can talk to, and he understands,” says ten-year-old Amber Castillo. He’s living proof that you don’t have to have an impressive job or powerful position to impact lives. Being important is about serving others, about being a role model for kids.

—Bill McCartney in 4th and Goal

My Response: Who am I uniquely positioned to serve today?

Thought to Apply: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.—Charles Dickens

Adapted from 4th and Goal (Tyndale, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Snow Job

Brushing Snow from CarKey Bible Verse: You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.  – Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: Matthew 6:1-4

I had worked later than usual one winter evening and hadn’t noticed the steadily accumulating blanket of white. Walking out into our office parking lot, I was startled. Each of the handful of cars left in the lot looked like a huge white marshmallow. I located mine, started the engine, and climbed back out with brush and window scraper. The soft, fluffy coating came off so easily that I was almost disappointed to finish so quickly.

I looked around at the three other cars in the lot. One belonged to my friend Julie. I’d just said good-bye to her, and it looked like she was going to be working for quite a while yet. Clearing off her car was great fun. I pictured her coming outside, shocked at the amount of snow, worrying about trudging around in a dark, vacant parking lot—then seeing her car all cleared off and ready to go. Imagining her smile made me smile too. Cleaning off the other two cars was also fun.

A day or two later, Julie figured out who’d done it and expressed her appreciation. But Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:1-4 tell me that perhaps clearing off the other two cars had the greater value.

—Nate Adams in The Home Team

My Response: How do I guess God will reward “undercover” good deeds?

Thought to Apply: The reward for a good deed is to have done it.—Proverb

Adapted from The Home Team (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Biscuits in the ‘Hood

Pot on StoveKey Bible Verse: Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.  – 1 John 3:18

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Each year, a few days before the holidays, members of the True Love Missionary Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, spend a Saturday morning gathering food for the needy in the neighborhood.

On this side of Dallas, there’s a lot of need. There are burglar bars on most of the windows, and the used car lots are surrounded by fences topped with razor wire. Even though the church is far from opulent, it puts aside its own needs to serve others less fortunate.

When I got to the church to produce a special radio documentary for the holiday season, the back door was wide open. No one was around, so I went inside. The only sound came from the kitchen in the family center where you could hear someone preparing breakfast for the volunteers who’d show up later. The smell of scrambled eggs, biscuits, grits, and bacon was incredible. I followed the aroma, carrying my tape recorder and microphone, and met a middle-aged woman with a cast-iron skillet in her hand. She never even looked up to ask who I was or what I wanted. She asked only one question: “Are you hungry?”

When the first thing a person says to you is “are you hungry?” that is a church.

—Jody Dean in Finding God in the Evening News

My Response: What action of mine has modeled Christ’s compassion?

Adapted from Finding God in the Evening News (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 12th Sunday after Pentecost – 8-15-2021

On this warm, sunny twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, when the coronavirus prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

  • Today’s online worship service includes a favorite HYMN with lyrics so you can sing along!


AND…

  • Both the video on Facebook and the video on YouTube now have closed captions (if you turn them on) so you can read along with the spoken words during the service!
    •  To activate captions in Facebook, click on the Settings “gear” symbol in the bottom right corner of the image, and then click on the “Off” button to change it to “On” for “Auto-Generated Captions”.
    • To activate captions in YouTube, click on the “CC” icon in the lower right corner of the image to toggle captions On and Off.
      • A brief comment on our new closed caption capability – The closed captions on our videos use voice-recognition software similar to that used on Television broadcasts, and with similar accuracy!  Sometimes, the captions are not entirely accurate, so if you read something incongruous, back up the video a few seconds and listen carefully for what is actually being said.

To begin, simply click on one of the links below to join with the folks who have already made their way into our digital Sanctuary.  You can find this week’s online worship service on both Facebook and YouTube at the following coordinates:

(If the video doesn’t come up after clicking on the link, just copy and paste the address into your browser search bar.)

 

 

The Spectator-to-Server Shift – Into the Game

ChurchWho Said It…Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. Its Willow Creek Association serves as a resource to thousands of churches that share an “outward-focused” emphasis, aiming to “turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.”

Bill is a sailing buff. He and Lynne are the parents of two adult children.

What He Said…Into the Game

Every churchgoer has a choice to make. He can either (a) park in his usual spot in the church parking lot, make his way to a favorite seat, experience a good service, chat with friends, and go home—a nice, safe Sunday morning experience. Or (b) throw himself into an adventure by rolling up his sleeves, joining a team of like-minded servants, and helping to build the local church God has called him to be a part of.

“Three years ago,” one person wrote, “you challenged me to get involved as a volunteer. I was hesitant at first, but you wouldn’t let up. Now I can’t thank you enough. The meaning I derive, the sense of ownership I feel, the friendships I have built, the spiritual growth I’ve experienced—it’s all directly related to finding my niche in serving.”

Most who commit to serving feel scared or think they have little to offer, but they decide to take a first step. Some serve faithfully in less-than-ideal situations before they discover what they’re really good at—the perfect volunteer niche for them.

Adapted from The Volunteer Revolution (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving you.—John Wesley

A Bother…and a Joy – Energy and Rewards

Helping OthersThe verses we’re focusing in on are embedded in Jesus’ teaching about loving our enemies.

Of course, you can’t “fall into” this kind of love; it takes a conscious act of the will. But so does demonstrating love to others around us who are more neutral.

Today we look at the energy required for this kind of involvement—and the rewards promised.

Interact with God’s Word

Luke 6:30-34, 36, 38

  1. Being kind and thoughtful to your family and friends requires a fair amount of effort. Do Jesus’ words in verses 32-33 seem harsh?
  2. Does expecting you to extend your favors to those who are hostile or demanding (v. 30) seem reasonable?
  3. How does the “golden rule” (v. 31) move beyond the usual belief that you should avoid harming others?
  4. According to verse 36, does the requirement that you care for others in this way depend on whether they deserve it? What is it based on?
  5. Would you describe your level of caring and giving as a small or large measure (v. 38)?
  6. Have you experienced the payback for investing in others’ lives that Jesus described? Can you give an example?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to expand your willingness to deliberately invest in others, and your joy in seeing fruit in their lives.

Luke 6:30-34, 36, 38

30 “Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do for others as you would like them to do for you. 32 Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that!

33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even sinners will lend to their own kind for a full return.

36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

38 If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 8-12-2021

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of August 12, 2021, showing a moderation over last week.

  • The Incidence Rate declined by 6.8 points (8.2%) to 75.6 from last week’s 82.4 in the Moderate category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has moved down to 6.7% from last week’s 7.6%, in the Moderate category.

(Allegheny County’s figures moved up during the past week from 52.9 and 4.9% to 63.7 and 5.1%.)

    • Beaver County is now classified as MODERATE on the original PA DOH scale and SUBSTANTIAL on the CDC scale.

(If both metrics are Moderate, the PA Dept. of Health’s recommended school instructional model is Hybrid Learning.)

  • The Delta COVID-19 variant first identified in India is more contagious and can cause more severe illness than other known variants.  The variant can produce 10 times the amount of virus in people’s airways as the one first identified in the UK.  In other words, it’s more contagious than the viruses behind MERS, SARS, Ebola, the 1918 flu, and smallpox.

  • Vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections – an estimated tens of thousands of people in the US each week – may spread delta as easily as unvaccinated people.  However, they’re less likely than the unvaccinated to get infections in the first place – or to get severely ill or die.
  • Of all the people who died of COVID-19 last month, 99.2% were unvaccinated, making it more important every day that we do all that we can to protect the people who come to our Church.

On April 5, the CDC issued a “Science Brief” outlining that, in addition to people becoming infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects,  the principal mode by which people are infected with COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.


  • Small Group Meetings (Sunday School, AA, other meetings):

The current guidance on when and how gatherings can take place is based upon the threshold of infection rate.

For Indoor meetings/Sunday School to resume, the 7-day average of daily cases for gatherings that include unvaccinated folks should be:

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 10.8, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

As the pandemic continues, we are continuing our efforts to:

  • Disinfect Central Church prior to every worship service and feeding ministry event using EPA-registered products in compliance with CDC standards to kill germs and reduce the risk of spreading infection, and in compliance with EPA criteria for use against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and

  • We are also employing HEPA-13 air filtration equipment to help reduce any airborne coronavirus in our Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall.   

Central Church

A Bother…and a Joy – Buckling by the Book

Baby on AirplaneKey Bible Verse: Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 21:28-31a

Beat after two weeks of Calcutta’s filth and heat, Doug Nichols boarded the clean, air-conditioned Thai jumbo jet. His seat flanked an empty center section, where he anticipated stretching out after takeoff. But then workers streamed into the cabin carrying large baskets, and set one on each vacant seat. Babies! Two per basket. Close to 100 orphans for adoption, with only two Indian caretakers.

As they taxied, an alarmed flight attendant yelled excitedly in Thai at one uncomprehending caretaker. Grasping the problem, Doug reached across, fastened the belt over a basket, went to the next, buckled it … row after row. Securing the last basket, he jumped into his seat as the plane lifted off.

“You must really like babies!” exclaimed his seatmate.

“Not particularly.”

“Then why’d you do that?”

“I didn’t want to sin.”

“What’s buckling babies got to do with sin?”

“I’m a Christian,” said Doug, “and try to live the way God tells me. His Word says ‘Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.'”

“You sure that’s in the Bible?” he asked, skeptically.

“I sure hope so,” said Doug, opening his New Testament, pointing, and sharing the gospel with his seatmate all the way to Bangkok.

—Phil Callaway in Who Put My Life on Fast-Forward?

My Response: What would help me see and respond to needs more quickly?

Thought to Apply: We say we must do all we can. Jesus says we must let God do all we can.—Oswald Chambers

Adapted from Who Put My Life on Fast-Forward? (Harvest, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – High Fives

Sunday School TeacherKey Bible Verse: Who is adequate for such a task as this? 2 Corinthians 2:16

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:14-3:5

You’re a scoutmaster.  Surely you can handle fifth-grade Sunday schoolers.”  And that’s how Bill became a volunteer.

“I was a new Christian and was worried that I didn’t know enough. I started with an easy story—Noah. I knew I had to keep the boys busy. We researched the ark and built a scale papier-mâché model six feet long. We went to a lake to study how a flood affects an area. As I struggled with how to teach the Bible, the Holy Spirit taught those kids through me.”

The class asked Bill to move up with them when they went to sixth grade, and he was honored. Now that first class is grown; four of those boys are spending their lives in full-time Christian service.

There is no greater calling than teacher, no more important job in the church. But it’s easy to miss the “high fives from God” that every Sunday school teacher receives. “There’s no way I could have been that good a teacher,” Bill said. “The Lord knew I needed the encouragement of success at that early point in my Christian life, and He helped me. I’ve got a word for new teachers. Don’t be overwhelmed. With God’s help, you’ll never be inadequate.”

—Marlene LeFever, Cook Communications Ministries

My Response: A way I’d consider being stretched is by taking on _____.

Thought to Apply:  Significance is making a difference in the lives of people over time.—Phil Downer (Discipleship Network of America president)

Adapted from Christian Education Article Service (Cook, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

Effective Stewardship – August 2021 Theme

Some people view principles of the Old Testament as ending with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After all, this great event marked the end of the old era and the establishment of the new covenant.  One area in which people think this way is that of tithing.  They reason as follows: “When you can show me in the New Testament where it says, ‘Thou shalt tithe,’ then I will tithe.”

Although on the surface that reasoning sounds O.K., there are at least two major problems with it.  

First, nowhere does the New Testament state, “Thou shalt not tithe.”

Second, the reason the New Testament does not contain that statement is that tithing was not a requirement that started when the law was given.  The principle of tithing existed before the law and during the law; it has never been rescinded by God.  Thus, even though the commands of the law came to an end when Christ was offered on Calvary as the perfect sacrifice, tithing did not.

In fact, tithing simply follows the pattern of “first fruits” giving by which we give to God the first part of our income, not the bits and pieces which might be left over.  Tithing is putting our giving to God first rather than at the end of our spending after all of our bills are paid.

Tithing is an area of our Christianity that requires faith in God’s promises and in God’s provisions.  Let’s face it — at first glance, tithing really isn’t very logical.  After all, if you can’t make ends meet on 100%, how can you make ends meet on 90% or less?

In Malachi 3, God issues a serious indictment against His people.  He says we have robbed Him.  How have we done this?  In tithes and offerings.  Then He patiently instructs us to bring the whole tithe into His storehouse and offers a challenge to us.  Concerning the tithe, God says, in essence, Prove Me.  Try Me.  Put Me to the test. And see — in response to your obedience — if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

If you are one who tithes, you know how God keeps His promise.  You have proved Him and settled this issue in your heart.  If you are not one who tithes, why not take God at His Word.  Here’s how: Take stock of your present financial situation, and then step out by faith.  Put God to the test by tithing for six months or so.  Then take stock again.  You will find that God has kept His promise and provided specific, tangible blessings in your life in response to your obedience.  Tithing, you see, is not God’s way of raising money to pay His bills.  Tithing is God’s way of growing His children.

Stephen Olford wrote this: “Abraham gave tithes to God through Melchizedek, the king-priest.  According to Hebrews 7, Melchizedek is a beautiful type of Christ in resurrection.  Melchizedek gives Abraham bread and wine, symbols of sacrifice; and Abraham acknowledges his indebtedness to God by giving Him tithes of all his spoils. In other words, tithing is the scriptural way of saying ‘thank you’ to God for all that He has done for us.”

  • As you consider your giving and your offering to the Lord next Sunday at Central United Methodist Church, will you say “thank you” to Him and “move up to the tithe?”

Central Church

A Bother…and a Joy – Whom God Uses

Retirement Home WorshipKey Bible Verse: All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us.  – 2 Corinthians 4:5

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 25:31-40

[continued from yesterday]  When I left Carl, an aide asked if I’d visit Alex in his room. Alex’s body is permanently twisted from cerebral palsy. I remembered his efforts at previous services to sing the hymns and the joy that radiated from his disfigured face at hearing God’s Word.

As Alex struggled to shape his words, I tried to understand. We talked about the goodness of God. I happened to look up at the room’s two closet doors. One said ALEX, the other CARL. Then it dawned on me. Carl’s attendance at the worship service must have been the result of his being Alex’s roommate.

I told Alex that Carl had just prayed to receive Christ. Alex threw his head back and grinned from ear to ear, excited that God had used him.

That Sunday afternoon, Norma and I discovered that we don’t have to look far to bless someone else. All we need is to be willing to serve, and God will direct.

Through the requests of residents and with the backing of our church, Norma and I were given permission to conduct weekly Bible readings at the nursing home. I spent time with Carl, prayed with him, and watched as he faded from the effects of his stroke. Alex remains a faithful group member.

—Dave Pagani in Decision

My Response: Today, I’ll ask God to direct me to someone I can bless.

Thought to Apply: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.—Charles Dickens (English novelist)

Adapted from Decision (6/01, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc.)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – Nixed Nap

Retirement Home WorshipKey Bible Verse:  Serve each other in humility, for “God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.”1 Peter 5:5

Bonus Reading:  Luke 14:7-14

As my wife, Norma, and I drove to church on a spring Sunday morning, I was just getting over jet lag from a long overseas trip. So I was anticipating a quiet, peaceful afternoon. But then I remembered that today was our church’s turn to hold the afternoon worship service at a local nursing home. I needed the rest, I kept telling myself; but as Norma and I talked, we decided we’d be at the nursing home.

After the service, we mingled and chatted with the residents. Carl, an 86-year-old who’d suffered a stroke, sat quietly in his wheelchair with his face lowered, his hymnal still in his lap. I went over to say hello. As he looked up, I saw distress on his face. So I asked, “Do you know if you’re on your way to heaven?”

“I hope so.”

“Would you like to know for sure?”

“Yes” he answered clearly and emphatically, “but no one’s ever told me how.”

I opened my Bible, read several verses, and told Carl how Jesus had willingly died on the cross to pay for all our sin. Carl prayed for forgiveness and surrendered to Jesus. An 86-year-old, tears rolling down his face, had joined God’s family as a newborn. [continued tomorrow]

—Dave Pagani in Decision

My Response: When did I last let another’s needs trump my convenient routine?

Thought to Apply: You are never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of serving You.—JOHN WESLEY (founder of Methodism)

Adapted from Decision (6/01, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc.)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

A Bother…and a Joy – Whump!

Black JaguarKey Bible Verse:  Dear children, let us stop saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.  – 1 John 3:18

Bonus Reading:  James 2:14-18

As Josh was sailing down a Chicago neighborhood street in his two-months-old, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, a brick sailed through the air and struck its shiny, black passenger door. Brakes slammed, gears ground into reverse, and tires spun the Jaguar back to the spot from which the missile had been launched.

The young executive jumped out, grabbed the kid, and pushed him against a fender. “That’s my new Jag,” he shouted. “That brick you threw is gonna cost you lots of money!”

“I’m sorry, mister! No one would stop! I didn’t know what else to do,” the youngster sobbed, pointing. “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb, fell out of his wheelchair, and is hurt. He’s too heavy for me. Please, help me lift him back.”

Josh’s head of steam evaporated. Straining, he lifted the boy’s brother into the wheelchair, wiped the scrapes and cuts with his handkerchief, and checked to see that there was no serious injury. He then watched the younger brother push the wheelchair down the sidewalk toward their home.

Josh never did fix his door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone would have to throw a brick to get his attention.

—Skip Heitzig in Jesus Up Close

My Response: Someone I know whose actions reveal an urgent need for my help is _____.

Adapted from Jesus Up Close (Tyndale, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 11th Sunday after Pentecost – 8-8-2021

On this hot, humid eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, when the coronavirus prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

  • Today’s online worship service includes a favorite HYMN with lyrics so you can sing along!


AND…

  • Both the video on Facebook and the video on YouTube now have closed captions (if you turn them on) so you can read along with the spoken words during the service!
    •  To activate captions in Facebook, click on the Settings “gear” symbol in the bottom right corner of the image, and then click on the “Off” button to change it to “On” for “Auto-Generated Captions”.
    • To activate captions in YouTube, click on the “CC” icon in the lower right corner of the image to toggle captions On and Off.
      • A brief comment on our new closed caption capability – The closed captions on our videos use voice-recognition software similar to that used on Television broadcasts, and with similar accuracy!  Sometimes, the captions are not entirely accurate, so if you read something incongruous, back up the video a few seconds and listen carefully for what is actually being said.

To begin, simply click on one of the links below to join with the folks who have already made their way into our digital Sanctuary.  You can find this week’s online worship service on both Facebook and YouTube at the following coordinates:

(If the video doesn’t come up after clicking on the link, just copy and paste the address into your browser search bar.)

 

 

A Bother…and a Joy – A Good Heart, But…

Church People Helping PeopleWho Said It…Max Lucado

Max’s beer-drinking, girl-chasing lifestyle was as barren as the West Texas land he grew up in.

Then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University. He abruptly shifted from law studies to missions preparation.

After five years in Brazil with his wife, Denalyn, he returned to pastor in the U.S. A collection of storytelling columns written for a church newsletter formed his first book in a long string of best-sellers.

Max is pulpit minister of the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.

What He Said…A Good Heart, But …

(Scene—Sunday a.m. assembly; silent prayer)

Max: God, I want to do great things.

God: You do?

Max: You bet! I want to teach millions! I want to fill the Rose Bowl! I want all the world to know Your saving power! I dream of the day …

God: That’s great, Max. In fact, I can use you today after church.

Max: Super! How about some radio and television work or—or—or an engagement to speak to Congress?

God: Well, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. See that fellow sitting next to you?

Max: Yes.

God: He needs a ride home.

Max (quietly): What?

God: He needs a ride home. And while you’re at it, one of the older ladies sitting near you is worried about getting a refrigerator moved. Why not drop by this afternoon and …

Max (pleading): But, God, what about the world?

God (smiling): Think about it.

Adapted from Shaped by God (Tyndale, 1985)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, help me break loose from my usual schedule enough to savor serving someone else.

HEPA-13 Air Filtration for Our Sanctuary!

After months of working to get the air filtration units we need for our Sanctuary, they have finally arrived! 

They have been installed and will receive their first use during our Sunday, August 8, 2021 morning worship service.

We now have five large units tactfully tucked away at strategic points in our Sanctuary to completely filter the air everywhere in our Sanctuary 5.7 times every hour (comfortably ahead of the 5 air changes per hour that is generally recommended).

Here’s where you can find the units:

 

  1. One behind the last pew on the South side of the Sanctuary by the coat rack;
  2. Another behind the last pew on the North side of the Sanctuary against the 6th Avenue Tower wall;
  3. One by the banner stand along the South wall, about four pews from the front;
  4. Another by the banner stand along the North wall about three pews from the front; and
  5. A final one behind the Pulpit in the Choir Loft.

Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for all of their continuing work

to help protect us while we worship together!

 

Central Church

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 8-5-2021

 

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of August 5, 2021, showing material erosion over last week.

  • The Incidence Rate surged up 40.9 points (98.6.%) to 41.5 from last week’s 41.5 deep into the Moderate category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has moved up to 7.6% from last week’s 7.1%, back in the Moderate category.

(Allegheny County’s figures moved up during the past week from 29.8 and 3.7% to 52.9 and 4.9%.)

    • Beaver County is now classified as MODERATE on the original PA DOH scale and SUBSTANTIAL on the CDC scale.

(If both metrics are Moderate, the PA Dept. of Health’s recommended school instructional model is Hybrid Learning.)

  • The Delta COVID-19 variant first identified in India is more contagious and can cause more severe illness than other known variants.  The variant can produce 10 times the amount of virus in people’s airways as the one first identified in the UK.  In other words, it’s more contagious than the viruses behind MERS, SARS, Ebola, the 1918 flu, and smallpox.

  • Vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections – an estimated tens of thousands of people in the US each week – may spread delta as easily as unvaccinated people.  However, they’re less likely than the unvaccinated to get infections in the first place – or to get severely ill or die.
  • Of all the people who died of COVID-19 last month, 99.2% were unvaccinated, making it more important every day that we do all that we can to protect the people who come to our Church.

On April 5, the CDC issued a “Science Brief” outlining that, in addition to people becoming infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects,  the principal mode by which people are infected with COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.


  • Small Group Meetings (Sunday School, AA, other meetings):

The current guidance on when and how gatherings can take place is based upon the threshold of infection rate.

For Indoor meetings/Sunday School to resume, the 7-day average of daily cases for gatherings that include unvaccinated folks should be:

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 11.7, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

As the pandemic continues, we are continuing our efforts to:

  • Disinfect Central Church prior to every worship service and feeding ministry event using EPA-registered products in compliance with CDC standards to kill germs and reduce the risk of spreading infection, and in compliance with EPA criteria for use against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and

  • We are also employing HEPA-13 air filtration equipment to help reduce any airborne coronavirus in our Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall.   

Central Church

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Belonging to a Church

Church Membership 4How does God make believers grow up into Christ?

The answer, Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, is that He forms us into a body—a group of individuals united in their purpose and love for each other and for the Lord.

If one person stumbles, the rest of the group is there to pick him up and help him walk with God again. The group witnesses to God’s truth as each member carries out his special role.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

  1. What is the body of Christ that all believers belong to (v. 12)?
  2. What two family characteristics that we share does Paul mention in verse 4?
  3. What is the special assignment of those in leadership roles (v. 12)?
  4. What is the assignment of all members of this body (vv. 13, 15)?
  5. What are the marks (v. 6) of a healthy church?
  6. What is required of the members to achieve this ideal?
  7. Do you have a sense for what role you are being fitted to fill?

Spend Time in Prayer

Ask God to reveal to you what your “own special work” in the church should be, and enable you to perform it in a way that will contribute to your local congregation “measuring up.”

Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

4 We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5 There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.

11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Prayer for the Week:  As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Why Not to Leave a Church

Church MembershipKey Bible Verse: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do.  – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:5-11

  • You’re feeling convicted of the truth. The pastor preaches about generosity in giving, and you’re battling selfishness. A small group studies moral purity, and you’re crossing biblical boundaries. A Sunday school leader teaches on integrity in the workplace, and you’re taking shortcuts.  Your discomfort is no reason to leave; it’s a good reason to stay!Don’t go looking for a church that lowers biblical standards just to make people feel comfortable.

 

  • You’ve been caught in a sin. You’ll be tempted to run away and start fresh in a church where no one knows about it. Yet God often wants a person in this situation to stay right where he is and let his church family love him and help him through this difficult time.The community of faith can keep you accountable, ask tough questions, and pray for you.

 

  • You’ve had a conflict with someone. When tensions have flared, hard words exchanged, and feelings hurt, you might think about leaving to avoid the difficult process of reconciliation. Usually the wisest choice is to stay and work through a process of relational healing. Otherwise you might find you have to leave a whole series of churches!

—Kevin & Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love

My Response: Am I committed, when I’ve sinned, to coming clean and trusting the body of Christ to restore me?

Thought to Apply: The house of God is not a safe place. It is where we are challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.—Madeline L’Engle (writer)

Adapted from Finding a Church You Can Love (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – It’s Not an Elective

Church Membership 3Key Bible Verse: Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.  – John 13:35

Bonus Reading:  John 17:20-24

An unsettling revelation to most Christ followers, in light of our fierce individualism, is how many marks of a Christian involve other people.

So much of what is involved in truly following Christ is tied to the “one anothers” of Scripture. Originally sent as apostolic admonishments to Christians gathered in local churches, they include such directives as:

These are clear in their command, decisive in spiritual formation, and impossible to fulfill apart from a local community of faith.

Jesus maintained in John 13:35 that the practice of such community life in and through the church, would offer the ultimate witness to the world about His own life and ministry. He was convinced that the church, functioning as a community of love and witness, would arrest the attention of the world and give ultimate affirmation to His message of salvation. If we fail to participate in this community, we undermine how Christ envisioned His message being affirmed in the eyes of the world.

—James Emery White in Serious Times

My Response: How well am I connecting with my local fellow believers?

Thought to Apply: We hear about those who like Christ but do not like the church. How can we like the Head, but not the Body, the Groom, but not the Bride?—Vance Havner

Adapted from Serious Times (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Membership Benefits

Church Membership 2Key Bible Verse: As each part does its own special work … the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  – Ephesians 4:16

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16

Three denominational leaders visited our congregation. “What are the benefits of membership at Mosaic?” they asked.

Their question surprised me. I suddenly felt like we were American Express.

So I asked our pastoral team what exactly were the benefits of being a member. One responded, “Members are entrusted with responsibility.” We started laughing at the irony of realizing that membership was the entryway to public service. The only benefit was the privilege to serve!

Today we clearly express that becoming a member of Mosaic is a declaration that you’re moving from being a consumer to being an investor; that you’re joining not simply the community of Christ, but the cause of Christ.

On a deeper level, it is an invitation to genuine intimacy. People who become members say they’re submitting their lives to the spiritual authority of this community and welcoming genuine accountability in their spiritual journeys.

So up front, we ask for this sincere, God-motivated commitment: to allow God to work in and through them as they invest their passions, their service, their resources, and their relationships for the sake of the Kingdom.

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force

My Response: How is my church benefiting from my witness, serving, and giving?

Thought to Apply: The church isn’t a dormitory for sleepers, it’s an institution for workers; it’s not a rest camp, it’s a front-line trench.—Billy Sunday (baseball player, evangelist)

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Order of Service

Hospital HallwayKey Bible Verse: And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. 1 Peter 2:5

 Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-6

A soldier was wounded in a battle and ordered to the nearest military hospital. Arriving at the entrance, he saw two doors, one marked “For Minor Wounds,” the other “For Serious Wounds.”

He entered the first door and walked down a long hallway. At the end of the hall, he saw two more doors. The first said “For Officers,” the other “For Enlisted Men.” The soldier went through the second door.

Again, he found himself walking down a long hallway with two doors at the end. One said “For Party Members,” the other “For Non-Party Members.” The wounded soldier took the second door and found himself back out on the street.

When he got back to his unit, his buddies asked, “How’d your trip to the hospital go?”

“The people really didn’t help me much,” he said, “but, man, are they organized!”

Sound like a church you’ve known? We can be loaded to the gills with organization but not a lot of help to the walking wounded. The church has the greatest message ever told, the life-changing reality of what it is to know God! Yet people aren’t getting the message. Maybe the church in America is serving up too many bland dishes.

—Andy Cook in The Search for God’s Own Heart

My Response: Could a visitor to my church feel like the wounded soldier? Why or why not?

Thought to Apply: The church is not a museum for finished products. It’s a hospital for the sick.—Bruce Larson

Adapted from The Search for God’s Own Heart (Kregel, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – Am I Being Fed?

Find a ChurchKey Bible Verse: You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others.   – Hebrews 5:12

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 5:11-6:3

He walked confidently up to me one Sunday morning, introduced himself, and said he’d been attending for over a month. The teaching met his standards, he told me; the music was acceptable, and he was pleased with the children’s and youth ministries. He was married, he said, and had several children.

When I asked him where they were, he explained that they weren’t yet allowed to attend; he wanted to first check us out to make sure the products and services were in line with what he felt his family needed. This wasn’t about theology; this was all about customer service.

Since we’ve been taught that we’re the center of the universe, we evaluate everything on its ability to meet our needs. Some of the best communicators of the Scriptures I know have had people leave their churches because they’re not “being fed.”

I know that we’re all the sheep of God, and sheep require a shepherd to feed them. But there must come a time when we become shepherds who feed others. Over 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Is this also true in the arena of personal spirituality? Are we too much about us getting fed and too little about exercising our faith?

—Erwin McManus in An Unstoppable Force

My Response: What about my church involvement makes me more than a consumer?

Adapted from An Unstoppable Force (Group, 2001)

Prayer for the Week:  As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 10th Sunday after Pentecost – 8-1-2021

On this warm, humid tenth Sunday after Pentecost, when the coronavirus prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit for with our online worship service.

  • Today’s online worship service includes a favorite HYMN with lyrics so you can sing along!


AND…

  • Both the video on Facebook and the video on YouTube now have closed captions (if you turn them on) so you can read along with the spoken words during the service!
    •  To activate captions in Facebook, click on the Settings “gear” symbol in the bottom right corner of the image, and then click on the “Off” button to change it to “On” for “Auto-Generated Captions”.
    • To activate captions in YouTube, click on the “CC” icon in the lower right corner of the image to toggle captions On and Off.
      • A brief comment on our new closed caption capability – The closed captions on our videos use voice-recognition software similar to that used on Television broadcasts, and with similar accuracy!  Sometimes, the captions are not entirely accurate, so if you read something incongruous, back up the video a few seconds and listen carefully for what is actually being said.

To begin, simply click on one of the links below to join with the folks who have already made their way into our digital Sanctuary.  You can find this week’s online worship service on both Facebook and YouTube at the following coordinates:

(If the video doesn’t come up after clicking on the link, just copy and paste the address into your browser search bar.)

 

 

Beyond “What’s in It for Me?” – My Church History

Looking for a ChurchWho Said It…Craig Dunham

Craig majored in geography at the University of Missouri. But after graduation he and Doug Serven, also from Mizzou, both began serving with The Navigators, a ministry to young adults. Together, they lead TwentySomeone conferences, seminars, and events.

Craig is also the director of programs and marketing for the Navs’ camping/conference ministry. A musician and songwriter, Craig has recorded five original albums.

What He Said…My Church History

In my twenties, I knew there was no such thing as the perfect church. I evaluated churches and their pastors unfairly. There were, I judged, the megachurch wannabes, the small corner churches, the legalistic churches, and the anything-goes churches.

But my preferences left me in the dark as to exactly what I was looking for. So churches and pastors passed like street signs in the headlights—most of them were hard to read; none led to where I thought I wanted to go.

I was relentless in my reasoning about why I didn’t really need church, falling into the trap of asking, “What’s in it for me?” instead of, “What’s in it for God?”

As a result, I missed out on some great opportunities to meet new people and grow together with them. The only answer this experience provided to “Who am I?” was that I was a judgmental church consumer preoccupied with his own inclinations and opinions. That answer couldn’t help me much in my twenties … or in life.

Adapted from TwentySomeone (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: As Your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t remain detached from Your church. Help me to truly connect.

Central – Worshiping in the Age of COVID

1. March 2020:

Back in March 2020, we faced a mandatory shut-down for several weeks starting on March 22 when the original coronavirus was starting to hit our area hard.

In response, we started a new outreach of online worship services that continued even after we were able to resume worshiping in-person again beginning on June 14. Tomorrow will be our 63rd online worship service!

In order to resume in-person worship, we followed the guidance of the CDC, PA Dept. of Health, and other experts, in addition to suggestions from Conference.  At Central, that meant putting in place a host of COVID-19 precautions, as well as streamlining our worship service to minimize activities, such as singing, that might heighten the risk for our congregation, since, at that time, the vaccine was not yet available to us.

Our dedicated Trustees have continued to monitor every single coronavirus development every day since then to see where additional protections are needed and where we could step back a bit to make our worship service seem more like what we enjoyed prior to COVID.

  1. August 2021:

This Sunday, we will be reintroducing several portions of our worship service that have been on “vacation” for the past few months.

In particular, now that the vaccine is freely available to everyone in our area and our COVID-19 metrics in Beaver County have been relatively low for several weeks:

  • We will be returning to singing three hymns each week (and all verses to each hymn); and
  • Where we had streamlined our Scripture readings from the traditional three each week to the single passage relating to the sermon, we will reintroduce a second Scripture reading (in the form of a responsive Psalter reading).
  • To do this, we will return to using our hymnals and pew Bibles during our worship services.
  • If our county metrics continue to be relatively low, we also hope for the return of our Choir in September so we can once again enjoy their anthems each week.

Does this mean that COVID-19 is a thing of the past?  Sadly, no.

In fact, our county metrics have been edging upward for the past two weeks, after more than a month of low levels, so we will need to continue to monitor where we are at in our area and adjust accordingly.

In particular, we are continuing to disinfect our Sanctuary prior to every worship service , and will continue to filter our air with HEPA-13 filters to reduce or remove any coronavirus that might be floating around.

In fact, this Sunday, we will debut another Medify air filtering unit in the back of the Sanctuary near the coat rack to increase the effectiveness of our air filtration.
This unit is in addition to the unit that has been sitting in the middle of the pews in our Sanctuary.

(As our capacity to filter the Sanctuary air continues to increase, we hope to relocate that unit out of the middle of the seating area in the next few weeks to somewhere less conspicuous in our Sanctuary.)

And, while the wearing of masks during our in-person worship services is now optional, we continue to have a supply of masks on hand in case anyone would like to wear one.

We also have our touchless hand sanitizer units stationed at every entrance, and continue to have our pews roped off so non-household groups can continue to be at least 6 feet from others.

So join us on Sunday, August 1 as we start to take a few cautious steps to welcome back some of the portions of our worship service that have been on “vacation”!

Central Church