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What the Holy Spirit Does – An Attending Presence

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25

Bonus Reading: Romans 10:13-15

A boyhood chum had terminal cancer but no faith to sustain him. I found myself praying with him as he trusted Christ, and I was holding his hand as he entered eternity. I summoned the nurse. As I was leaving his room, she arrived with an attending physician. “Were you this man’s pastor?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Can you tell me, sir, whether he knew Christ as his Savior?”

“I can,” I said. “I led him to faith some months ago.”

“Oh, thank you,” he said, “I feel so bad. I’ve been his physician for several months but never asked him if he knew Christ as his Lord.”

We parted, but abruptly sensing the leadership of the Spirit, I returned to the room, where the doctor was issuing the death certificate. “Excuse me, sir,” I said, “but I’ve visited people in this hospital for years and met a lot of physicians. But none ever told me he felt guilty for not having led a patient to Christ.” I handed him my card. “If ever you had the time, I’d count it a privilege to take you to lunch.”

The lunch we agreed to share became the first of many, cementing a life-long friendship. This man awakened my own hunger for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to become central in my life.

—Calvin Miller in Loving God Up Close

My Response: One way I’m hungry to sense the Spirit’s influence in my life is …

Thought to Apply: A simple definition of the Holy Spirit is “God in action today.” —Alan Walker (Australian evangelist)

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

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – Proof Positive

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.  – Romans 8:16

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:16-25

Matsuyama slumped cross-legged on the wooden floor of his one-room apartment on the second floor of a former army barracks. His was just one of dozens of poor families housed in the ramshackle old building.

“What’s wrong, Matsuyama San?”

“I’m not a Christian any longer.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, I got drunk, some guy bad-mouthed me, and I chased him with a baseball bat. What’s worse, when I got home and told my wife, she handed me the butcher knife. She said, ‘the Bible says if your right hand does wrong, cut it off.’ I’m no Christian.”

It was out of drunkenness that Matsuyama had been saved. An excellent electrician, he descended down the river of alcohol to poverty, taking his wife and three children with him. “Did you ever get drunk and fight before you became a Christian?” I asked.

“All the time.”

“Did you feel bad about it?”

“Only if I got beat.”

“Don’t you see, Matsuyama San? Since the Holy Spirit lives in you, when you fail you’re miserable. Your misery is proof you really are a Christian!”

—Robertson McQuilkin in 00

My Response: I recently experienced the Spirit’s convicting role when …

Adapted from Life in the Spirit (Broadman & Holman, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Spirit of Creation

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window00

Who Said It…Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard is the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1985, Ted and his wife, Gayle, moved there with two of their now five children and started New Life Church in the basement of their home. Now its membership numbers 11,000. Ted says that his goal is to make it hard to go to hell from Colorado Springs.

He also serves as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

What He Said…The Spirit of Creation

Many churches do a good job of teaching about the power of the Holy Spirit. If we genuinely encourage people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though, we had better be prepared for the work that He will do in them.

You see, the Holy Spirit is in the business of change. He is Mr. Change; it is what He does, and He does it well. He comes into people’s lives and starts changing them, and as this process develops, He starts giving them ideas for change.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Creation. In a fallen world, He always creates change because He is the agent God uses to make the world a better place. Thus, He always improves things. He always rearranges our furniture.

He always adjusts the status quo. So when He fills His people, we all prosper if our structures facilitate change. But if our structures constrain change, it’s a matter of time before something breaks. Let’s replace resistance to change with a culture of freedom.

Adapted from Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Nelson, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Joy of Understanding

The BibleIn Psalm 19, David looks at God’s greatness through two different lenses. He first does so through God’s creation.

Then he turns to God’s Word. When you’re doing the things that God created you to do and told you to do in His Word, he writes, your life will begin to overflow with a joy you never imagined possible.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 19:7-11

  1. In verses 7-9, what names are given to Scripture? What different aspects do they highlight?
  2. What words (after “is” or “are”) are used to describe God’s Word?
  3. What six results or consequences follow for the person who takes God’s Word to heart?
  4. Taken together, what do these statements tell you about the potential impact of God’s Word in your life?
  5. What does verse 10 tell you about the Bible’s ability to satisfy your deepest needs?
  6. What negative benefit of exposure to God’s Word does verse 11 add?
  7. What positive benefit is promised to those who apply God’s Word to their lives?
  8. What form do you think that “great reward” takes?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to grant you the joy of rightly understanding His Word and consistently conforming your behavior to it.

Psalm 19:7-11

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life. 9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.

10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to those who hear them; there is great reward for those who obey them.

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 1-13-2022

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of January 13, 2022, with both indexes again showing skyrocketing, record high levels.

  • Note in particular how the vertical axis of the Incidence Rate chart has had to be expanded to such a degree to accommodate the current high numbers that three of the four categories (Low, Moderate, and even Substantial) have been reduced to an almost unreadable mishmash at the bottom of the Incidence Rate chart. 

Even though we all tend to become numb to the latest numbers and just want to put the pandemic behind us, this chart painfully emphasizes how far we are from returning to our pre-pandemic way of life.

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 843.0 to 1,195.0 (an increase of 352.0, or 41.7%) in the HIGH category.

Perspective – Prior to last, for the entire period of the pandemic since we began tracking weekly readings on July 30, 2020, a weekly Incidence Rate had only been over 600 once (on December 18, 2020).  Last week, we have a reading over 800  and this week’s number is well over 1,100 .

  • The PCR Positivity Rate has increased from 27.9 to 30.2 in the HIGH category.

Perspective – Prior to last week, during the same period, the highest that the PCR Percent Positivity Rates had been were 17.6 on December 18, 2020 and 17.9 on December 9, 2021.  Last week, the rate was 27.9, and this week, the rate is 30.2.

(Allegheny County’s figures also remained in the stratosphere during the past week from 1,534.2 to 1,528.6 and from 32.7% to 32.9%.)

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

Perspective – If both metrics are Moderate (i.e., 10-50 Incidence Rate and 5%-10% PCR Positivity Rate), the PA Dept. of Health’s recommended school instructional model is Hybrid Learning.

Even so, full in-classroom teaching is continuing in most schools, and several school boards have even eliminated the requirement to wear masks in response to vocal groups of parents who prefer to avoid the inconvenience of the pandemic precautions and  want procedures to return to “normal” regardless of medical realities and in the face of an unprecedented skyrocketing of the above COVID-19 metrics. 

 

On April 5, 2021, 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 170.7, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible for the foreseeable future.

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

  • As our community COVID-19 levels continue to deteriorate, we have significantly expanded our new medical-grade HEPA-13 air filtration equipment in our Sanctuary, which is rated to remove COVID-19 from the air, which now provides 10.7 complete air changes every hour in our Sanctuary (every 6 minutes)!

  • In addition, our Parlor, Church Office, Pastor’s Office, UMYF Meeting Room, Fellowship Hall, and Nursery all offer even higher levels of air changes per hour using HEPA-13 or HEPA-14 filtration.

  • (5 air changes per hour is the EPA’s general recommended standard, and the EPA now recommends 8-15 air changes per hour in Churches. )  

Central Church

What the Good Book Is Good for – The Right Verdict

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. Psalm 19:9b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:137-144

God made us to seek and long for true justice.  As we see crime and evil in our society escalating at a sickening pace, something hidden inside our very being rises up, yearning for wrong to be punished and justice meted out.

There used to a little feature in Reader’s Digest called “That’s Outrageous.”  Here were true stories, specific accounts of people who had been severely wronged, telling how our society and our government failed to administer the justice due.  Criminals out of jail early, committing the horrendous.  Murderers let off on a technicality and freed to murder again, all under the banner of justice.  I had to quit reading the feature; it was just too upsetting.

How do you cope with this?

The only way I know is to keep in mind that we have a God of perfect justice.  Though the final judgment of God is yet future, the Bible tells what His verdicts—His pronouncements of consequence, and punishment for sin—will be.

God is not capricious like our human judges;  He doesn’t operate according to His moods or personal circumstances.  We can be sure that He will judge fairly and precisely, consistent with all He has told us in Scripture. Ultimately He will right every wrong and silence every rebel.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: One way I can reflect God’s justice in my society is to …

Thought to Apply:You never know a line is crooked unless you have a straight one to put next to it.—Socrates

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Muddle Eraser

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight to life.  – Psalm 19:8b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:129-136

Remember a few years back when a new beverage came out called “Clearly Canadian”?

The product featured wonderful berry flavors with a sparkling, fresh taste, sold in a blue glass bottle.  Just describing it makes me thirsty for that clear, crisp sensation I get in my mouth when I drink it.

To me there’s just something wonderful about stuff that is clear.  When I buy something for my home, I search for things with the words on the package “no assembly required,” because I hate those manuals that are so unclear and impossible to follow.  I like clean glasses and windows, and clear highways.  No doubt about it, “clear” rocks!

That’s why I was so excited the day I understood for the first time that the Word of God is clear.  You can pick it up yourself and understand it.  The commands of God are clear, laying out the positive results of doing what he requires and the negative consequences of disobedience.

People try to say that the Bible is confusing because they don’t want to accept its message, but actually the Bible is incredibly clear in what it asserts—so crystal-clear that God promises it will bring light to the darkness in every human heart.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: When seeking an answer, I’ll commit to turn to God’s Word first.

Thought to Apply: More people are troubled by what is plain in Scripture than by what is obscure.—Roy L. Smith (pastor)

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – In Sync

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. Psalm 19:8a

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:1-8

Commandments are God’s prescriptions, pronouncements, principles.  The world has principles, too, doesn’t it?

Stuff like: “You only go around once, so go for the gusto.”

Or how about: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Everyone has heard that worldly principle—sort of like: “You might mess with me once, but don’t ever try it again.” There are hundreds of these shortsighted stupidisms.

But in contrast to all this faulty human thinking that seldom guides and never satisfies are “the commandments of the Lord.”  His principles are 100 percent right in all that they assert.  They’re not off-track, not even by a degree.  Isn’t that great to know?

Life is like a maze. The statutes of God set a right path through the maze so that we don’t wander aimlessly or get lost or sidetracked by things that don’t ultimately matter. God’s statutes take the pressure off.

Never do we have so much joy in this world as when we are living in conformity to God’s Word. Never. Like an engine firing on all cylinders. Like a gazelle running full speed. Like a symphony—every instrument pounding out the melody and harmonies in perfect tune and rhythm.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: How does God’s Word alert me to flaws in the godless thinking that surrounds me?

Thought to Apply: One who uses the Bible as his guide never loses his sense of direction.—Source Unknown

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Wise Up!

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  – Psalm 19:7b

Bonus Reading: Psalm 119:97-104

The first time I met Luis, he was so angry and intent on doing what he wanted with his life that he was destroying his family and himself.  But he couldn’t see it.

Luis was addicted to alcohol. And by attending a church that didn’t preach God’s Word, he was never forced to face up to the fact that he was walking on the path of destruction.

His wife had heard about our church and prayed for weeks that she could get her husband under the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word, but he refused to come.  Then out of the blue one morning, he suggested to his astonished family that they attend.

That morning I was teaching from God’s Word on the subject “Wise Up About Alcohol.”  Luis squeaked and squirmed on the pew, but the Word of God got through to his heart.

Later that week he gave his life to Jesus Christ, and by God’s grace hasn’t had a drink since.  His marriage has been healed, his life has been transformed, and his children are filled with joy.

Why?  Because God’s witness about Himself is so trustworthy that it can take a stubborn, hardhearted alcoholic, with no discernment about right and wrong, and make him skilled in daily living.

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: I’ll thank God for teaching me the basics of sound living through His Word.

Thought to Apply: We must allow the Word of God to confront us, undermine our complacency, and overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior. —John Stott

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

What the Good Book Is Good for – Extreme Makeover

The BibleKey Bible Verse: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  – Psalm 19:7a

Bonus Reading: Psalm 19:7-11

Our church meets in a massive warehouse that was a Home Depot wanna-be.  Marty used to buy all materials there for his building projects.  Being a “tool guy” was his identity.  Sunday morning trips to buy home improvement stuff was his religion.  So he was ticked off when his “house of worship” went under and was replaced by “some stupid church.”

But when we opened, he got curious and came to check us out, defiantly sitting in the front row with his wife.  The truth of God’s Word began to penetrate his heart, and he couldn’t keep from coming back.  Before long Marty committed his life to Jesus Christ.

The word translated reviving in Psalm 19:7a means transforming. God promises that His Scripture is so totally comprehensive that whatever the condition of the individual, it can transform him to his core.  Marty had been so filled with himself that his marriage was in deep weeds; he wasn’t much of a father either.  Now he stands in front of the entire congregation to tell about the joy he’s found in following Christ and learning from the Bible.  He excitedly shares God’s truth with others, who are beginning to see their lives transformed.00

—James MacDonald in God Wrote a Book

My Response: I’ll memorize today’s Bonus Reading to lock in my confidence in His Word.

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

What the Good Book Is Good for – Always Current

The BibleWho Said It…James MacDonald

As a 27-year-old Canadian, James MacDonald was called to pastor a group of 18 believers in suburban Chicago.

Seventeen years later, the resulting Harvest Bible Chapel, composed of many new Christians, has grown to nearly 8,000 worshipers. It has also recently added two new campuses. Pastor MacDonald is heard on Walk in the Word, a daily radio broadcast.

He and his wife, Kathy, have three children, aged 18 to 14.

What He Said…Always Current

I will never forget the news conference of the Willis family after their van exploded in flames on the freeway, and their children inside were engulfed and consumed in an instant.

As they sat before those microphones, and the world listened in for insight as to whether their faith could remain in such tragedy, they began by quoting Psalm 34:1: “I will praise the Lord at all times, I will constantly speak his praises.” The Word of God was their anchor in a storm that would have quickly capsized most of the boats.

David wrote in Psalm 19—the one we’ll be walking 0through this week—“Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.” God’s Word is full-strength from cover to cover. Turning to it brings stability to every person in every generation. From the most successful athletes to people of quiet faith in the hidden corners of the globe, God’s Word is a constant, reliable source of stability in the toughest of times.

Adapted from God Wrote a Book (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Book that tells me everything I need to know about life and how to live it.

 

Peace Under Pressure – A Special Blessing

Peace Under PressureIt was customary for the Israelites to be “blessed” by the high priest. In this passage, Moses gives the wording to be used to convey that they were no ordinary people and that their God was no ordinary God.

This Aaronic Blessing not only expressed God’s special favor for His people; it also indicated what quality in their lives would best display that favor to others.

Interact with God’s Word

Numbers 6:22-27

  1. The word bless means to treat with favor. What is one indication that God is on your side because you’ve declared yourself on His?
  2. Recall one way in which you’ve recently experienced God’s protection.
  3. Verse 25a could be rendered “May the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you.” How have you sensed His smile of pleasure on your life?
  4. Being gracious goes way beyond good manners. It is to be merciful and compassionate. When have you observed this aspect of how God blesses?
  5. To show favor is to give approval. Do you sense that your obedience and trust have elicited this response from God?
  6. Do you think personal peace is a distinct gift or the effect of experiencing God’s favor, protection, pleasure, merciful compassion, and approval?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for His divine favor to rest on people you relate to. Ask that His blessing create a solid peace foundation in your own life.

Numbers 6:22-27

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, 23 “Instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:

24 ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. 25 May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. 26 May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.’

27 This is how Aaron and his sons will designate the Israelites as my people, and I myself will bless them.”

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 1-6-2022

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of January 6, 2022, with both indexes showing skyrocketing, record high levels.

 

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 370.2 to 843.0 (an increase of 472.8, or 127.7%) in the HIGH category.

Perspective – Prior to this week, for the entire period of the pandemic since we began tracking weekly readings on July 30, 2020, a weekly Incidence Rate had only been over 600 once (on December 18, 2020).  This week, we have a reading well over 800.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate has increased from 13.6 to 27.9 in the HIGH category.

Perspective – Prior to this week, during the same period, the highest that the PCR Percent Positivity Rates had been were 17.6 on December 18, 2020 and 17.9 on December 9, 2021.  This week, the rate is 27.9.

(Allegheny County’s figures also skyrocketed during the past week from 633.2 to 1,534.2 and from 22.0% to 32.7%!)

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

Perspective – If both metrics are Moderate (i.e., 10-50 Incidence Rate and 5%-10% PCR Positivity Rate), the PA Dept. of Health’s recommended school instructional model is Hybrid Learning.

Even so, full in-classroom teaching is continuing in most schools, and several school boards have even eliminated the requirement to wear masks in response to vocal groups of parents who prefer to avoid the inconvenience of the pandemic precautions and  want procedures to return to “normal” regardless of medical realities and in the face of an unprecedented skyrocketing of the above COVID-19 metrics. 

 

On April 5, 2021, 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 120.4, 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

  • As our community COVID-19 levels continue to deteriorate, we have significantly expanded our new medical-grade HEPA-13 air filtration equipment in our Sanctuary, which is rated to remove COVID-19 from the air, which now provides 10.7 complete air changes every hour in our Sanctuary (every 6 minutes)!

  • In addition, our Parlor, Church Office, Pastor’s Office, UMYF Meeting Room, Fellowship Hall, and Nursery all offer even higher levels of air changes per hour using HEPA-13 or HEPA-14 filtration.

  • (5 air changes per hour is the EPA’s general recommended standard, and the EPA now recommends 8-15 air changes per hour in Churches. )  

 

Central Church

Peace Under Pressure – Tantalizing Tranquility

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalm 112:7

Bonus Reading: Psalm 46:1-11

A friend asked me to have lunch with him and a fellow he’d been sharing Christ with for nine years. I’m thinking, after nine years Gill (the unbeliever) ought to be ready to tell this guy to shove off.

So I asked him what it was that kept him in this prolonged dialogue. He laughed. “That’s simple,” he said. “Jimmy’s got something I want. He doesn’t worry.”

Do you know why peace shines so brightly in this world? Because everybody you meet entered adulthood with a picture of what they hoped for.  Now, years into the pursuit, they’ve accumulated lots of the stuff they set out for. But they aren’t happy and don’t know what to do about it.

When they finally meet someone who has peace, they take note. It highlights their emotional emptiness. And it confronts them with the fact that peace is achievable.

What if my peace isn’t merely for my benefit? What if God wants to use it to cause those I come into contact with to pause and wonder? What if the purpose of dark circumstances is to give my peace a chance to attract more attention than in the wrinkle-free days when everything goes right? What if God wants to use it to make my faith authentic for someone?

—Andy Stanley in Visioneering

My Response: Is there a dark circumstance that I should by faith thank God for?

Thought to Apply: First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.—Thomas À Kempis (Christian writer)

Adapted from Visioneering (Multnomah, 1999)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

Peace Under Pressure – Quiet Dinner

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: The peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. John 14:27

Bonus Reading: John 14:27; 16:33

Arriving at my mother’s New York apartment for dinner for the two of us, we sat down to a festive table. Just then the phone rang—for me. My teaching colleague’s voice broke, and I realized to my horror that he was weeping. A West Coast collision had landed his parents and sister in intensive care. He was at the airport. Could I come sit with him until his flight departed? I’d come if I possibly could, I responded, but I had to take care of some things first. Would he call back in ten minutes.

Back at the table, my mother called my friend’s request unreasonable and juvenile. She insisted that I not ruin our evening by going. Hearing what I’d been saying to myself expressed aloud made it appalling. I resolved to go as soon as he rang again. But when he called, he said he’d gotten hold of himself; I no longer needed to come.

This apartment was a haven from everything that seemed to threaten my peace. My friend’s broken voice on the phone was calling me out into a dangerous world not simply for his sake, I suddenly saw, but also for mine. The true peace that passes understanding isn’t found in retreat from the battle—only in the thick of it.

—Frederick Buechner in The Sacred Journey

My Response: Is the peace I’m protecting robust enough to invade turmoil?

Thought to Apply: The peace of God, in the midst of the uproar around us, gives us the assurance that everything is all right.—Bob Mumford (writer, speaker)

Adapted from The Sacred Journey (Harper & Row, 1982)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

Peace Under Pressure – Stress Mess

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  – Colossians 3:15

Bonus Reading: Philippians 4:6-7

In the early 1960s, my load in the grocery company was heavy. Several close co-workers were in open conflict, and I had to referee. I was still traveling a lot on the lay-preaching circuit. We had three small children. About seven o’clock one evening, I left the office, trudged down the long, steep stairs to my car, and headed home. Several urgent choices involving business, travel, and family faced me. I felt indecisive on every front. My stomach churned.

As I drove toward home, I tried to pray, generically committing the whole mess to God. Suddenly there came to my mind Colossians 3:15. This familiar scripture hit me like a shaft of calmness from heaven.

Immediately I knew what God was saying to me. “Howard, never go against your deepest sense of peace. Never ignore your sense of inner agitation, of uneasy disquiet, that intuitive buzzing. That unquiet feeling is telling you to back off, not to plunge ahead just to get rid of the issue. It doesn’t matter who gets upset or whom you disappoint. Forget who cheers or who boos. Follow the relaxation in your gut.”

It was a life-changing moment for me. To this very day that wait-for-the-calm principle clarifies my decision-making.

—Howard Butt Jr. in Who Can You Trust?

My Response: One area in which I need to wait for the calm is …

Thought to Apply: Whenever you obey God, His seal is always that of peace. Whenever peace doesn’t come, tarry till it does or find out why it doesn’t.—Oswald Chambers

Adapted from Who Can You Trust? (Crossway, 2002)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

CDC – COVID-19 Revised Recommendations – 12-27-2021

Central Church

Peace Under Pressure – Pre-Game Jitters

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: I have discarded everything else … so that I may have Christ. Philippians 3:8

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:4-9a

In Philadelphia in 1983, the night before the final game of the World Series, I lay there tossing and turning, plunged into joy and excitement one minute, panic and tension the next. If I was going to get any sleep at all, I desperately needed a sense of peace for my jumbled emotions.

Four years earlier, I’d invited Jesus Christ into my life. So I reached for my Bible and turned to Philippians 3:4-9a, where the Apostle Paul recalls how he was born in the right place to the right family, got the right education, and did all the right things. Yet he’d discounted it all “that I may have Christ.”

That verse could be talking about me! I realized.

My World Series and All-Star successes wouldn’t make a bit of difference when it came down to where I’d spend eternity. Only my relationship with Jesus would matter then. I was able to sleep peacefully after that, then went out on the mound the next day and pitched one of my best games ever. Our Baltimore Orioles won the series over Philly, and I was elated! But most exciting was to know that the peace within me wasn’t dependent on winning, but on knowing that God loved me.

—Scott McGregor in Winning

My Response: I’ll draw stability from my status and future in Christ.

Thought to Apply: Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and He is on the throne. —Edward Bickersteth (English pastor and hymn writer)

Adapted from Winning (Regal, 1990)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

 

Peace Under Pressure – Blanket Coverage

Peace Under PressureKey Bible Verse: We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Romans 5:1

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:1-11

The “peace of God” shouldn’t be confused with “peace with God.”

The “peace of God” is the inner state of well-being that is the birthright of those who’ve responded to God’s offer of forgiveness and been brought into a position called “peace with God.”

The peace of God is a result of having peace with God.

The Israelites had been called by God to be His unique people, and the blessing pronounced by the high priest (Numbers 6:22-27), designated them as such. The people would exhibit the divine favor by demonstrating to the surrounding peoples that God had given them His wholeness or well-being.

This inner sense of wholeness can’t be explained in purely human terms. Anyone can seem at peace when he’s eradicated all stress and negotiated the end of all hostility. But we enjoy the peace of God while the stress continues unabated and the hostility persists.

How can this be? When we’ve committed ourselves to the Captain of our salvation in ongoing, trusting obedience, He’ll make our well-being His personal responsibility.

0So we can rest assured in His benevolence and competence in the midst of the storms of life. We can live with composure that defies description and surpasses belief.

—Stuart Briscoe in One Year Book of Devotions for Men

My Response: Am I enjoying the benefits of my birthright? Why or why not?

Adapted from One Year Book of Devotions for Men (Tyndale, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 2nd Sunday after Christmas – 1-2-2022

On this overcast second Sunday after Christmas, when the Delta and Omicron variants 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. 
      • Also, it takes a while to generate the captions after the videos are published, so if the captions are not available immediately after the video is published, just check back a little later.

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.)

 

 

Peace Under Pressure – Stretched Splendor

Peace Under Pressure00Who Said It…Randy Rowland

Randy Rowland is lead pastor of Sanctuary, an emerging church in Seattle, Washington. He has served as the public address announcer for the Seattle Seahawks.

Randy is also president of Sound Images, Inc., a media and marketing consulting and production firm. He has taught at Seattle Pacific University’s School of Business and Economics, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Pacific School of Religion. Randy calls himself a water dog.

What He Said…Stretched Splendor

Peace isn’t passive or wimpy; it’s brilliantly powerful. Peace is having everything in its right place, being used toward its right purpose.

Sailboats are equipped with numerous sails for different purposes. Unused sails are stored in nylon bags in a locker. But are stored sails at peace? I don’t think so. They’re just sidelined fabric. A sail is at peace when it’s unfurled, trimmed by the winch, and stretched to its maximum by a turn into the wind. Every grommet and rope on that sail is being yanked at magnum force. The material of the sail strains as it meets its destiny.

A good sail, well deployed, is a vision of peace. It possesses beauty in spite of the savage forces pulling it at every corner. Its beauty comes from its wholeness and purpose. You never look out on the water at a colorful spinnaker on a fast-moving sailboat and think, Oh that poor thing, just look at the stress it’s under, being pulled from all directions. What you do think is, Wow! That’s beautiful.

Adapted from Sins We Love (Doubleday, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me how my misguided thinking leads me down the path of worry and fear; help me to see that no problem is bigger than you and your love; may you be glorified by the peace I experience in times of trial.

 

Effective Stewardship – January 2022 Theme

Our January 2022 Stewardship Theme:

In 1935, Dr. R. A. Forrest, president of Toccoa Falls College in Georgia, embarked on a trip to visit former students who were serving the Lord on the mission field. R. G. LeTourneau, a prominent Christian businessman, heard him speak in Omaha and was very encouraged by what he heard.

The night before Dr. Forrest sailed to Japan, a letter arrived at his hotel containing a check from Mr. LeTourneau for $1,000. Mr. LeTourneau thought it would be nice if Dr. Forrest “had some money in his pocket as he went around the world to give to folks in a tough spot.”

Dr. Forrest was elated and kept a detailed accounting of how he used that money to minister to people in need. When he returned to New York, he mailed the records to Mr. LeTourneau. A few days later, a reply came from Mr. LeTourneau that simply read, “Come see me.”

When Dr. Forrest arrived at Mr. LeTourneau’s office in Peoria, he found a man who was deeply moved by Dr. Forrest’s record of changed lives. He said, “If you can be trusted with $1,000 and make that kind of impact, you can be trusted with $10,000” and gave him a check in that amount.

Dr. Forrest had received “without payment,” and he gave “without payment” (Matt. 10:8). He typified the kind of giving that God expects each of us to demonstrate as we respond to His good gifts by giving back to Him what was rightfully His in the first place.

Charles Stanley wrote this: “When God deals with us, it is always in abundant grace. He is lavish with His love and forgiveness. None of us can ever repay Christ for what He did for us at Calvary. He generously gave His life so we could enjoy eternal life.”

He went on to say, “There are two kinds of people: givers and keepers. . . .If you decide to be a keeper, you will miss God’s richest blessings. But when you give yourself away, you will reap the goodness of God.”

That’s because it is impossible to outgive God who has a unique accounting system. He never divides; He always multiplies.

Will you trust Him today by giving generously to Him who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17)?


Central Church

Forgiveness: Feelings and Fact – Waltrip’s Good Wipeout

Repentance 2Key Bible Verse: “No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. … I can make you as white as wool.”  – Isaiah 1:18

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 51:1-17

I did some terrible things in my past—stuff that was against God’s will, offensive to Him, sin.  Some things were worse than others but God hated them all.  I had to confess them.  Then He wiped the slate clean.

But it took a while for me to believe the slate was really clean.  I thought of it more like writing something on a piece of paper and then erasing it.  The words are erased, but if you hold the paper just right, you can still see the letters.  That’s how I felt.  I thought, Okay, it’s not there anymore; but if I turn it just right, I can see where it used to be.

It’s hard to accept the fact that the slate is clean.  It’s natural to think we can never be totally forgiven for things we’ve done.

A lot of people don’t fully understand how God treats confession.  They live in the past.  They won’t move on.

But I’ve confessed my sins to God.  I know God forgives.  The Bible declares that He does.  No image remains.  That means I can have a clear conscience about where I am today.  Christ died so that we could be forgiven of our sins.  We’ve got to realize that, and take advantage of it.

— Darrell Waltrip in Darrell Waltrip: One-on-One

My Response: Am I shackled to my past, or am I moving on in the freedom of forgiveness?

Adapted from Darrell Waltrip: One-on-One (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, that my standing with You has nothing to do with deserving, and everything to do with receiving the forgiveness You’ve offered.