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God’s Love Demonstrated – Puzzling Presence

CompassionKey Bible Verse: I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. Philippians 2:20

Bonus Reading: Romans 13:8-10

I will never forget the day Arthur Clark reported to work at our local community college.  He introduced himself as “Art,” and warmly smiled as he offered a handshake.  His eyes were filled with life and laughter, empathy and understanding, kindness and compassion.  Art gave complete attention when he looked at me.  I was taken aback.  Where did this man come from? I wondered.

From God, it turned out.  Art treated folks as Jesus would have.  He didn’t preach God’s love; he demonstrated it in everyday acts of kindness and courtesy.  Throughout his 31-year career, Art’s gracious attitude never changed.  Stories of his love for students and staff alike flowed.  If a new student was lost, Art would often be seen walking him or her to the correct classroom.  He encouraged the discouraged, befriended the lonely, smiled at strangers, joked with friends, and always said yes to requests for help.

Countless times I watched him jump-start stalled student cars in the bitter cold of our northern Michigan winters.  Art always arrived on the frozen scene with a smile and battery cables poised for action.

Like Jesus, Art appeared where he was most needed and least expected.   [continued tomorrow]

—Clifford Denay Jr.

My Response: Where am I most needed this week?

Thought to Apply: Do little things as if they were great because of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ who dwells in you.—Blaise Pascal (French scientist & philosopher)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

God’s Love Demonstrated – What Fuels Them?

CompassionKey Bible Verse: “I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard.”  – Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: Luke 10:25-37

As a cub reporter for the Chicago Tribune, I was assigned to write a 30-part series on the poor of Chicago.  Roaming the city in search of appropriate families to write about, my eyes were opened to the vast, informal network of Christians sacrificially serving the poor. I came upon food pantries, homeless shelters, clothing centers, job-training institutes, nursing homes, drug rehab programs, sports ministries for kids—all run by Christian charities.

An emergency shelter for homeless families operated by the Salvation Army especially inspired me.  I became a regular there, hanging around to talk with displaced families but also observing the volunteers who poured their lives into serving these otherwise forgotten people. For me personally, the Tribune assignment faded into the background as I began focusing on the much larger story of what was motivating these Christians to give so much of their time, energy, and money to helping others.

These volunteers weren’t serving reluctantly.  On the contrary, it appeared to energize them, flowing naturally out of their lives.  I got the sense that they simply couldn’t not serve.

As an atheist, it didn’t make sense to me.  I wanted to know why.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: When have I been energized by serving someone?

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

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – Central Church – The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – 8-7-2022

On this hot, humid, ninth 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!

Our prior online worship services are available in our online library, and can be viewed on demand, and be sure to join us in worship, either online or in person, every week! 

 



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.)

Central Church

 

 

God’s Love Demonstrated – Mop Duty

CompassionWho Said It…Bill Pollard

Bill Pollard began his career in corporate and tax law.  He then used this expertise as a Wheaton College vice president.

But in 1977 he joined The ServiceMaster Company, a firm that provides management services for hospitals and schools and serves the residential market under brand names such as Merry Maids, TruGreen, and Terminix.  Bill served as its CEO and now chairs its board.

He also chairs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Executive Committee.

What He Said …Mop Duty

As a new member of the ServiceMaster leadership team, my orientation included We Serve Day. On that day every leader in the organization directly serves customers, like front-line employees do every day.

I was working in a busy corridor of Chicago’s Lutheran General Hospital. I had just set out my wet-floor signs and was about to mop the floor. Suddenly a passing woman stopped and asked me, “Aren’t you Bill Pollard?”

I responded that I was, and she identified herself as a distant relative of my wife. She looked at me and my mop, shook her head, and asked, “Aren’t you a lawyer?”

“No,” I said. “I have a new job.” Noticing other people gathering around, the embarrassed woman leaned toward me and whispered, “Is everything all right at home?”

Like the Twelve, too many shun “foot-washing” tasks that lack status but reveal a serving heart.

Adapted from The Soul of the Firm (Harper Business/Zondervan, 1996)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, please motivate me to reflect Your compassionate heart to hurting people around me.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Following God’s Will

Discerning the Will of GodFor new insight, try looking at a familiar Scripture passage from a fresh perspective. Take the story of the Woman at the Well—usually viewed as a case study in pointing someone to God.

Today, look at it from the angle of an exhausted Jesus and what it was that actually recharged his batteries.

This was early in Jesus’ ministry, and with His growing acclaim, He had apparently decided to withdraw from Judea to avoid immediate direct confrontation with the Pharisees.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 4:3-8 John 4:27-38

  1. Based on verses 6-8, how would you picture Jesus’ physical and emotional posture at this time?
  2. What did Jesus’ disciples assume would revive their exhausted rabbi?
  3. What did Jesus hint (in v. 31) had already lifted His spirits?
  4. How will knowing you are doing God’s will in His power (v. 34) bring a sense of fulfillment?
  5. Share an example of how you felt rewarded with “good wages” and joy (v. 36) from being part of God’s planting-and-harvesting team.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to empower you to make the shift from resisting or reluctantly accepting His will to gladly embracing it.

John 4:3-8 John 4:27-38

3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. 4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”

33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe[a] for harvest.

36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 8-5-2022

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of August 5, 2022, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

The Incidence Rate decreased from 209.2 to 177.5 (a decrease of 31.7, or 15.1%) in the HIGH category for the eleventh consecutive week.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate increased from 14.4 to 21.8, in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures increased in the HIGH category during the past week, moving from 163.4 to 173.5 and from 20.1% to 20.2).



The new “COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL” index:

Starting on March 3, 2022, for hospitals and healthcare systems, the CDC is also issuing a new “COVID-19 Community Level index that measures the “current potential for strain on the health system” (in other words, the ability of hospitals to take in and treat additional folks with COVID-19.)  

This new index is in addition to the CDC’s “COVID-19 Integrated County View” which they continue to publish each week.

After four weeks in the LOW category, the CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” has now moved to the MEDIUM category.  This metric was adopted on March 3, 2022, reflecting on the potential availability of hospital beds for new COVID-19 cases. 

CDC-Recommended actions when in the HIGH level:

  • At Central Church, in order to look out for our older folks, as well as the unvaccinated or immunocompromised, we are continuing to look to the CDC’s“COVID-19 Integrated County View” to evaluate which protective measures and protocols that we should observe to protect all of the folks who come through our doors for in-person worship or for other reasons, such as to participate in our community feeding ministry outreach.

  • 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 25.3, so resuming small group meetings may not be feasible for the immediate 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

  • 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

Whose Will Be Done? – Listen to Your Coach

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse:  “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”  – Luke 22:42

Bonus Reading: Matthew 26:36-46

With his 2006 British Open victory, Tiger Woods had amassed victories in 11 majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18.  This victory was particularly emotional for Tiger with the recent loss of his father.  After his final putt he embraced his caddie and the tears fell freely.  To become the world’s best golfer, Tiger relied on his father as coach, mentor, and friend.  But I’m sure, like any other kid, there were days when Tiger simply didn’t want to practice.  Then dad was there to keep him focused on the goal.

Our Savior had a similar experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As He braced to shoulder the sins of the world, Jesus reached the limits of His humanity.  He cried out to His Father, pleading for another solution.  But the Father knew the ultimate goal.  Jesus relied on His Father’s perfect will and continued down the path to the cross, where He achieved an eternal victory.

Are you relying on your Father?  Do you hear His voice in desperate times?  “Don’t give up,” He whispers. “Victory is just around the corner. Keep walking with me, and we’ll make it through this.”  Listen for the encouraging words of your Coach, and you’ll be on your way to victory.

—Lane McGullion in Georgia

My Response: What might be required for God to keep me focused on His goal for me?

Thought to Apply: The basic decision, after all, is to let God be God, to say “yes” to the work of the Lord.  —Luke Timothy Johnson (monk turned theology prof)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Clear Vision, Murky Path

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: How can we understand the road we travel?  It is the Lord who directs our steps.  –  Proverbs 20:24

Bonus Reading: Numbers 9:15-23

As a computer professional, I worked for one company for 13 years, moving from hardware and software technician to officer and partner. Eventually I owned almost a quarter of the firm.

As my contributions to the bottom line increased, the company tried to tighten its grip on my heart.  But years ago I’d felt God’s call to deliver a message to the church.  A day would come, I believed, to leave my firm and become a full-time author.  I didn’t know how God would bring this about.  But on the side I learned the writing craft by attending conferences and producing magazine articles.

My vision remained sharp.  But my loyalty and sense of obligation to my company weighed heavily.  If I left, its survival was not assured.

Should I keep waiting? I tensely wondered.  Maybe God wants me to keep working and write part-time.  O God, show me what You want me to do!

Then God, in His mercy, solved my dilemma.  Another company, with its own computer systems, purchased ours.  Within a few months, I’d transferred our client data and transaction history.  I was then free to bow out with no harm to the firm.  And the sale provided me with money to live on as I pursued writing full-time.

—Bryan Davis in Spit and Polish for Husbands

My Response: In what situation am I waiting for God to act?

Thought to Apply: God always gives his very best to those who leave the choice with Him.—J. Hudson Taylor

Adapted from Spit and Polish for Husbands (AMG Publishers, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Who Calls the Shots?

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: “May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.”  – Matthew 6:10

Bonus Reading: John 4:31-34

What if we ask for guidance and God guides us in ways we don’t want to follow? What if we pray for wisdom and the wisdom we receive seems more like nonsense? What if we pray for patience and the answer means nothing but trouble for us?

All of this shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus hinted at the problem when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Included in that model prayer were the words [of today’s Key Bible Verse]. The basic difficulty comes clear if we lay it out in a syllogism:

  1. God has a will (or desire) for your life.
  2. But you also have a will (or desire) for your life.
  3. Therefore, when you pray, “Your will be done,” you are asking that His will take precedence over yours.

Only one will can be done at a time. Either He is in control or you are. It’s not easy to pray like that because when you ask that God’s will be done, you’re implicitly asking that your will be overturned, if necessary. It’s not easy to pray that way when you’re standing beside the hospital bed of someone you love.

But then you’re not really in control anyway. It only seems that way.

—Ray Pritchard in The Incredible Journey of Faith

My Response: In what situation am I now prepared to pray, “Your will be done”?

Thought to Apply: Ninety-five percent of knowing the will of God consists in being prepared to do it before you know what it is.—Donlad Grey Barnhouse (Philadelphia pastor)

Adapted from The Incredible Journey of Faith (Crossway, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Whose Will Be Done? – Accepting Helplessness

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God.”  – Psalm 31:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 31:9-20

[continued from yesterday]  Hearing my pregnant wife’s cancer diagnosis taught me what it meant to pray, “Your will, not mine.”

As much as I wanted Cathy’s health restored and a healthy baby, I knew there was nothing I could do to affect the outcome.  Accustomed to forcing outcomes at work and at home, here I was truly powerless.  It frustrated me, but, at the same time, offered an unexpected peace.  For once in my life, I had to place it all in God’s hands. I had no alternative; there was nothing more I could do.

Despite the chaos of having a healthy newborn and a wife drained from weeks of chemo and radiation treatments, I rejoiced as my daughter, Ellen, and Cathy progressed in their growth and recovery. I was ecstatic that, in this case, God’s will was to ordain an outcome that matched my own desires.

In the process, He taught me what true obedience felt like. Now, when I face much more trivial instances of wanting my will done, I remember that turning the situation over to God gives a sense of power in the midst of weakness. Sometimes the first step to accepting God’s blessings is setting my desires aside to receive them.

—Tom Petersen in Iowa

My Response: How has God responded in my life when I’ve prayed, “Your will be done,” and meant it?

Thought to Apply: The will of God is either a burden we carry or a power which carries us.—Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch concentration camp survivor)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.

 

Effective Stewardship – August 2022 Theme

Our August 2022 Stewardship Theme:

“Coercion” is action which makes us do something, usually by force or threat or punishment. For example, the threat of a ticket or the fine which results causes us to regularly check our speed when driving. We are “coerced” into obeying the law, whether we want to or not.

Some people give to God because of coercion. They envision God as a glorified “bully” who is seeking to extract from them some of their hard-earned money. They reason, howbeit incorrectly, that if they fail to give to Him, then somehow, divine punishment will result.

That concept is totally foreign to the Scriptures. In fact, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, God wants us to give not because we have to, out of fear, or because we are required to do so. Rather, His desire is for us to give because we want to, because we have decided in our hearts to give in a manner which makes our giving something to be richly enjoyed.

Search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and you will discover God’s universal principle concerning giving: Give willingly from the heart. Not because someone is “coercing” you to give. Not because in a moment of emotional duress you made a commitment to give. Not because you desire to avoid punishment or discipline. Give because you want to, because you’ve decided in your heart to give.

A gentleman known as “Chaplain McCabe” was seeking to raise a million dollars for missions. In his quest, he often struggled with discouragement and disappointment as he encountered tight-fisted Christians who refused to give to God. One day, while going through the mail, he came across a tattered note from a young boy. Written in a boyish scrawl and liberally punctuated with blots, the letter read: “I’m sure you’re going to get a million dollars for missions. And I’m going to help you get it, too. So here’s a nickel towards it. It’s all I’ve got right now, but if you need any more, just call on me.”

Chaplain McCabe told that wonderful story around the world, and it was greatly used by God to challenge people everywhere to give literally millions of dollars to missions. As far as we know, no one forced that young boy to give all he had or even to write a letter. No one pressured him to part with his nickel. He did so willingly because somewhere in the recesses of his heart, he had decided to do so.

As you consider the Central United Methodist Church ministry and all that takes place in and through our church for God’s glory, will you do the same? Will you give “not reluctantly or under compulsion,” but willingly from the heart, with the full realization that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7)?


Central Church

Whose Will Be Done? – Unwelcome News

Discerning the Will of GodKey Bible Verse: If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. Isaiah 50:10

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31

Cathy and I were thrilled when the doctor confirmed her pregnancy.  Married for only a few years, we’d been praying for a child and were giddy at the prospect of this first addition to our family.

Time passed quickly until about six months into the pregnancy.  In addition to the usual odd cravings and inability to go more than 20 minutes without a bathroom break, Cathy assumed her night sweats and the lump growing on her neck were related to her pregnancy.  Conversations with our doctor provided no clear information.

Finally we pressed the issue.  She referred us to a surgeon to take a tissue sample.

We met with an oncologist after the biopsy. Cathy, he grimly informed us, had Hodgkin’s disease. The bottom fell out of our happy world.

The oncologist recommended inducing her pregnancy, in hopes that the seven-month-old fetus was old enough to survive.  That would clear the way for Cathy to begin chemotherapy treatments without further delay.

Suddenly, the pending joy of a baby’s birth was overshadowed by the coming struggle to defeat the cancer—and the uncertain final outcome. [continued tomorrow]

—Tom Petersen in Iowa

My Response: When have I found it hard to trust God?

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to accept your “good and pleasing, and perfect” will, even when that runs counter to my natural desires.