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Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends

FriendsToday’s Bible study looks at only four brief verses from Proverbs. But like all of the adages found throughout this wisdom-filled book, these tersely crafted verses are jam-packed with powerful, practical, and timeless insights.

And in keeping with this week’s theme, the insights go straight to the heart and soul of what it means to be someone who seeks to bring out the best in his friends. So, dig into these four short verses and then put them to work in your friendships.

Interact with God’s Word:  Proverbs 27:5-6, 9, 17

  1. When have you been grateful for a friend’s “open rebuke” (v. 5)? Why was this rebuke helpful to you?
  2. How does a wound from a “sincere friend” (v. 6) differ from a wound from an insincere friend?
  3. Why are wounds from a “sincere friend” better than “kisses from an enemy”?
  4. When was a time “heartfelt counsel” (v. 9) kept you from making a mistake or gave you the courage to do what was right?
  5. Who is a friend you could “sharpen” (v. 17) through an encouraging word, a piece of timely advice, or a loving rebuke?
  6. Take time to memorize one or two of the verses from this week’s study.

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for friends who offer you encouragement and who seek to bring out the best in you; ask God to guide you and give you wisdom as you seek to encourage and challenge your own friends to greater godliness.

Proverbs 27:5-6, 9, 17

5 An open rebuke
is better than hidden love!

6 Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.

9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense.

17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 1-27-2023

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of January 27, 2023, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

  • The Incidence Rate decreased from 68.9 to 49.4 (a decrease of 19.5 , or 28.3%), in the MODERATE category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 17.7 to 16.1 in the SUBSTANTIAL category.

(Allegheny County’s figures continued in the HIGH category during the past week, at 61.9 and 14.2%.)



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.

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved into the LOW 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:

The “Triple Threat”:

Recently, health officials have begun referring to the combination of RSV, COVID-19 and flu as a “triple threat” because they are all circulating simultaneously — and could all fuel a spike in respiratory illnesses in the coming months.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, poor appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. 

The virus can spread via coughs, sneezes, surfaces and direct contact, according to the CDC. Most people who get infected experience mild symptoms and recover within a week or two, but the virus can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.


  • 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 7.0, 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. )  


Active Air Filtering Measurement at Central Church

Here is some good news!

In order to continuously monitor how effectively our air filters are scrubbing the Sanctuary air for us, our Trustees have added an active air filter meter in our Sanctuary.

The actual COVID-19 virus measures about 1.5 microns in size, but it usually hitchhikes on air-borne droplets exhaled from infected humans to spread throughout a room.  The size of those droplets (classified as fine particulates) is 2.5 microns, so we are measuring for that level of particulates.

Our Sanctuary is disinfected prior to every worship service, so any particulates that are floating around are mainly routine dust and pollen.   (The Medify air filtration equipment that we have in place are rated to remove air-borne contaminants down to 1 micron.)

  • During our Sunday in-person worship services, when the air filters are in full use, the Sanctuary air readings hover between zero and 1, except for when we were singing hymns, when it briefly increased a few points before resuming its steady decrease down to 1 ppm, so our air filters are definitely doing their job of effectively scrubbing our air!
  • Since our objective is to reduce any air-borne COVID-19 virus (or cold or flu viruses) exhaled by an infected person during a worship service, we are protecting our folks as best we can.

Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for tirelessly working during the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect anyone who comes through our doors.

Central Church

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – We Need Each Other

FriendsKey Bible Verse: I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:4-6

Mark (not his real name) took the courageous step of joining a church group that encourages men who want to grow out of destructive patterns. I had been urging him to take advantage of this group.

When he did so, I told him how my respect for him had risen. But as I looked with the eyes of God, I saw a shadow in his face, a touch of discouragement, even a hint of fear. He needed some encouragement.

“But you know,” I added, “when you read the classics, they stress how once a believer begins taking God more seriously, Satan is likely to unleash his most fierce temptations against that person.”

The relief that flooded Mark’s face was immediate. “Thank you for sharing that,” he said. “It helps me understand what’s been going on.”

Just hours before I talked to Mark, two of my friends had spoken to me, ministering God’s presence and wisdom. If they hadn’t lifted me up, I don’t know if I would have been available to encourage Mark. True transformation is a community effort. We need each other.

—Gary Thomas in The Beautiful Fight

My Response: Who is a friend I need to thank for being there to encourage me?

Adapted from The Beautiful Fight (Zondervan, 2007) .

Thought to Apply: A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.—Arnold Glasgow (writer, humorist)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Get Real, Go Deep

FriendsKey Bible Verse: Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:14, The message

Bonus Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

If you were to share with a trusted friend that you struggle with watching television shows you know you shouldn’t, your friend could react in a number of ways. The reaction you receive will most likely reveal the depth of your friend’s commitment to you.

Your friend could say to you, “Well, just turn off the TV and pray about it.” In this case, your friend probably can’t really relate to your problem, but he thinks telling you this will help. He might be truly concerned, however, even though he doesn’t really understand. Or he may simply practice doling out spiritual-sounding advice.

On the other hand, imagine the difference if that friend makes a committed effort to help you. Think how you’ll feel if your friend says, “Let’s talk about your problem some more. Why do you think you’re having this struggle? Let’s pray about this together.”

The two of you spend some time talking over the struggle you’re experiencing—and then you spend some more time beside each other in prayer. Your friend is committed to helping you—as long as it takes—until you get through this problem. Now that’s a committed friendship.

—David Wardell and Jeff Leever in Daily Disciples

My Response: How can I best demonstrate empathy toward a struggling friend?

Thought to Apply: We are born helpless. … We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.—C. S. Lewis(British scholar, Christian writer)

Adapted from Daily Disciples (Promise, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Pastor Jan’s Last Sunday at Central Church

Conference has notified Central, Bennetts Run, and Homewood that this Sunday, January 29, 2023 will be Pastor Jan’s last Sunday as our minister.

Conference has advised that Pastor Jan’s sudden removal is due to her getting behind in her Course of Study courses and paperwork.  (Our request that she simply receive additional time was rejected.)

We have not received word of when/whether a replacement pastor will be appointed to Central (or to Bennetts Run and/or Homewood), and will for at least some time be having a guest speaker each week.

With so many local churches currently moving to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, a growing number of senior pastors will be looking to be appointed to openings that occur in other charges as the churches in their prior appointments exit the United Methodist Church.

In that regard, Central Church has also begun the process to formally separate (“disaffiliate”) from the United Methodist Church over the denomination’s open and continuing faithlessness in violation of provisions of the Discipline concerning issues of human sexuality.

As part of that process, we also plan to investigate the potential of joining the Global Methodist Church that was created in May 2022 from other local churches leaving the United Methodist Church. Due to the cumbersome and expensive process to disaffiliate, our formal transition out of the UMC will probably not be completed until late 2023.

Pastor Jan has served as pastor to Central Church for almost 10 years – the first 3 years with Pastor Wayne Cleary as Senior Pastor in 2014-2016, and then as Central’s Senior Pastor from 2016-2023. 

In recent years, she has also served as Senior Pastor to, first, Bennetts Run on a two-point charge, and then to Homewood on a three-point charge.

Central Church will host a luncheon honoring Pastor Jan this Sunday, January 29, at Noon, immediately following our morning worship service. 

Our good friends at Bennetts Run and Homewood are also invited, as well as anyone who would like one last opportunity to bid farewell to Pastor Jan. 

We will also celebrate Communion with Pastor Jan one last time during our morning worship service.

Our thanks to Pastor Jan for your faithful service to Central Church!

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Was It Worth It?

FriendsKey Bible Verse: When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.   – Romans 1:12

Bonus Reading: Philemon 7

To encourage the guys in a Bible study I recently led, I telephoned each of them every week, asking how things were going and how I could pray for them. One of the men was reticent on the phone, often answering my general questions with one or two words. Our typical conversation lasted for only a minute or two.

Was he uncomfortable talking with me? I wondered after each call. Was I annoying him with my repeated phone calls? Did he not even like me? Perhaps I should just stop calling him.

Before making any decisions, though, I needed some expert advice. I talked to my wife.

“I wouldn’t give up,” she said. “Those calls probably mean more to him than you think.”

I took my wife’s advice and called that man again. As usual, he shared little and offered no prayer requests. As I began to wrap up another uncomfortable conversation, he said something that stunned me.

“Jon,” he said, “I just want you to know that I really appreciate your calls. It’s encouraging to hear a friendly voice every week.”

With tears forming in my eyes, I thanked him for his kind words. I hung up the phone and looked forward to calling him the following week.

—Jonathan Wakefield

My Response: How do I react when guys don’t seem to respond positively to my attempts to reach out and encourage them?

Thought to Apply:Q: How can you tell if a person needs encouragement? A: If they are breathing.”—Truett Cathy (founder of Chick-fil-A)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – A Team of Huggers

FriendsKey Bible Verse: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

Bonus Reading: Acts 4:36, 11:22-24

Coach Peacock’s team had just won a state championship. They were celebrating in the locker room, and Coach was hugging his players right and left. As the congratulations continued, the coach noticed one player in particular sitting alone on a bench, watching him.

Coach Peacock knew that the young man’s parents were divorced and also that his dad was an alcoholic who never attended any of his son’s games. So he walked over to the player and asked if he was okay. The young man responded, “Yes, Coach, but I was just wondering … could I have another hug?”

The experience was a milestone in Coach’s life, leading him on a campaign to become a “team of huggers.” Starting with the coaching staff, Coach Peacock wouldn’t settle for a wimpy hug. It had to be a “bear hug.” Soon, the coaches began sharing hugs with their players.

Most of us would agree that hugs encourage us and remind us that someone cares about us. Of course, there are many ways to encourage others. Hebrews 10:24 says that we are to consider how to stimulate and encourage one another to good deeds. Let’s consider all the ways that we might encourage our fellow coaches, teachers, players, family members, and neighbors.

—Bill Burnett in Heart of a Coach

My Response: How do I feel about hugging my guy friends? Why do I feel this way?

Thought to Apply: There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.—George M. Adams (writer)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Training Partners

FriendsKey Bible Verse: If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  – Ecclesiastes 4:10

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 27:6, 9, 17

For a runner, there is nothing as wearing or as boring as a solo workout. The workout seems endless. For this reason, I always appreciated having training partners. When I ran with them, I was stretched, pulled, and extended beyond what I thought I could do. That’s the benefit of having quality training partners. They push and press us to better performances.

To me friendships are life’s training partners; they push and press us through everyday life. Henry Van Dyke once wrote that the mark of a friend is that he makes you wish to be at your best while you are with him. Good friends, like good personal training partners, pull us forward. They make us better. They stretch us.

Good friends challenge us when they see blind spots in our lives. Poor friends have the exact opposite effect—they drag us down. That’s why I believe friends are such a critical component to a successful life and are to be chosen wisely. It does matter who we hang out with.

Proverbs 13:20 reads: “He who walks with wise men will be wise. But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (NKJV). Let us be wise people in the company that we keep and the friends that we make.

—Jim Ryun in The Courage to Run

My Response: How am I encouraging and challenging my friends? How are my friends encouraging and challenging me?

Adapted from The Courage to Run (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

 

Encouraging and Supporting Your Friends – Push Each Other to the Top

FriendsWho Said It … Max Lucado

Max Lucado grew up in west Texas and pretty much partied his way through high school—giving little attention to God. But then he encountered Jesus through a required Bible course at Abilene Christian University.

Today, this best-selling Christian author has sold more than 65 million books—including Bible studies, commentaries, devotionals, and books for kids. Max regularly preaches his down-home, story-driven sermons from the pulpit of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church.

What He Said … Push Each Other to the Top

Every Thursday during a Young Life summer camp, four hundred students make the fourteen-thousand-foot climb up Colorado’s Mount Chrysolite. Several Young Life leaders and I walk with them.

On a recent trip, somewhere around the number four thousand, Matthew decided to call it quits. I coaxed him, begged him, negotiated a plan with him: thirty steps of walking, sixty seconds of resting. Finally we stood within a thousand feet of the peek. But the last stretch of the trail rose up as straight as a fireman’s ladder.

We got serious. Two guys came up beside Matt, each taking an arm. I pushed from the rear. We all but dragged Matt past the timberline and to the awesome view at the top.

That’s when we heard the applause. Four hundred campers on the crest of Mount Chrysolite gave Matt a standing ovation. As I slumped down to rest, a thought steamrolled my way: There it is, Max, a perfect picture of my plan. Do all you can to push each other to the top. Was this a message from God? Well, it does sound like something he’d say.

Adapted from The Cure for the Common Life (Thomas Nelson, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Dear Father, show me how to best encourage and challenge my friends to deeper faith; show me how to support them during their struggles.

 

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 1-20-2023

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of January 20, 2023, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

  • The Incidence Rate decreased from 98.2 to 68.9 (a decrease of 29.3 , or 29.8%), in the SUBSTANTIAL category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 27.8 to 17.7 in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures continued in the HIGH category during the past week, at 70.2 and 12.1%.)



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.

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved into the LOW 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:

The “Triple Threat”:

Recently, health officials have begun referring to the combination of RSV, COVID-19 and flu as a “triple threat” because they are all circulating simultaneously — and could all fuel a spike in respiratory illnesses in the coming months.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, poor appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. 

The virus can spread via coughs, sneezes, surfaces and direct contact, according to the CDC. Most people who get infected experience mild symptoms and recover within a week or two, but the virus can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.


  • 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 9.8, 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. )  


Active Air Filtering Measurement at Central Church

Here is some good news!

In order to continuously monitor how effectively our air filters are scrubbing the Sanctuary air for us, our Trustees have added an active air filter meter in our Sanctuary.

The actual COVID-19 virus measures about 1.5 microns in size, but it usually hitchhikes on air-borne droplets exhaled from infected humans to spread throughout a room.  The size of those droplets (classified as fine particulates) is 2.5 microns, so we are measuring for that level of particulates.

Our Sanctuary is disinfected prior to every worship service, so any particulates that are floating around are mainly routine dust and pollen.   (The Medify air filtration equipment that we have in place are rated to remove air-borne contaminants down to 1 micron.)

  • During our Sunday in-person worship services, when the air filters are in full use, the Sanctuary air readings hover between zero and 1, except for when we were singing hymns, when it briefly increased a few points before resuming its steady decrease down to 1 ppm, so our air filters are definitely doing their job of effectively scrubbing our air!
  • Since our objective is to reduce any air-borne COVID-19 virus (or cold or flu viruses) exhaled by an infected person during a worship service, we are protecting our folks as best we can.

Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for tirelessly working during the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect anyone who comes through our doors.

Central Church

Converting to Wind Power – The Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Jesus described the Spirit he was promising with an unusual word (Greek parakletos, “called alongside”).

This term, used for a legal representative who spoke in a person’s defense, is translated “Advocate” in the New Living Translation.

The current therapeutic connotations of “Counselor,” another translation, have rendered it misleading. And “Comforter” is accurate only in its older English meaning of someone who strengthens or encourages.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 14:15-26

  1. What is Jesus’ basic assignment to his disciples (vv. 15, 21, 23) in these paragraphs?
  2. What unspoken fear of the disciples (v. 18) is his disclosure about the Holy Spirit addressing?
  3. How is the sending of the Spirit equivalent to Jesus again being with them?
  4. Why are many (vv. 17, 19, 22) unaware of the Spirit’s activities? How have I experienced the Spirit recently?
  5. When (vv. 17, 20) did the Spirit’s presence shift from external to internal for Jesus’ disciples?
  6. On what is the Spirit’s teaching and reminding (v. 26) based?
  7. Are you confident (v. 21) that Jesus is revealing himself to you? Does this affirm that you know the Spirit?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to obey his commands through the instruction, encouragement, power, and sustaining presence of the Spirit in your life.

John 14:15-26

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – A Life of Its Own

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:12-14

My hand moved like it had a life of its own, as if detached from my arm. It was flat, horizontal to the ground, and floating like a leaf on the water. If there was a ripple of air, it flowed with the ripple.

For an eight-year-old boy, that’s what it was like when I’d put my hand out the window of our car while traveling at 55 miles an hour. Somehow my hand didn’t belong to me. I just stuck it in the wind and the wind gave it life and power.

The wind had control of my hand, making it go up or down, forward or backward. That’s why it didn’t seem like it was mine, because I’d surrendered control to the wind.

How then do you convert your life to wind power, to God’s power? Like my hand, you let the wind of God’s Spirit blow over your life. You detach your life from your own control. You let go.

You place your life so that it floats on the wind of God’s power, and let him empower you. You place your life in the wind of God’s power, and let him control you. You place your life with the wind of God’s power, and let him lead you.

—Joe Williams in Ohio

My Response: Am I increasingly becoming an instrument in God’s hand (Rom. 6:13)?

Thought to Apply: The Spirit’s control will replace sin’s control. His power is greater than the power of all your sin. —Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sputter or Hum?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: I … pray to the Father … that … he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  – Ephesians 3:14-17

Bonus Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

A couple of summers ago, my two boys and I bought a lawn mower. They earned spending money mowing lawns with it. The mower operates on a mixture of gasoline and oil. If it runs on gasoline alone, it’s just a matter of time before it burns up.

Living without the presence of God in our lives is like running the mower that way. We function as best we can but never achieve our potential and eventually break down. The coming of the Spirit of God into your life is like putting oil in the machine. If his Spirit is in us, we live life to the full, even beyond the grave.

Here’s how what Paul prayed for his friends [in today’s Key Bible Verse] happens. Jesus said a change must take place in your life every bit as dramatic and important as your own physical birth. Maybe this is what Tennyson had in mind when, frustrated with himself, he cried out [today’s Thought to Apply]. In a sense that’s what happens. Who we are doesn’t cease to be. But the presence of Christ comes into our lives and helps us become who we want to be.

—John Yates in Preaching Today

My Response: I’ll thank God that the Spirit in my life guarantees that “these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

Thought to Apply: Oh, that a man might arise in me, that the man I am might cease to be!—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Adapted from Preaching Today (#87).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Force Be with You?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “The world … doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  – John 14:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 12:11; Ephesians 4:30

Several years ago, I attended a bizarre weekend at a retreat center in the Colorado mountains. Two groups—leaders from the evangelical Christian community and leaders from the new age movement—had been invited to see if any bridges of understanding could be erected.

Both groups referred to “the spirit” to articulate their positions. But it soon became obvious that to the new age group the “spirit” was some kind of impersonal cosmic energy force. You could possess more or less of this force, and of course, it was always with you. Their explanations gave me the sensation of entering a theological “Twilight Zone” or of becoming an extra on the set of Star Wars.

But the Holy Spirit is not a force. He’s a person. As Jesus told his disciples [in today’s Key Bible Verse] he’s a he, not an it. Consistently throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns. The significance of the pronoun isn’t so much in its gender as in its being personal. It’s possible to become a modern gnostic, even as a Christian, when we think of the Spirit in terms of a force or entity rather than person.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How do the Bonus Readings demonstrate the intellect, volition, and emotion of a person?

Thought to Apply: No human power can replace the power of the Spirit. —Lewi Pethrus (Swedish pastor)

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – Reality Check

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind … so you cannot understand the activity of God. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Bonus Reading: John 3:3-9

When trees are waving wildly in the wind, journalist G.K. Chesterton once observed, people have historically thought that it is the wind that moves the trees—that the invisible gives energy to the visible. More recently others have concluded that the motion of the trees creates the wind—that what they see and hear and touch is basic reality and generates whatever can’t be verified with the senses.

The word translated “spirit” in our English Bibles carries in Hebrew the primary meaning of “wind” and “breath.” Imagine how our perceptions would change if we substituted these words for “spirit” in our language. For our ancestors, spirit was not “spiritual”; it was sensory. Although invisible, it was not immaterial. It had visible effects. Air, after all, provides the molecules for the quiet breathing that is part of all life, the puffs of air used to make words, the gentle breezes that caress the skin, the brisk winds that fill the sails of ships, the wild hurricanes that tear roofs off barns and uproot trees.

It would clarify things enormously if we could withdraw “spirit” and “spiritual” from our language stock for a while.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Can I honestly repeat Paul’s claim that “we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Cor. 5:7)?

Thought to Apply: Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.—Brother Lawrence

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Impossible Challenge

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  –  John 14:18

Bonus Reading: John 14:15-17

Life is difficult.” That’s the opening sentence of M. Scott Peck’s best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled. The opening words of Peck’s sequel,Further Along the Road Less Traveled are “Life is complex.” Let me take these observations one step further: “Life is impossible.” This statement is always true when we view life from the perspective of a man who desires to be the kind of man God wants him to be.

“You are to be perfect,” Jesus instructed.

“I can’t,” the honest man replies.

One night, Jesus met with 12 ordinary men in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Jesus startled them by assuming the household slave role of washing their feet, and then telling them that they were to serve one another in the same way. He then told them that the guiding rule of their lives was to have a love for one another that equaled his love for them. These ordinary men should have been thinking, “This is impossible!”

This is the dilemma of the spiritual man living in a fallen world. You and I don’t have the ability to live the way God intended us to live. That is, not under our own power. We need help. We need a helper.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How could Jesus say “It is best for you that I go away” (John 16:7)?

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – The Second Sunday after Epiphany – 1-15-2023

Central Church’s Sanctuary decorated for Christmas!

 

On this mild and overcast first Sunday after Epiphany. 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.)

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sweat, Drift, or…

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Who Said It … John Ortberg

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

The latest of several books John has written is Faith and Doubt. He and his wife, Nancy, have three teen and young adult children.

What He Said … Sweat, Drift, or …

Significant spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor that involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean.

Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful. Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.” They’re like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there. Neither trying nor drifting are very effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.

A better image is the sailboat, in which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides. That’s true transformation.

Adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal (Summer, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement

EncouragementThe 23rd Psalm is quite possibly the best loved and most quoted psalm in the Bible. Penned by King David, this psalm provides comfort for the grieving, hope for the hopeless, and encouragement to persevere through dark and desperate times.

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

Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

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

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

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

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

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

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

 

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 1-13-2023

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of January 13, 2023, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 87.3 to 98.2 (an increase of 10.9 , or 12.4%), in the SUBSTANTIAL category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 19.9 to 27.8 in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures continued in the HIGH category during the past week, at 84.6 and 15.5%.)



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.

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved into the LOW 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:

The “Triple Threat”:

Recently, health officials have begun referring to the combination of RSV, COVID-19 and flu as a “triple threat” because they are all circulating simultaneously — and could all fuel a spike in respiratory illnesses in the coming months.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, poor appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. 

The virus can spread via coughs, sneezes, surfaces and direct contact, according to the CDC. Most people who get infected experience mild symptoms and recover within a week or two, but the virus can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.


  • 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 14.0, 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. )  


Active Air Filtering Measurement at Central Church

Here is some good news!

In order to continuously monitor how effectively our air filters are scrubbing the Sanctuary air for us, our Trustees have added an active air filter meter in our Sanctuary.

The actual COVID-19 virus measures about 1.5 microns in size, but it usually hitchhikes on air-borne droplets exhaled from infected humans to spread throughout a room.  The size of those droplets (classified as fine particulates) is 2.5 microns, so we are measuring for that level of particulates.

Our Sanctuary is disinfected prior to every worship service, so any particulates that are floating around are mainly routine dust and pollen.   (The Medify air filtration equipment that we have in place are rated to remove air-borne contaminants down to 1 micron.)

  • During our Sunday in-person worship services, when the air filters are in full use, the Sanctuary air readings hover between zero and 1, except for when we were singing hymns, when it briefly increased a few points before resuming its steady decrease down to 1 ppm, so our air filters are definitely doing their job of effectively scrubbing our air!
  • Since our objective is to reduce any air-borne COVID-19 virus (or cold or flu viruses) exhaled by an infected person during a worship service, we are protecting our folks as best we can.

Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for tirelessly working during the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect anyone who comes through our doors.

Central Church

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Ultimate Life Coach

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

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 58:7-14

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

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

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

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

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

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

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

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

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

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Best Guide Ever

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

Dig Deeper: Psalm 69

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

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

God is a holy mentor. Are you skeptical that God wants to play the role of mentor in your life? Consider what he intends when he says in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Jesus promised his support, too, when he stated this in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” These Scriptures confirm the truth that God desires to guide us throughout our lives. Trust him; you could have no better guide.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

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

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

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

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

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Encourage Yourself

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

Dig Deeper: Philippians 4:4-9

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

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

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

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

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

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

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

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

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

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Nourishment

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

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

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

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

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

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

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

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

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

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

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Listen to Your Heart

EncouragementKey Bible Verse: The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain. Proverbs 10:11

Dig Deeper: Proverbs 10:10-14

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

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

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

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

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

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

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

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

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – The First Sunday after Epiphany – 1-8-2023

Central Church’s Sanctuary decorated for Christmas!

 

On this mild and overcast first Sunday after Epiphany. 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.)

 

 

 

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

EncouragementKey Study Passage: Psalm 23

Who Said It … Steve Kubicek

Steve Kubicek has more than 30 years of corporate experience, including 18 years as an executive with Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Company—the world’s largest publicly traded copper company. Retired since 2005, Steve leads a men’s group at his church and is involved in various other ministries. He is the author of Up and In.

What he Said … Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

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

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

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

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

 

Community Feeding Outreach Ministry Hits New High!

Local Outreach

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

“Come to me all you who are weak and burdened and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28

America is a wonderfully blessed country.  We have enough food and opportunity to go around.  But some miss out and go hungry.  20% of children in Pennsylvania do not know where their next meal will come from.  Food security is a problem for many in our community.

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

Central Church provided over 10,000 free, nutritious meals to our community in 2013.  In 2014, that number increased to 11,500, and the numbers of the hungry coming to us continue to increase.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, 27,599 meals were provided, and continuing in the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022, an incredible 32,328 meals were provided!  

That’s  an increase of 4,729 meals from the year before – a 17.1% increase in a single year.

.

In Matthew 9: 37, Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Similarly, this essential community outreach is only made possible through the generosity of many small givers, an active congregation of less than 25 dedicated souls, and essential partnerships with area churches and dedicated outreach groups.  (Please click on the “Donate” button in the right column of this page if you would like to support this critically-needed outreach ministry.)

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

Please join us to care for those in hard times.  Your gifts meet desperate needs for food, and you pave the way for hurting people to be blessed.

This is our prayer for everyone who walks through our door – providing hope for new life. 

 

Live the Adventure – The Christian Life

The Christian LifeKey Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

With Judas out of the picture, the 11 remaining disciples gathered at the mountain where the resurrected Jesus had told them to meet him. When Jesus showed up, they all worshiped him, even those who struggled with their doubts. Then Jesus prepared them for the most exciting adventure ever with these words:

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

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

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

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

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

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

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

 

New COVID-19 Variant – XBB – Symptoms

If you’ve been following COVID news, then you’re likely well aware there’s a new variant in town that’s concerning the scientific community.

Known as XBB (part of the omicron group), the variant is believed to be the most immune-evasive to date, and currently accounts for over 40% of infections in the United States, according to the CDC.

(That percentage is expected to grow exponentially in the coming weeks as XBB out-competes other omicron variants like BQ.1. Look at what transpired in New England: Within three weeks, the percentage of cases in the region caused by XBB jumped from 11% to 75%.)

XBB’s mutations also let it attach to our cells more easily, enabling it to spread more efficiently than other versions of omicron.

The Symptom profile has shifted a bit with each variant:

  • Alpha and Delta more commonly triggered anosmia (loss of smell) and ageusia (loss of taste);
  • Omicron caused more cold-like symptoms (like fatigue, runny nose, sneezing and muscle aches); and
  • XBB causes more general aches, with congestion and headache.  We may also expect to see the other usual symptoms: fever, chills, cough and sore throat.  (Severe shortness of breath is less common with XBB.)

  • Long Covid – Of course, there’s always the very real risk of long COVID, which is a debilitating condition that can follow even a mild case of the coronavirus.  Long COVID can cause lasting fatigue, brain fog, respiratory issues and more.

But there’s one thing we know for sure: There’s a benefit to being vaccinated rather than not. The bivalent booster (the second booster that was first available in 2022) offers some protection against all omicron-based variants and is highly recommended, especially for those over 65 or with serious other risks.

Based on the latest information from the CDC, our current precautions and procedures should continue to be helpful in reducing the chances of an infected person worshiping with us infecting others.

  • So, Happy New Year.  It’s a New Year and a new COVID-19 variant that, fortunately, is not significantly more deadly.

  • Central Church is continuing to be vigilant and take precautions to protect the folks who join us for worship, our feeding ministry, or any other event that brings people inside our building.

Central Church

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 1-6-2023

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of January 6, 2023, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 82.9 to 87.3 (an increase of 4.4 , or 5.3%), in the SUBSTANTIAL category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 24.5 to 19.9 in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures continued in the HIGH category during the past week, at 100.9 and 18.8%.)



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.

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved up into 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:

The “Triple Threat”:

Recently, health officials have begun referring to the combination of RSV, COVID-19 and flu as a “triple threat” because they are all circulating simultaneously — and could all fuel a spike in respiratory illnesses in the coming months.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a respiratory virus that usually causes cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, poor appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. 

The virus can spread via coughs, sneezes, surfaces and direct contact, according to the CDC. Most people who get infected experience mild symptoms and recover within a week or two, but the virus can be serious, especially for infants and older adults.


  • 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 11.8, 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. )  


Active Air Filtering Measurement at Central Church

Here is some good news!

In order to continuously monitor how effectively our air filters are scrubbing the Sanctuary air for us, our Trustees have added an active air filter meter in our Sanctuary.

The actual COVID-19 virus measures about 1.5 microns in size, but it usually hitchhikes on air-borne droplets exhaled from infected humans to spread throughout a room.  The size of those droplets (classified as fine particulates) is 2.5 microns, so we are measuring for that level of particulates.

Our Sanctuary is disinfected prior to every worship service, so any particulates that are floating around are mainly routine dust and pollen.   (The Medify air filtration equipment that we have in place are rated to remove air-borne contaminants down to 1 micron.)

  • During our Sunday in-person worship services, when the air filters are in full use, the Sanctuary air readings hover between zero and 1, except for when we were singing hymns, when it briefly increased a few points before resuming its steady decrease down to 1 ppm, so our air filters are definitely doing their job of effectively scrubbing our air!
  • Since our objective is to reduce any air-borne COVID-19 virus (or cold or flu viruses) exhaled by an infected person during a worship service, we are protecting our folks as best we can.

Our thanks to our dedicated Trustees for tirelessly working during the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect anyone who comes through our doors.

How do United Methodists understand Epiphany and Three Kings Day?

Epiphany is the day Christians remember the coming of the Magi to visit Jesus, bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It occurs on January 6 every year, the 13th day of the Christmas season. The word “epiphany,” from the Greek word epiphania, means appearance or manifestation.

The arrival of these visitors was a sign that the incarnation of God in Christ had been made known and was recognized by the heavens to the whole world, so that even Gentile wise men from the East came to pay him homage. This is an observance of great majesty, solemnity and awe.

An even more ancient Christian celebration than Christmas, Epiphany originally focused on the nativity, God’s incarnation (God made flesh) in the birth of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s baptism.  After the late fourth century, as Advent developed as a season of baptismal preparation in addition to Lent, Epiphany became associated with baptism.  This is why we see images of the three Magi on many older baptismal fonts.

In many Hispanic cultures, Epiphany is a day of great rejoicing and celebration, often kicked off by a parade the night before in which people dressed as the three kings or carrying statues of the three kings pass through the towns and villages throwing out candy and small gifts to all around.  Families and children alike look forward to Dia de Los Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day) as a time for presents, feasting and celebration.  Attending church services that include the celebration of communion is also common in many of these cultures, even for those who may not attend worship regularly.

In England and some other European cultures, January 5 is known as Twelfth Night, the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas feasting and partying.  On Twelfth Night, many families gather in homes to celebrate with friends, food, singing and gifts.  It is at these Twelfth Night celebrations that “Chalking the Door,” asking God’s blessing on those dwellings and upon all who live there, is most often observed.

In New Orleans, Twelfth Night begins another season of celebrations that comes to fulfillment at Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday). Epiphany itself, January 6, becomes the kickoff day for that season, but is also often observed with a full celebration in church, complete with incense, elaborate processionals, choral celebrations, and Eucharist.

Some United Methodists in the United States, who are not part of these rich traditions, tend to recognize Epiphany on the Sunday nearest January 6.  There may be a pageant of the three kings as part of worship that day and a small party afterward.

Epiphany Reflections

EpiphanyEpiphany
Many of us were introduced to Epiphany through the familiar silhouetted-image of Three Wise Men bearing gifts as they followed the Great Star by night. In some cultures, Epiphany is known as the Day of the Kings (Dia de los Reyes). It is also known as Twelfth Day or Twelfth Night, reflecting an old custom of giving a gift for each of the days from December 25 to January 6 for the 12 days of Christmas. The day has special meaning for a number of reasons. Several branches of Christianity celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on January 6 or January 7

The word epiphany means appearance or manifestation. Popular usage likens epiphany to words such as eureka or aha! Use of this word by some English speakers conjures images of having a light bulb turned on, or of being able to see something that was once hidden from view. The texts for the Sundays after the Epiphany dramatize the many ways that we people came to understand who Jesus was, through his baptism, the miracle at the wedding, or through that bodacious declaration in his hometown synagogue! But, this ever-widening circle of revelation began ‘outside the circle’ of Judaism, so to speak, with the Magi.

Who were the Magi?
Many versions of the Bible refer to them as the Wise Men. We often forget that these Magi or Wise Men were non-Jews.
Older sources suggest that they were priestly descendants of one of the tribes of the Medes known for their knowledge of the stars (astronomy) and their ability to interpret dreams.

What can we learn from the Wise Men?

First, the Wise Men began their journey because of their beliefs.
It was a common belief that when a world leader like a king was born that a special stellar phenomenon would appear in the sky. The Magi saw something that convinced them that they had seen the long-awaited sign. Historians tell us that the Jews, the Romans, and the Persians were all watching the skies about that time, looking for signs of the birth of an extraordinary king. A few years before, around 11 BC, Halley’s Comet had been seen. There were other stellar phenomena, including a bright star, Sirius, which appeared brightly in the daytime instead of at night. The Wise Men saw the star and began their journey.

May God give us all inspiration for this year’s journey.

Second, the Wise Men were willing to follow what they had seen into unknown territory.
Their journey took them outside their country and their comfort zone. The Wise Men risked the consequences of disobeying Herod, who was known to behave as a madman when provoked and returned to their country by another way.

The Christian journey is often an off-road excursion.

Third, the Wise Men were committed to the journey — wherever the star might lead.
The Wise Men set out to find a newborn King by following a star and ended up in finding a baby born to young, relatively poor parents! Not exactly what they expected and not exactly what befit their dignity as priests.

In this coming year, may we look to heaven for guidance and comfort and may we accept God’s blessings in whatever forms we find them, just as the Wise Men accepted that their long, expensive journey led them to a baby born to young, inexperienced parents who lived on the poor side of town.

Finally, the Wise Men brought gifts.
They did the thing that people in the East or in Africa or in India would do when visiting royalty. They brought gifts.

Gold was the kind of gift that you brought to a king.
Frankincense was the kind of gift that you would bring to a priest.
Myrrh was given to someone who was about to die.

On This Twelfth Day, or Three Kings Day, otherwise known as Epiphany, think of the gift that you will offer to God in the coming year. The gift of time? The gift of your talents? Your service in the community? Your witness and testimony? The gift of undying love and devotion?

Their greatest gift comes to us in the form of a realization. The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to recognize that Jesus belongs to everyone. Good news is for everyone, not just a select few.

Star of wonder
Star of light
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading
Still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Amen.

Live the Adventure – Never a Dull Moment

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God.   – Luke 9:2

Dig Deeper: Luke 9:1-6

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

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

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

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

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

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

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

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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

 

 

Live the Adventure – Join the Adventure

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

Dig Deeper: John 12:44-46

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

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

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

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

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

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

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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

 

 

Live the Adventure – Boldly Go

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

Dig Deeper: Mark 4:35-41

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

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

Dorothy Sayers said:

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

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

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

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

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

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

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

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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

 

Live the Adventure – Gather Experiences

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: “But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”  – Matthew 6:20, NET

Dig Deeper: Matthew 6:19-24

May 27, 2005, ranks as one of the most memorable days of my life, and I learned a lesson that has defined my life ever since. It was the last day of our mission trip to Ethiopia.

The date is stamped in my memory because it was one of the craziest days of my life. After a week of intense ministry, our team journeyed into the wilderness of the Ethiopian outback. We got held up at gunpoint by shepherds with AK-47s, went swimming in a natural spring heated by a volcano, and did a game drive through Awash National Park—all in a day’s adventure. We ended the day worshiping God around a campfire.

That night, tucked away in my pup tent, I was journaling about the amazing day I had just experienced and I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “Mark, don’t accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences.” That moment, in the middle of an African game park, reshaped the way I viewed life.

That two-word mantra—accumulate experiences—is my modus operandi. It frames my life. It also frames our family. Lora and I want our kids to get in on the action, and it’s our job to engineer those experiences.

—Mark Batterson in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What are the benefits of accumulating possessions? What are the benefits of accumulating experiences?

Thought to Apply: The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped—it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory.—Eugene Peterson (pastor, scholar, writer)

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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

 

Live the Adventure – Designer Destinies

The Christian LifeKey Bible Verse: Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.  – Psalm 16:11, The Message

Dig Deeper: Psalm 16

I have come to believe that from the moment of conception, we are being formed with an adventure in mind. We were created to touch, taste, smell, see, and hear life. Our Creator has big plans for us. No settling for mediocrity. Rather, we have a high calling etched into our bones and written on our hearts.

God wants to engage us from first squall to last drawn breath and deliver us into a life he has dreamed for us. Whether our earliest memories are sailing the high seas in a steamship or walking in a kindergarten class by ourselves for the first time, the exploration of the world within us and around us is a drumbeat. And the beat goes on.

We were made to explore. For some of us that exploration is more outward than inward, like Admiral Robert Peary going to the North Pole. For others it is more inward than outward, like Blaise Pascal and his thoughts or Thomas Merton’s contemplations. Whichever it is, we were made for curiosity and more. That design drives us. It shapes our thinking and our dreams. It forms expectations of what life should be and lays the foundation of who we will become. It shapes our destiny.

I would submit it is our destiny.

—Richard Foth in A Trip Around the Sun

My Response: What specific experiences have shaped my life and faith?

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – New Year’s Day – Epiphany Sunday – 1-1-2023

Central Church’s Sanctuary decorated for Christmas!

 

On this mild and overcast New Year’s Day, when we celebrate Epiphany Sunday, and 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.)

 

 

Effective Stewardship – January 2023 Theme

Our January 2023 Stewardship Theme:

 

Anyone who has ever been personally involved in the construction of a building knows that the foundation is of utmost importance.  The finest architectural design and the best construction materials are of little value if the foundation is not built correctly.

The same is true of life itself and of our giving.  Concerning the rich, the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “ . . . command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves  the treasure of a good foundation for the future” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

Do not misunderstand: Jesus is the foundation.  He is the Cornerstone.  When it comes to the matter of our salvation, Christ and Christ alone is the “sure foundation.”  Nothing we can do — not even giving of our resources — can add one bit to that foundation.

But we can follow the counsel of the Apostle Paul concerning our giving.  Through our giving, we can send our treasure on ahead.  We can follow the admonition of the Lord Jesus and through our giving, we can “lay up treasure in heaven.”  John Bunyan summarized both teachings in this statement: “Whatever good thing you do for Him, if done according to the Word, is laid up for you as treasure in chests and coffers, to be brought out to be rewarded before men and angels, to your eternal comfort.”

Our giving, then, becomes a foundation, not concerning salvation, but rather, concerning our investments.  Suppose for a moment that you had invested 100% of your life’s savings in the stock of a company.  Would you not be watching with great eagerness how that company was performing?  Would you not be checking up on how well it was doing, on management’s goals for the future, and on how it was faring against the competition?  In a similar way, our investments in the work of the Lord not only indicate where we are placing our emphasis, but also, they will determine where our interest lies.  We will be checking up on them, evaluating their performance, and giving thought to the day when they will yield eternal dividends in our behalf.

One writer expressed it this way: “We can trade temporal possessions that we cannot keep anyway to gain eternal possessions that we cannot lose.  This is like a child given a  chance to trade bubble gum for a new bicycle, or a man offered ownership of the Coca-Cola company in exchange for a sack of bottle caps.  Only a fool would pass up this opportunity.  What we keep we will lose.  What we give and share and do in Christ’s name will ultimately come back to us in heaven in a far better and permanent form.”

Remember, Jesus Christ is the “sure foundation.”  Jesus is the Cornerstone.  As we work and as we give, we are building on Him and on what He accomplished on Calvary.  What kind of builder are you?


Live the Adventure – Defining Moments

The Christian LifeKey Study Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

Who Said It … Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. He is The New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker and The Grave Robber. Mark lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and three children. Visit him at markbatterson.com.

Mark and his friend Richard Foth, minister-at-large in Washington, DC, coauthored A Trip Around the Sun—the source of this week’s readings.

What he Said … Defining Moments

Alfred Adler, the famed psychologist, is said to have begun every counseling session by asking his clients to tell him about their earliest memory. They would share those memories, and no matter what their answer was, Adler would say, “And so life is.”

If your earliest memory is flying in an airplane to visit your grandparents, life is a journey. If your first recollection is huddling under the covers on a summer’s night as thunder claps and lightning strikes, life is a storm.

I genuinely believe our outlook on life is determined by a few defining moments when God meets us and we meet God. It’s Jacob’s wrestling match with God. It’s Moses at the burning bush. It’s Peter walking on water. Those moments are more than memories. They are the lenses through which we perceive the present and dream of the future. Those are the moments when God helps us see ourselves for who we really are.

Adapted from A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime by Mark Batterson and Richard Foth with Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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