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Posts from the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 1st Sunday in Advent – 11-28-2021

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

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


AND…

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

 

 

Advent Devotional – Sunday, November 28, 2021 – God Nods

Scripture:  Psalm 65:8

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.

Funny, isn’t it?  How the God of eternity keeps trying to connect with humanity?  God wants to be in relationship with us, but we have difficulty accepting signs of God’s presence and provision.

The Egyptians would not believe the signs.  The Israelites despised God and all the signs God sent (Numbers 14:11).  The folks who heard about signs from Jeremiah and Daniel floundered in unfaithfulness.

Sure, it would be amazing to witness angels, a babe in a manger, or see water turned into wine! I simply need to “lift up mine eyes” from my phone or TV to see signs – the God nods – pointing me to Christ and his covenant community:

The hymn my soul is singing before I wake up; the birds that face east, heralding the dawn; the coincidental conversation with a stranger who “ happens” to affirm my call; or the softening of hearts when there is no chance of common ground.

Prayer: God, there is undeniable holiness in the Advent season.  As we turn our attention toward what you are doing, help us make room for Jesus in our hearts.  Help us shift busy-ness into blessedness and weariness into welcome.  Thank you for sending us sacred signs pointing us to Your Son.   Amen.

  – Katy Brugraber – Chambersburg, PA

Central Church’s Sanctuary decorated for Christmas!

How God Gets Our Attention – Reaching for the Top Rung

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  Enjoy prosperity while you can. But when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.  – Ecclesiastes 7:14

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 31:17-20

Guy had started as a part-time employee of a successful airline company.  Now, 25 years later, after earlier moving his family around every two to three years, he was securely settled at corporate headquarters.

He was a vice president with more than 5,000 employees under his charge, and the president’s heir apparent.  Guy and his wife acknowledged God’s blessings showered on them.

Along the way, though, Guy began taking matters into his own capable hands and leaving God out of the daily decision-making process.  The required travel meant that he and his wife saw each other very little.  And the demands of the job had edged others out of his life as well.

Then a hostile corporate takeover threat emerged.  After a long fight in the courts, the stock exchange, and state legislatures, Guy’s company changed hands.  On the night of the takeover, Guy’s friend, the company president, committed suicide.

Guy’s personal walk with God was almost nonexistent, his marriage of 23 years was failing, and his corporate aspirations were quickly fading.  It was like being on a sinking ship with no lifeboats. [continued tomorrow]

—John Hutchison in Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

My Response: How could my perspective of success become skewed?

Thought to Apply: To have all the props pulled out from under us … gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.—Madeleine L’Engle (author)

Adapted from Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong (Kregel, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 11-25-2021

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of November 25, 2021, with both indexes surging significantly over last week, pending another forecasted surge later in next several weeks.

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 447.1 to 537.4 (an increase of 90.3, or 20.1%) in the HIGH category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has increased from 12.4 to 17.1 in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures also increased during the past week from 250.0 to 287.9 and from 11.2% to 11.7%.)

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

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

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


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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 76.7, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

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

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

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

  • As our community COVID-19 levels continue to deteriorate, this week, we have significantly expanded our new 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)!

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

 

Central Church

How God Gets Our Attention – Take That!

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Philippians 1:29

Bonus Reading:  1 Peter 4:12-19

A muscular offensive lineman from the Florida State University football team was distributing Christian literature at an event sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.  A younger, slightly built student perused one of the Christian brochures, looked squarely into the football player’s face, and spit at him.  “That’s what I think of your Jesus!” he said.

The natural response for the lineman would have been a massive cross-body block.  But this new Christian had been taught that he might receive persecution when standing up for Christ.

The Holy Spirit enabled him to respond in love.  Pulling out his handkerchief, he said, “I want you to know that Jesus can wipe away your sins just as easily as I wipe this spit from my face.”  He quietly walked away, avoiding an ugly confrontation, and also attracting an unlikely individual into the kingdom of God.

More than the brochure, the love of Christ embodied in the football player’s humility and gentleness delivered a convincing message.  One year later, both men were serving in Christian ministry together.

Obstacles become opportunities when we see persecution as a unique privilege.

—John Hutchison in Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

My Response: Am I open to “suffering according to God’s will”?

Thought to Apply: The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Adapted from Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong (Kregel, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 4Key Bible Verse: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6, NASB

Dig Deeper:  Psalm 100

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays, especially considering the five “f’s” it includes: faith, family, food, football, and the four-day weekend.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a tough combination to beat.

And talk about positive and upbeat!  Pausing to express gratitude for one’s blessings breathes life into anyone’s soul.  Even in times of trial and heartache, when it’s most difficult to see life’s glass as half full instead of half empty, stopping to give thanks makes a difference.

Thanksgiving’s such a great holiday—it’s a shame we celebrate it only once a year.  Maybe we should change that fact.

Consider again Paul’s words in today’s Key Bible Verse: I see the phrase “with thanksgiving” as a secret that Paul has learned, enabling him to find contentment in spite of his circumstances.  Thanksgiving is a critical ingredient.

When we humbly bring ourselves and our requests before God (supplication), we should do that “with thanksgiving.”  What a privilege to be able to bring our requests to him, and what a benefit to know that he’ll answer in a way and in a time that are perfect for us.  These truths provide us with good reason to give thanks.

—Don Cousins in Unexplainable

 

My Response: During my prayer times over the next several days, I will consciously thank God for at least one blessing in my life.

 

Thought to Apply: All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.—Daniel Defoe (British writer, journalist)

Adapted from Unexplainable (Cook, 2009).

 

Thanksgiving Prayer:  Dear heavenly Father, thank you for providing for my daily needs; help me to find my contentment in you and you alone, so that I might experience the kind of peace that’s unexplainable apart from you.

How God Gets Our Attention – Listening to God

How God Gets Our AttentionJeremiah ministered under Judah’s last five kings.  He prophesied the fall of Jerusalem—and lived to see it fulfilled.

But he also predicted the return from exile (in Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10)—a prophecy that sustained Daniel (Daniel 9:2) during the closing years of Judah’s captivity.

Jeremiah’s sweeping theme that the God who must judge is also eager to restore is capsulized in this brief passage.

Interact with God’s Word:  Jeremiah 31:17-20

  1. “I had to punish him,” Jeremiah quotes God as saying about Israel (in v. 20). Can you picture a situation for yourself or another that might call for divine intervention?
  2. “I deserved it,” (v. 18) is the response that Jeremiah attributes to Israel. Do you think you would be able to say this after an unwelcome turn of events in your life?
  3. Verse 19 expresses what someone who’s taken God’s intervention to heart might conclude. Have you had a similar experience?
  4. God says “there is hope for your future” to the same ones He singles out for discipline. How could this outlook help you or a friend up against it right now?

Spend Time in Prayer:  I thank You, Lord, that although You sometimes discipline us for our good, You would much prefer to express Your love in mercy.

Jeremiah 31:17-20

17″There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land. 18I have heard Israel saying, ‘You disciplined me severely, but I deserved it. I was like a calf that needed to be trained for the yoke and plow. Turn me again to you and restore me, for you alone are the LORD my God.

19I turned away from God, but then I was sorry. I kicked myself for my stupidity! I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days.'” 20″Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” asks the LORD. “I had to punish him, but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.”

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

Thanksgiving – A Prayer

The True Story of Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of this month citizens of the United States will celebrate the much-beloved holiday of Thanksgiving.  It’s supposed to be an occasion for grateful reflection upon how blessed we are as a people, but how many American Christians, let alone Americans in general, understand the true origin and meaning of this annual day on the calendar?

The majority of Americans, which likely includes a large number of Christians, may well think the origin of the celebration of Thanksgiving is all about the first pilgrims to the New World (later to be named America) celebrating that they had arrived safely here.  While that may be a worthy reason, it’s not the real the story.

Had it not been for the grace of God providing help for them through the gracious contributions of the indigenous people living around them they all might have died.  As it was, a sizable number of their small community had died from illness anyway during that difficult first winter.

Therefore, after harvesting a bountiful crop of various produce and getting better established in their new homeland during the next year, the pilgrims felt especially grateful to God for their survival.  Because they were all very devout Christians, setting aside a feast day to thank God for His goodness was a natural expression of their gratitude.  However, it would be 168 years later on November 26, 1789, before George Washington proclaimed it as a national day of observance for the new nation.

President Lincoln made it an annual observance beginning on the last Thursday of November in 1863, but to support retailers by extending the shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, President Franklin Roosevelt changed the annual date to the fourth Thursday in November in 1939, and it has remained unchanged from that date since then.

In America’s politically correct educational environment today where anything even hinting at Christian influence in America’s past or present is eschewed by the anti-Christian establishment, precious few people (including Christians) have even the slightest idea of America’s Christian heritage.

In fact, the day may come in the not-too-distant future when writing or hosting these facts may be forbidden and even dangerous.  So-called “hate speech” laws have already been enacted around the world in parts of Europe, Canada and even America prohibiting critical speech against certain groups such as homosexuals and Muslims which may be labeled as hate speech.  Unfortunately, the definition of “hate” by these laws is so ambiguous that anything negative may be identified as hateful, thus putting Bible-believing Christians, in particular, in a very precarious position.

Simply quoting the Bible’s statements against homosexuality or pointing out the moral and theological inconsistencies of Islam with Biblical Christianity (such as loving your enemies and rejecting both murder and vengeance) can bring on the wrath of either of these constituencies or their various sympathizers. It appears that it’s socially sanctioned for anyone in either of these groups to blaspheme God or Jesus’ saving work or to spew hate-filled epithets at Bible-believing Christians, but it’s not allowed for Christians to espouse their strong beliefs in the Bible as God’s final Word on anything.

Maybe we American Christians had better be especially thankful to God for our dearly-held freedoms of speech and religion as we observe this year’s Thanksgiving Day, since we have no real assurance that we will still have these same freedoms in the future.

What about you?  What do you have to be thankful for, and have you taken the opportunity to thank God both in prayer and in an open pronouncement to others for His goodness to you?

Expressing gratitude is very important to God, as we can learn from a careful reading of His holy Word. One  excellent example is the story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers which prompted the thankful response from the apparently lone Samaritan in the group (see Luke 17:11-19).  To quote another of Jesus’ statements in another  context – “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 NKJV).

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

A Guide for Using Rapid COVID-19 Tests

Here from the New York Times is a quick, concise guide for using at-home COVID-19 tests.


 

 

 
 

 

 
 

Turkey without Covid

If the U.S. government had done a better job making rapid Covid-19 tests available, the advice for how to use them this holiday weekend would be easy: Take one at the start of every day when you planned to spend time with people outside your household.

That approach is possible in other countries. In Britain, pharmacies offer free packs of seven tests that people can take at home. In Germany, rapid tests are also widely available and mostly free. In this country, the situation is different, largely because the F.D.A. has been slow to approve the tests.

The Biden administration has not been as aggressive in fixing the situation as it could have been, but it has made progress. A couple of months ago, tests were often impossible to find. Now, they are sporadically available at many stores. Friends and family around the country have told me this week that they have usually been able to find a test after looking in enough places.

The tests are not free, however. They typically cost about $25 for a pack of two. The combination of their cost and irregular availability means that Americans interested in rapid tests often must make choices about when to use them.

 

Today’s newsletter offers a guide for doing so, especially as a way to protect older people — who remain the most vulnerable to serious Covid illness — during Thanksgiving weekend.

“Rapid tests can help reduce worries about gathering with loved ones for the holidays,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told me. Nuzzo’s immediate family plans to take tests on Thanksgiving, before going over to their hosts for the meal. So do I.

Why?

The Covid tests that you take in a doctor’s office or testing center are usually PCR tests, which are designed to identify whether you have any amount of the Covid virus. They can sometimes come back positive even if you had the virus weeks earlier and have not been infectious for a long time.

The rapid tests — also known as antigen tests — are designed to tell whether you are infectious. That’s why they are such a powerful public-health tool. They can prevent somebody with the virus from spreading it to others.

“For too long, people thought of testing as an extra and not the core, and it needs to be thought of as the core,” Mara Aspinall, a professor at Arizona State University and former biotechnology executive, told Kaiser Health News.

Which ones?

The most widely available antigen test seems to be BinaxNOW, from Abbott. You should also feel comfortable using QuickVue, Ellume and Flowflex, among others. If you search for one of these tests online and a website points you to a different brand, do some research. Others can be very expensive.

Both CVS and Walgreens have search engines that let you find tests for sale near you. I recommend calling the store to confirm it still has them in stock — and then immediately going to buy it. A store may limit you to buying one test pack at a time.

Processesing an Abbott rapid test.Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

How?

Some people find the tests easy to conduct. Others have told me that the process is tricky — more so, for example, than taking a home pregnancy test. Either way, set aside time to read the directions and watch the how-to video.

“It is critically important that you carefully read any instructions for the type of test you are taking, and follow them to the letter,” Dr. Karl Laskowski, who helps oversee Covid testing at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Julia Taliesin of Boston.com.

You will usually get a result within 15 minutes. Keep in mind that both false negatives and false positives are possible. Antigen tests typically identify 98 percent of infectious cases, according to Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University epidemiologist.

If you get a positive result, take it seriously, and quarantine yourself until you know more. Ideally, you would try to confirm the result with a PCR test or a second rapid test — from a different brand, my colleague Tara Parker-Pope says. If the second is negative and you are vaccinated, you can probably trust the negative.

When?

Because most Americans have limited access to rapid tests, they need to triage their use. The two most important times to take a test are either after you may have been exposed to the virus or before you are spending time with medically vulnerable people, like those in their 70s or older.

“I try to tell people it’s a snapshot good for one day only,” Tara told me. “And that you need to keep testing if you think you were exposed to Covid or if you have been traveling through airports or on trains.”

If you are attending multiple gatherings this weekend and do not have enough tests, focus your testing on the days when you are seeing anybody vulnerable. For most people, the vaccines have turned Covid into a manageable disease — one that is highly unlikely to lead to severe illness and not so different from other respiratory illnesses. But for many older people, Covid remains a meaningful threat.

Many Americans continue to exaggerate the threat that Covid presents to children and understate its threat to elderly people. They deserve our focus.

Who?

Not everybody in your household has the same chance of Covid exposure. With a limited number of tests available, it can make sense to focus on people who have the highest likelihood of having been infected — and, by extension, infecting others.

Nuzzo suggests prioritizing two groups for rapid testing: people who are not fully vaccinated, like children; and those who have spent more time in settings where they might have been exposed.

Even with the limitations of rapid testing in the U.S., the tests can play an important role in slowing the spread of the virus. And the situation does seem to be improving. The F.D.A. approved three more tests this week, and the Biden administration continues to spend more to expand their availability.

By Christmas and New Year, tests should be easier to find than they are this week.

 
 
 

 

 

 


Central Church

How God Gets Our Attention – Blessing and Breaking

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  Jesus … asked God’s blessing on the food.  Breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples to give to the people. Luke 9:16

Bonus Reading:  Luke 9:10-17

It is easy to label life’s moments.  This one is good; that one is bad.  This is a rich blessing; that’s a real setback.  But it’s in the interworkings of the two that the deep meaning, power, and beauty of living in union with God comes through.

Last spring one of my close friends had a heart attack.  For a while it didn’t look like he’d make it.  But he grew better and was finally strong enough for the surgery that was supposed to give him a new lease on life.  In the fall we had a conversation something like this:

“Well, how did you like your heart attack?”

“It scared me to death, almost.”

“Does your life mean more to you now than before?”

“Well, yes.”

“You and Nell have always had a beautiful marriage, but are you closer now than ever?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a new compassion for people—a deeper understanding and sympathy?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know the Lord in a deeper, richer fellowship than you had ever realized could be possible?”

“Yes.”

“W.T., how’d you like your heart attack?”

Silence was his answer.

—Bob Benson in See You at the House

My Response: I’ll thank God for a setback that corrected my perspective.

Thought to Apply: Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.—Christian Bovee (English scholar & explorer)

Adapted from See You at the House (Generoux, 1986)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

How God Gets Our Attention – The Almost CEO

How God Gets Our AttentionKey Bible Verse:  I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word.  – Psalm 119:67

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 32:8-9

[continued from yesterday]  After trying to make things work the first year after the takeover, Guy resigned and put out his ré;sumé;.  Weeks and months passed.  After a year, he still had no job.  For the first time in his life, he was unable to pay his bills.

But as Guy and his wife worked together on the extended job search, they began to rediscover each other.  The trial of joblessness and financial insecurity continued for several years, during which Guy’s relationship with his wife and with other Christians became his greatest security.

Now, more than 12 years have passed since those years of unemployment and near poverty.  Guy says, “I haven’t had a prestigious job like the one I had.  But I’d probably have had a life of marital strife if God hadn’t intervened.  God taught us that we could live very well on much less than we were accustomed to.  When we had need, we’d often get a call from our church telling us some money had been left anonymously.  I still marvel at God’s grace.”

Trials get our attention like nothing else.  In Guy’s case, adversity delivered him from a life of self-centeredness to one centered on deeply valued relationships; from a life of power and materialism to one of commitment; from spiritual poverty to a richer walk with God.

—John Hutchison in Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

My Response: May God be speaking to me through a trial to get me back on track?

Thought to Apply: A season of suffering is a small price to pay for a clear view of God.—Max Lucado (Texas pastor)

Adapted from Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong (Kregel, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

How God Gets Our Attention – Fall-Induced Focus

How God Gets Our Attention00Key Bible Verse: The suffering you sent was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your principles. Psalm 119:71

Bonus Reading: Philippians 3:7-11

Craig DeMartino is a member of an exclusive club: people happy just to be alive. He didn’t seek out the honor, and the initiation almost killed him.

Now he’s had his right leg amputated below the knee and undergone reconstructive surgery on his left foot. He’s back on his mountain bike and back on the mountain, with a prosthetic leg made specifically for climbing. “I still love climbing,” he says.

But the experience dramatically changed him, and not just physically. “It made me do a complete 180,” said DeMartino, a photographer for Group Publishing, the Loveland, Colorado-based producer of church youth group materials. “I was a Christian before, but I was basically just going through the motions.”

Someone gave DeMartino a devotional book when he was in the hospital. The message for July 21, the day of his fall: “How far does God have to go to get your attention?”

The fall was God’s way of doing that, he believes. “It kind of stripped everything down,” he said, and made him painfully aware of what was and was not important in his life. DeMartino now sees each day as a gift, and tries to keep things simple and focus on what really is important—his relationship with God and his family.

—Craig Young in the Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald

My Response: Does God really have my attention?

Adapted from Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald(8/28/04)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

 

How God Gets Our Attention – God’s Fingerprints

How God Gets Our AttentionWho Said It…Craig DeMartino

Craig DeMartino and veteran climbing partner Steve Gorham tackled the difficult “White-man” climb on Sundance Buttress in Rocky Mountain National Park on July 21, 2002.

DeMartino reached the top, and Gorham, at the bottom of the cliff, unhooked the belaying line.  Because of a miscommunication, DeMartino didn’t know he wasn’t still protected, leaned back, and plummeted feet-first onto the brutal rocks 100 feet below.  His feet and ankles were mangled, and a vertebra in his lower back was crushed.

What He Said…God’s Fingerprints

DeMartino never should have survived the disaster,” wrote Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald reporter Craig Young, “let alone be walking, cycling, and climbing again.

DeMartino cites a ‘whole list of things that to me are miraculous’:”

  • Gorham usually never carried a cell phone while climbing, but did that day.
  • Wildfires were burning in the area, so crews were on standby nearby.  “Within 45 minutes of hitting the ground, I had two paramedics on scene.”
  • Crews had recently rescued a climber in the same area, and knew the best routes to get him out.
  • At the Fort Collins hospital he was flown to, “two of the best neurosurgeons were both on duty”—a rare occurrence.  “They decompressed my spine and kept me from being a paraplegic.”
  • Dr. Doug Lundy, a top trauma surgeon, was also on duty. ” He saved my left foot.”00

Adapted from Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald (8/28/04)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch my attention away from You.  Please capture my attention and turn my focus toward Your will for me.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 11-18-2021

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of November 18, 2021, with both indexes increasing over last week, pending another forecasted surge later in the month..

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 381.2 to 447.1 (an increase of 65.9, or 17.2%) in the HIGH category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has increased from 12.2 to 12.4 in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures also surged significantly upward during the past week from 180.3 to 250.0 and from 9.3% to 11.2%.)

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

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

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


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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 63.8, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

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

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

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

  • As our community COVID-19 levels continue to deteriorate, this week, we have significantly expanded our new 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)!

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

 

Central Church

Firm but Fair – Godly Parenting

ParentingNumerous Bible passages develop our understanding of God as the righteous one who judges our sin.

But this passage balances that aspect of His character with His incredible compassion and mercy.

This Psalm, it is true, is primarily about God’s care of His people. But it also implies a good deal about the characteristics of a model human father.

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 103:6-14

  1. What beneficial side of God’s action as judge is highlighted in verse 6?
  2. What indicators has God given us as to what He is really like (v. 7)?
  3. What two things (vv. 8-9) are noted about God’s anger?
  4. How does this compare with your boiling point and cool-off rate?
  5. What do David’s word pictures (vv. 11—12, tell you about the extent of God’s love and forgiveness?
  6. Do you hold resentments about past rule infractions by your kids that have been dealt with?
  7. How is our heavenly Father like a model human father (vv. 13-14)?
  8. What does this say about allowances you need to make for immaturity in your children?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the ability to mirror His love and control as you raise your children.

Psalm 103:6-14

6 The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. 7 He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.

9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10 He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

12 He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 14 For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

Firm but Fair – Beat the Boomerang

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  Your own actions have brought this upon you. Jeremiah 4:18

Bonus Reading:  Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-30

Your teenagers will attempt to shift the discipline focus, blaming you: “You’re making me do my chores so I can’t be with my friends.”

Like most teens, my son didn’t rise early.  His habit of sleeping in put the whole family behind in the morning.

He also began getting tardy slips at school.  So Patsy and I found ourselves in a power struggle.

One morning, I briefly considered going into his room to drag him out.  Instead, we decided to transfer to him the responsibility for this choice.  We worked it out with the school that if he received six tardy slips, he’d have to stay after school for two hours, cleaning up trash around the grounds.

“We’re not going to argue with you any more about getting out of bed,” I told my son, “but if you get up late, we’re also not going to rush to get you to school on time.  If you’re late, you’re late.  It’s your choice.  And you know the consequences.”

Guess how many tardy slips he had at the end of the semester?  That’s right, five.  He never seemed to get the sixth one.  Somehow he found the strength to get out of bed every morning because we transferred the responsibility to him.

—Patrick Morley in The Dad in the Mirror

My Response: Here’s one area in which I can transfer responsibility …

Thought to Apply: Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.—Booker T. Washington (educator)

Adapted from The Dad in the Mirror (Zondervan, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

 

Firm but Fair – Room for the Golden Rule

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. Proverbs 22:6

Bonus Reading:  Matthew 7:1-5,12

Let’s look back at yesterday’s situation to see why I call it “firm but fair.”

If Roger’s father had wanted to, he could have been strictly firm and said, “No game for you this morning. The rule is ‘No chores, no soccer.'”

Instead, however, he bent a little bit and let Roger do his chores, then drove him to the game.  Being late was consequence enough for Roger in this situation.

But if Roger continues to fail to get his chores done by Friday night, then his dad will probably have to simply say “No game at all.”

The firm-but-fair family works to build a sound sense of self-worth in all the members, including the parents.  It avoids the extremes of being too rigid or a wimp.  You’re willing to listen, understand, and, on occasion, bend a little.

The parent is left in charge but, in the flexible atmosphere, children have freedom to think, ask questions, and disagree with parents.  They can feel angry, frustrated, sad, or afraid, and express this in an appropriate way.  They can learn from their mistakes without feeling crushed or stifled by authoritarian insensitivity.

Being firm but fair applies the Golden Rule of parenting: “Treat your kids as you would want to be treated.”

—Kevin Leman in Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down

My Response: Why would rigidly sticking to the agreement terms not be the best solution?

Thought to Apply: A father who teaches his children responsibility provides them with a fortune.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down (Nelson, 1995)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

Firm but Fair – Scored Point

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful!  But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  – Hebrews 12:11

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:5-11

Eleven–year–old Roger has again neglected his weekly assigned chores—cleaning his room and the dog pen.  He’s supposed to have these tasks done by Friday night.  But it’s now 8:30 Saturday morning.  His soccer game starts in half an hour.

Dad tells Roger, “You’re room isn’t clean and the dog pen’s filthy.  Our agreement is that these chores are to be done by Friday night.”

“But, Dad, there was such a good program on TV, and I just forgot.”

“Well, you’d better get your room and the pen cleaned up right now.”

“But, Dad, I’m going to be late for my soccer game.  The team needs me.  I’m the only goalie we’ve got!”

“Roger, ol’ buddy, I know you’re going to be late, but you’re just going to be later if all you do is argue.”

Roger rolls his eyes and goes off muttering to clean his room.  Twenty-eight minutes later he’s done.   By the time his dad drives him across town to the field, he’s a good 35 minutes late and the game is underway. Roger’s coach is unhappy and benches him until the second half.  Roger’s team loses by one goal—scored in the first half.

—Kevin Leman in Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down

My Response: Why would overlooking Roger’s lapse in doing his chores be a mistake?

Thought to Apply: Better the child should cry now than the father later.—German Proverb

Adapted from Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down (Nelson, 1995)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

 

Firm but Fair – Scored Point

ParentingKey Bible Verse:  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful!  But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  – Hebrews 12:11

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:5-11

Eleven–year–old Roger has again neglected his weekly assigned chores—cleaning his room and the dog pen.  He’s supposed to have these tasks done by Friday night.  But it’s now 8:30 Saturday morning.  His soccer game starts in half an hour.

Dad tells Roger, “You’re room isn’t clean and the dog pen’s filthy.  Our agreement is that these chores are to be done by Friday night.”

“But, Dad, there was such a good program on TV, and I just forgot.”

“Well, you’d better get your room and the pen cleaned up right now.”

“But, Dad, I’m going to be late for my soccer game.  The team needs me.  I’m the only goalie we’ve got!”

“Roger, ol’ buddy, I know you’re going to be late, but you’re just going to be later if all you do is argue.”

Roger rolls his eyes and goes off muttering to clean his room.  Twenty-eight minutes later he’s done.   By the time his dad drives him across town to the field, he’s a good 35 minutes late and the game is underway. Roger’s coach is unhappy and benches him until the second half.  Roger’s team loses by one goal—scored in the first half.

—Kevin Leman in Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down

My Response: Why would overlooking Roger’s lapse in doing his chores be a mistake?

Thought to Apply: Better the child should cry now than the father later.—German Proverb

Adapted from Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down (Nelson, 1995)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

 

Firm but Fair – Lost Cool

ParentingKey Bible Verse: Fathers, don’t aggravate your children.  If you do, they will become discouraged and quit trying. Colossians 3:21

Bonus Reading:  Ephesians 6:4,9

Our kids need the courage to be imperfect—to make mistakes and then learn from them instead of having their self-image undermined.  When they make a mistake that looks careless or thoughtless, it’s so easy to come down with all four feet, which only makes them feel more of a failure.

For example, Dad finds his tools spread from one end of the workbench to the other.  He can see that little Jason has been trying to fix his bike, but now the place is a disaster, and Jason is nowhere to be found.

After storming into the house, Dad finds Jason playing Nintendo.  He grabs him by the arm, marches him out to the garage, and says, “What is all this?  How many times have I told you to put away the tools when you use them?”

Jason is mortified (not to mention petrified).  Now he remembers.  He’d been working on his bike when Mom called him into the house to answer a phone call from a friend.  After hanging up, he forgot about his bike and decided to play Nintendo.

But how can he tell Dad that?  Instead, Jason just tells himself, “I made Daddy mad. I guess I just can’t do anything right.”

—Kevin Leman in Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down

My Response: How does my disciplining style make allowance for my kids’ learning curve?

Adapted from Bringing Up Kids Without Tearing Them Down (Nelson, 1995)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 25th Sunday after Pentecost – 11-14-2021

On this cold, rainy/snowy twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, when we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday, and when the Delta variant of the coronavirus again prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

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


AND…

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

 

 

Firm but Fair – “It’s Not Fair!”

ParentingWho Said It…Pat Kavanaugh

Dr. Patrick Kavanaugh, a musician whose compositions range from electronic music to opera, is the father of four sons.  He coached their soccer teams, and later joined them in wrestling and pick-up football.

Pat’s interests include shooting pool, memorizing Scripture, reading drama and poetry, and bowling—not necessarily in that order.

Pat has been a minister of music for more than 20 years.  He is executive director of the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship.

What He Said…”It’s Not Fair!”

Children cry that for good reason.  No one wants to live in a world without justice.

That’s why a child raised in a permissive home tends to grow up insecure.  In the short run, he may delight in getting away with wrongdoing without penalty.  But in the long run, he lacks the conviction and security that result from a home in which correction is doled out consistently, fairly, and without delay.

Administering justice is one of the toughest responsibilities of parenting.  On one extreme are softhearted parents who can’t bring themselves (or take the time and effort) to discipline children, who clearly need it.

On the other extreme are parents who punish in anger and are abusive to their children.

Bible verses that implore us to discipline our children aren’t given simply so that we’ll keep them in line.  They call us to model God’s own justice, a part of His very nature.  Children raised in evenhanded homes learn to appreciate God’s sovereign justice.

Adapted from Raising Children to Adore God (Chosen, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, help me to reflect Your justice and mercy in the way I discipline my children.

Spiritual Balance – Warning Signs

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse: Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and affections.  – Psalm 26:2

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24

Like an out-of-round tire on an accelerating car, signs of an imbalanced life start out as a slow thump-thump-thump.

The truly important, eternal part of our lives—prayer, the spiritual disciplines—is usually the first to be overlooked, and ignoring the thump seems to bring no immediate consequence.  But as the pace picks up, the thump becomes louder, perhaps as the nagging complaints of loved ones and colleagues.

Turning up the car radio drowns it out, but soon the steering gear is shaking.  Your whole system’s out of whack, ready for a breakdown.

Maybe you should have run the diagnostics first:

  • Is relating to God a duty or delight?
  • Is your spouse complaining of loneliness?
  • Are you serving and enjoying fellowship in your church?
  • Do you make time to rest and enjoy leisure pursuits?
  • Have you isolated yourself from any deep, honest relationships?
  • Have you become more patient, kind, compassionate, or humble over the past year?
  • Will anything you’re doing earn eternal commendation? Or are you stuck on the hamster wheel of accumulating possessions and awards that will burn up at the end?

—Carolyn McCulley in Life@Work

My Response: Which diagnostic alerts me to a need for prayerful, prompt correction?

Thought to Apply: When [work] is carried to the extent of undermining life or unduly absorbing it, work is not praiseworthy but blameworthy.—Ralph Turnbull (writer)

Adapted from Life@Work (11-12/00)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 11-11-2021

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of November 11, 2021, with both indexes increasing over last week, pending another forecasted surge later in the month..

 

  • The Incidence Rate increased from 351.9 to 381.2 (an increase of 29.3, or 8.3%) in the HIGH category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has increased from 11.8 to 12.2 in the HIGH category.

(After a one-week surge, Allegheny County’s figures increased during the past week from 163.6 to180.3 and from 8.6% to 9.3%.)

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

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

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


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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 54.4, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

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

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

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

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

 

Central Church

Spiritual Balance – Balance Beam

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse:  Only simpletons believe everything they are told!  The prudent carefully consider their steps. Proverbs 14:15

Bonus Reading:   Acts 17:10-12

The Devil would love for you to believe that all moderation and compromise is of him.  But balance provides a stable base for building a revolution of love.

We need to find and maintain the middle ground about:

  • Work and worship. Some feel that praising God is the be-all and end–all. Others are more anxious to get out on the streets to start the Christian revolution. But if we’re going to do an effective job, it won’t be by our own might but by the Spirit of God.
  • Reckless faith and common sense. Christians are called to have faith, not to be credulous. It’s important to pray for discernment. Just because a man has a nice face, a good build, a pleasant manner, and a reputation for being godly, doesn’t mean that every word he says is true. Many naïve Christians, believing anything that sounds spiritual or involves a miracle—particularly if it’s in book form—have been misled.
  • Submission and individual guidance. If leaders lord it over their flock, serving themselves rather than God, they begin to lose their leadership credentials. If you’re under authority, be careful not to follow blindly or to let the leader carry all the responsibility for guidance.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: Which of these three areas is my current challenge?

Thought to Apply: Enthusiasm is of the greatest value, so long as we are not carried away by it.—Johann Von Goethe (German poet)

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spiritual Balance – Either/Or Fallacies

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse: Don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. … be mature and wise.  – 1 Corinthians 14:20

Bonus Reading:  Luke 11:37-42

Some believers emphasize attending retreats for a fresh peak of awareness and commitment. But it’s more than “letting go and letting God.”

The process of growth towards maturity is primarily your responsibility and should be happening 365 days a year. “Let the Holy Spirit fill and control you” (Ephesians 5:18) is a scriptural imperative.  But so is “Let the words of Christ … live in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).

Some maintain that a half-hour quiet time is indispensable. They insist on planning everything in detail.

Others feel that such disciplines are a devilish restriction of freedom, a temptation to rely on the flesh rather than the Spirit.

I’ve heard several (rather bad) sermons for which the preacher felt it was unspiritual to prepare. Yet both messages are in the Bible. There’s a time to step out in faith that things will work out—sometimes we have no choice; but there’s also a place for using the wits God gave us.

Some Christians so emphasize the anointing of the Spirit that they insist Bible schools, and careful teaching are of the Devil. What nonsense!

We desperately need trained theologians, pastors, and missionaries who are humble, broken, and filled with the Spirit.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: An “either/or” I need to start viewing as a “both/and” is …

Thought to Apply: Scripture nowhere condemns the acquisition of knowledge. It’s the wisdom of this world, not its knowledge, that is foolishness with God.—H. A. Ironside

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spiritual Balance – Negate the Negative

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse:  He is the divine Yes—God’s affirmation.  For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him.  – 2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Bonus Reading:  Titus 2:1-15

Many people have a basically negative outlook on life, with a streak of cynicism. If this continues to fit you, you and your wife will end up miserable, and your children will end up negative—about you!

There’s nothing wrong with seeing the negative side provided you’re prepared to work your way through to the positive side.

Sometimes we have to reprove another believer, though always in love. If you can’t speak hard truth in charity, then let someone else do it. You’re disqualified.

If we make our message and concerns 80 percent love and 20 percent judgment, then I reckon we have the balance about right.

Perhaps you’re a young Christian, anxious to impact your neighborhood with an aggressive outreach. Already you can see the elders at your church shaking their heads and muttering, “We tried that in 1954, and it didn’t work. You’ll only turn people off.”

Satan is keen to polarize old and young, pitting zeal against experience. Youths often condemn the established church.

One cult called it the “system” and urged people to leave it. Rebellious young people did so in great numbers.

Ironically, they ended up probably more regimented than in any branch of the Christian church.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: I’d score my own love/judgment ratio as …

Thought to Apply: God, help us not to despise or oppose what we do not understand.—William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania)

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

Spiritual Balance – Devilish Division

Spiritual BalanceKey Bible Verse: Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly … and working together with one heart and purpose. Philippians 2:2

Bonus Reading:  Hebrews 5:11-6:1

Our enemy isn’t a funny character with horns and a pitchfork, but a clever, even attractive, being who deceives and sows havoc.

Once a person commits his life to Jesus, Satan does all he can to get him off on a tangent so that his Christian life will lose its impact.

His goal is to polarize us into different camps, sniping away at one another, rather than working together against him. Tempers rise, people grow upset, and start reacting to one another in the flesh. After polarizing comes paralyzing, and the Devil has won!

We are in a war situation. But that doesn’t mean our fingers always need to be on the trigger. Those who are militantly orthodox can often be unloving. It’s easy to end up with your doctrines all correctly labeled, ready to hit your neighbor over the head!

We also need to distinguish between basic Christian principles and the policies of a particular church or movement. I’m amazed at how Christians can get so uptight about trivial matters. Musical tastes, style of dress, using pews or chairs in church, all can cause confusion and division.

—George Verwer in No Turning Back

My Response: A distinctive I treasure, but which should not alienate me from faith-brothers, is …

Adapted from No Turning Back (Tyndale, 1983)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding. Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spurn Spin – Honesty

HonestyWas Paul’s change in travel plans dishonest or fickle?

No, he explains. During a brief, painful visit to the church in Corinth, he’d told them when he planned to return. By then, he’d assumed, the church would have resolved its disunity.

When the time came for Paul’s scheduled return trip, however, the crisis hadn’t been fully resolved. Fearing that another visit just then might aggravate things, he decided to bypass Corinth and reschedule his visit.

Interact with God’s Word: 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

  1. What two criticisms about bypassing Corinth (v. 17) does Paul anticipate or respond to?
  2. How does he characterize how “people of the world” make commitments?
  3. Why does Paul say (v. 18) he makes sure his word is reliable?
  4. What does Paul tell the Corinth church (v. 23) is the reason for putting off his visit?
  5. How does adding the sincerity element (v. 12) set the bar higher than technical honesty alone?
  6. How does Paul’s assertion that “there is nothing written between the lines” in his letters (v.13) flesh out what straightforward communication involves?
  7. Can you match Paul’s confidence and clear conscience (v. 12) about your own talk?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you filter spin out of your conversation so that it becomes transparently truthful.

2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

12 We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have been honest and sincere in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own earthly wisdom. That is how we have acted toward everyone, and especially toward you. 13 My letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, 14 even if you don’t fully understand us now. Then on the day when our Lord Jesus comes back again, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

17 You may be asking why I changed my plan. Hadn’t I made up my mind yet? Or am I like people of the world who say yes when they really mean no? 18 As surely as God is true, I am not that sort of person. My yes means yes 19 because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, never wavers between yes and no. He is the one whom Timothy, Silas, and I preached to you, and he is the divine Yes–God’s affirmation.

23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke.

Prayer for the Week:  I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart.  But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others.  Help me to change.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 24th Sunday after Pentecost – All Saints’ Sunday – 11-7-2021

On this cool, sunny twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, when we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday, and when the Delta variant of the coronavirus again prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

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


AND…

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

 

 

Spiritual Balance – Swinging Pendulum

Spiritual BalanceWho Said It…James I. Packer

Time recently called him a “theological traffic cop.” “The [evangelical] movement has no formal arbiter,” it noted.

But “J.I. Packer, 78, an Oxford-trained theologian, claimed the role informally with his 1973 book Knowing God, which outlined a theology deeper and more embracing than many Americans had encountered.”

Jim, a Christianity Today executive editor, teaches theology at Regent College in Vancouver.

What He Said…Swinging Pendulum

Fifty years ago, evangelicals taught Christian living legalistically: “Don’t smoke or drink, cheat, lie, or chew, and don’t team up with those who do.”

In those days, avoiding the world’s defilements was the main concern. This school of thought discounted the idea that Christians are free to enjoy God’s creation while they try to change the world for the better.

Reaction against that thinking has led now to an opposite extreme. Many Christians have uncritically bought into the self-indulgent lifestyle of the secular world. Biblical condemnation of sexual irregularity and the self-serving quest for wealth, pleasure, and power is ignored, and the behavior patterns of most Christians seem indistinguishable from those of unbelievers.

In short, ghetto legalism has given way to uninhibited worldliness. Reaction? Yes. Recovery of balance? No.

Shall we ever achieve Christlike balance and involvement in the world on the basis of being utterly different from it? Let us try!

Adapted from Leadership (Fall/88)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, I realize that Satan would love to switch me off on some siding.  Please keep me on the mainline of Your will for me.

 

Spurn Spin – Contagious Candor

HonestyKey Bible Verse: In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.  – Proverbs 28:23

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

After I preached on spurning spin, Steve promised himself and God that he would no longer place blame elsewhere to excuse his own behavior. A few days later, he told me, he failed to allow enough driving time to make it to a meeting.

Arriving 20 minutes after the meeting began, he took his seat and apologized. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he began. “I can only blame my own poor choices. I didn’t allow enough time to get here. Please forgive me.”

His honesty stunned everyone in the room. Finally, the meeting leader said, “Well, I’m sorry you’re late too, but thanks for being honest about why. That’s the kind of openness we need in this meeting.”

A lively conversation on the benefits of greater honesty in their business ensued. Then another person entered the room out of breath, offering the usual blame-everything-else kind of excuse. The others laughed because this man’s spin looked foolish in light of Steve’s gutsy honesty.

Steve said that the quality of conversation for the rest of the meeting was unusually frank. The same tone continued in the days that followed. His renunciation of spin was contagious and transformed the work environment.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Have I found telling the frank truth more often resented or appreciated?

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

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 11-4-2021

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of November 4, 2021, starting to show indications that the latest wave may be at a plateau pending another forecasted surge later in the month..

 

  • The Incidence Rate decreased from 363.5 to 351.063.5 (a tiny decrease of 11.6, or 3.1%) in the HIGH category.
  • The PCR Positivity Rate has increased from 11.1 to 11.8 in the HIGH category.

(After a one-week surge, Allegheny County’s figures decreased significantly during the past week from 236.3 to163.6 and from 15.3% to 8.6%.)

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

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

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


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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 50.2, so resuming small group meetings will not be feasible until we can provide sufficient active air filtration in light of the latest CDC guidance and the deadlier variants now in the USA.

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

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

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

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

 

Central Church

Spurn Spin – Honesty

HonestyWas Paul’s change in travel plans dishonest or fickle?

No, he explains. During a brief, painful visit to the church in Corinth, he’d told them when he planned to return. By then, he’d assumed, the church would have resolved its disunity.

When the time came for Paul’s scheduled return trip, however, the crisis hadn’t been fully resolved. Fearing that another visit just then might aggravate things, he decided to bypass Corinth and reschedule his visit.

Interact with God’s Word: 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

  1. What two criticisms about bypassing Corinth (v. 17) does Paul anticipate or respond to?
  2. How does he characterize how “people of the world” make commitments?
  3. Why does Paul say (v. 18) he makes sure his word is reliable?
  4. What does Paul tell the Corinth church (v. 23) is the reason for putting off his visit?
  5. How does adding the sincerity element (v. 12) set the bar higher than technical honesty alone?
  6. How does Paul’s assertion that “there is nothing written between the lines” in his letters (v.13) flesh out what straightforward communication involves?
  7. Can you match Paul’s confidence and clear conscience (v. 12) about your own talk?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you filter spin out of your conversation so that it becomes transparently truthful.

2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

12 We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have been honest and sincere in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own earthly wisdom. That is how we have acted toward everyone, and especially toward you. 13 My letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, 14 even if you don’t fully understand us now. Then on the day when our Lord Jesus comes back again, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

17 You may be asking why I changed my plan. Hadn’t I made up my mind yet? Or am I like people of the world who say yes when they really mean no? 18 As surely as God is true, I am not that sort of person. My yes means yes 19 because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, never wavers between yes and no. He is the one whom Timothy, Silas, and I preached to you, and he is the divine Yes–God’s affirmation.

23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke.

Prayer for the Week:  I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart.  But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others.  Help me to change.

 

Spurn Spin – Contagious Candor

HonestyKey Bible Verse: In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.  – Proverbs 28:23

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 17-19a, 23

After I preached on spurning spin, Steve promised himself and God that he would no longer place blame elsewhere to excuse his own behavior. A few days later, he told me, he failed to allow enough driving time to make it to a meeting.

Arriving 20 minutes after the meeting began, he took his seat and apologized. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he began. “I can only blame my own poor choices. I didn’t allow enough time to get here. Please forgive me.”

His honesty stunned everyone in the room. Finally, the meeting leader said, “Well, I’m sorry you’re late too, but thanks for being honest about why. That’s the kind of openness we need in this meeting.”

A lively conversation on the benefits of greater honesty in their business ensued. Then another person entered the room out of breath, offering the usual blame-everything-else kind of excuse. The others laughed because this man’s spin looked foolish in light of Steve’s gutsy honesty.

Steve said that the quality of conversation for the rest of the meeting was unusually frank. The same tone continued in the days that followed. His renunciation of spin was contagious and transformed the work environment.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Have I found telling the frank truth more often resented or appreciated?

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

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Spurn Spin – Ends and Means

HonestyKey Bible Verse: I speak the truth and hate every kind of deception. … There is nothing crooked or twisted. Proverbs 8:7-8

Bonus Reading:  1 Thessalonians 2:1-5

At the church college group I began attending as a freshman, the college pastor delivered a stirring message on sharing the gospel with our friends. Then he passed out a “Religious Interest Survey” that featured a series of questions leading up to the clincher: “What do you believe about Jesus?” He urged us to use it to poll students in our dorms, then invited questions.

“What’s the deadline for getting these surveys back to you?” I asked.

The pastor responded with a chuckle, “Oh, don’t worry about that. We aren’t going to tabulate the results. This is simply a way to get people talking about Jesus.”

“But if we tell people this is a survey,” I followed up nervously, “aren’t we implying that we actually care about their answers? Is it honest to call this a survey when we’re not really surveying what people think?”

“Look,” he replied with a touch of irritation, “it’s a survey; we’re just not tabulating the answers. Lots of businesses and churches do things like this. It’s just a conversation starter. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to.”

I didn’t take any “surveys” back to campus. Nor did I return to that college group.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Where am I expected to bend the truth? Have I gone along?

Thought to Apply: Some people live their whole lives just around the corner from the world of truth. —CARL F. H. HENRY (journalist, theologian)

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Spurn Spin – Lying Lips, Quivering Knees

HonestyKey Bible Verse: Truth stands the test of time; lies are soon exposed. Proverbs 12:19

Bonus Reading:  John 8:31-36

During my mid-twenties, when people asked me if I played any sports in high school, I’d always say, “Yeah, I ran track and played soccer.” Technically, that was true. I’d run around the track and I did play soccer—in P.E. class. I was never on either the soccer or track team at good ol’ Tucker High school.

But somewhere along the way I’d begun believing that a real, respectable, worthwhile man had to have accomplished something athletically. Every time I told that lie, I felt terrible and vowed not to repeat it. But I couldn’t bring myself to look somebody in the eye and say, “No, I never participated in a team sport.”

Finally, during my third year in seminary, of all places, I was forced to deal with this character flaw. A friend of mine rushed up to me at church and said he had some great news: he thought because of my athletic experience he could work it out for me to become chaplain for the SMU football team. My heart sank down into my socks. My friend was thrilled. And I felt like throwing up.

That’s when I knew I had a real problem. After a week of real soul searching, I got busy replacing those lies with truth, and soon I was free.

—Andy Stanley in Louder than Words

My Response: From what entangling deception do I need to break free?

Thought to Apply: You didn’t tell a lie, you just left a big hole in the truth.—Helen Thomas (journalist)

Adapted from Louder than Words (Multnomah, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Spurn Spin – Out for a Spin

HonestyKey Bible Verse:  So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbor the truth” because we belong to each other. Ephesians 4:25

Bonus Reading:  Zechariah 8:16-17

When my high-school friend Mike first received his driver’s license, his mom allowed him to use her car but forbade him to drive on the freeway. But Mike and I were convinced that we knew better than his mother, and bravely challenged the California freeways.

Knowing that his mom might question us about Mike’s driving, however, we crafted a brilliant spin on our behavior. Sure enough, after one of our illicit road trips, his mom asked bluntly, “Mike, did you drive on the freeway today?”

Without hesitation and with a hurt tone in his voice, Mike answered. “Mom, I know the rules. Of course I drove on the surface streets.” As he spoke, I nodded fervently. (Mike did know the rules and we had driven on the surface streets—on our way to the freeway.)

The combination of Mike’s earnest testimony and my bobbing head duped Mike’s mom. She apologized for questioning his integrity, and Mike avoided losing his driving privileges.

We didn’t tell an outright lie, but fabricated a deceptive half-truth. This was spin, pure and simple, because we intended to mislead, while failing to confess the truth that deserved to be spoken.

—Mark Roberts in Dare to Be True

My Response: Have I recently spun the truth for self–protection or self–promotion?

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Central Church – Online Worship Service – 23rd Sunday after Pentecost – Reformation Sunday – 10-31-2021

On this cold, rainy twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, when we celebrate Reformation Sunday, and when the Delta variant of the coronavirus again prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

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


AND…

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

 

 

Spurn Spin – Here’s the Pitch

HonestyWho Said It…Mark Roberts

Mark has been senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California for 14 years.  Before that he was education pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Dr. Roberts’s degrees are from Harvard University.

Mark is an active blogger (www.markdroberts.com).  He enjoys hanging out with his wife Linda and their two children, biking, and playing “home improvement” around the house.

What He Said…Here’s the Pitch

As a major league pitcher puts spin on a curve ball to confuse a batter, so the verbal spinner twists the truth to keep the listener off balance.

Spin, said former CNN Crossfire host Bill Press, is hard to define. “It’s not the truth. Neither is it a lie. Spin lies somewhere in between: almost telling the truth, but not quite; bending the truth to make things look as good—or as bad—as possible; painting things in the best—or worst—possible light.”

We can’t escape spin. Politicians spin their positions. Advertisers spin their products. Coaches spin their losses. Students spin their low grades. Spouses spin their marital messes. Corporate executives spin their bottom lines. Employees spin their mistakes.

Most of us can spin with the best of them, saying things that are true in some sense, but not speaking the full truth that ought to be spoken. And we excuse our lack of truthfulness or even congratulate ourselves on our cleverness.

Adapted from Dare to Be True (WaterBrook, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: I realize, Lord, that You desire honesty from the heart. But I kid myself and fudge the truth to impress others. Help me to change.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Church This Sunday

Few people will argue that attendance in many churches in America is declining. Whether it is due to shifting cultural standards, apathy among Christians, or a younger generation that is suspicious about joining any kind of large organization, the church is working hard to adapt and attract new members.

Have you ever wondered about the positive benefits of attending a church service? Shelby Systems recently did some research on that subject and came up with some surprising and encouraging answers. Please feel free to share these documented study results with your pastor, fellow church members, and friends who don’t attend church regularly.

  1. Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness according to the Heritage Foundation.
  2. Church attendance boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as many as 2 to 3 years to your life according to the New York Times.
  3. A 2010 Child Trends review indicates that kids who attend church are less likely to be involved in violence, theft, and vandalism or to struggle with substance abuse problems than their peers.
  4. Teens with church-going fathers are more likely to say that they enjoy spending time with Dad and that they admire him according to a recent University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
  5. According to the Pew Research Center, frequent churchgoers are happier. Those who attend church services weekly or more are happier than those who attend less often. Those who seldom or never attend services are the least likely to say they are very happy.
  6. Church involvement moves people out of poverty. It is also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem, and greater family and marital happiness according to the Heritage Foundation.
  7. According to the Hartford Institute, church participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
  8. A special report by the National Survey of Children’s Health indicates that church participation by an intact family is associated with a lower risk of developmental and behavioral problems in school-age children.
  9. Here’s a quote from a recent study: “Those who go to church more than once a week enjoy better health than those who attend only once a week. Overall the reduction in mortality attributable to church-going is 25%. This is a huge amount in epistemological studies.” Researchers thought that perhaps this was simply due to having strong supportive relationships, but non-church centered groups didn’t experience that same effect.
  10. Couples who attend church together report being more happily married and are less likely to divorce. Drawing upon three national surveys, University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox found that married church-going Americans across all racial and denominational classifications were more likely to describe themselves as very happy in their marriages than non-church-going respondents.

In addition to worship, fellowship, and finding a higher purpose in life, the admonition in Hebrews 10: 25 includes with it a long list of amazing benefits.

Don’t miss out on all these wonderful blessings.  We hope to see you at church this Sunday.

Central United Methodist Church in Beaver Falls, PA

Reasons I Never Go to Church

 

 

Broken Wholeness – Ask for Help? Me?

God will hlep youWho Said It…Joey O’Connor

As he sat at the keyboard, Joey, a writer, felt like “someone was pushing pins in my wrists, dousing them with gasoline, and then whoosh, lighting the whole mess into a finger-burning wrist flambé.”

He searched for a cure for years, then turned to voice-activated software. “After talking like a robot into a computer for a year, I wore out my vocal cords.”

Depression followed for Joey, now a pastor at Coast Hills Community Church in San Clemente, California, who also directs the Grove Center of the Arts.

What He Said…Ask for Help? Me?

“Don’t worry, God won’t give you more than you can handle.” How often do you hear that when you’re going through a rough time? Really? Show me where that verse appears in the Bible.

In this fallen world, God allows far more than we can handle to show us our true need for Him. Brokenness brings us to the end of ourselves. It brings us to our knees. It’s the very thing we need to lead us to the wholeness found in Christ.

God isn’t an almighty Advil for pain and affliction. He offers us more than relief, rest, and restoration in the midst of our pain. He offers us His presence.

As long as we’re strong, independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient, we’ll continue to depend on our own devices, ingenuity, skill, resourcefulness, and spiritual entrepreneurship to work out our salvation. We’d rather save ourselves than appear weak and needy by depending on God. We give help. We don’t ask for it.

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Help from God

God will hlep youDavid was in despair, pleading for help, when he wrote this psalm. Throughout history, men going through times of struggle and distress have been drawn to this and other psalms of David in which he poured out his feelings to God with tell-it-like-it-is honesty.

David modeled a dynamic, powerful, life-changing friendship with God as he confessed his sins, expressed his doubts and fears, and praised and worshiped. Let his honesty guide you into your own deep, genuine relationship with God.

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 13:1-6

  1. What phrase occurs four times in verses 1-2?
  2. So what is David’s complaint?
  3. Does it have to do with God’s ability or His timing?
  4. How do David’s opponents appear to him (vv. 2, 4)?
  5. Is David taking his complaint to the right place?
  6. Trace how talking his problem out with God shifted David’s perspective—from vv. 1-2 to vv. 3-4 to vv.5-6.
  7. On what is David’s concluding optimism about his future based?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Commit to God the issues you are currently struggling with, thanking Him for past rescues and expressing your trust as you wait for His answers.

Psalm 13:1-6

1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? 2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die. 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6 I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

 

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Broken Bread

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come … not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough. Luke 5:31-32

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 12:1-10

My clinical depression came to light during my first year away from home at Bible school. I came home confused, frightened, and deeply in need of help. But not appearing normal scared off the people who’d been around me before. “What happened to the old Dave?” they asked.

It’s not easy living with the reality that something’s fundamentally out of kilter with you. After a seven-year search, I found a doctor I could communicate with. He prescribed a medication that made a serious difference. The two pills I take each day quiet the waves of emotion that once crippled me. I’m now able to face the challenges of my life head on.

One Sunday as I sat and took communion, I was reminded that my dependence on God parallels my dependence on my medication to live a full life. It’s the symbol that I’m a broken and sinful man—and the symbol of the cure.

The hardest thing to do sometimes is stand up and say, “I’m broken. I need help.” But if I ever want to get well, it’s what I have to do. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in reading the Bible, it’s that God is a god of broken, imperfect people.

—David Shepherd in Alberta

My Response: I’ll tell God where I’m hurting right now—and ask for His healing.

Thought to Apply: Do not free the camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. —G. K. Chesterton (British jounalist, writer)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Shell Shocked

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Jeremiah 20:7

Bonus Reading:  Jeremiah 15:10-21; 20:7-18

I vacationed on a South Carolina barrier island when the 300-pound loggerhead turtles were coming ashore. One night I watched one drag herself onto the beach to lay her eggs. Afraid of disturbing her, I left but returned next morning to see if I could find where her eggs lay hidden.

Alarmingly, I found her tracks headed in the wrong direction. She’d lost her bearings and wandered into the hot dunes and certain death. Following the tracks, I found her, exhausted. I poured water on her, covering her with seaweed, and ran to notify a park ranger.

He returned in a jeep, flipped the turtle on her back, wrapped tire chains around her front legs, and hooked the chains to his trailer hitch. Then he sped off, dragging her through the sand so fast her mouth filled with sand and her head bent back as if it would break.

I followed the path that the prow of her shell cut in the sand. At the edge of the ocean, he unhooked her and flipped her right side up again. At first she didn’t move. But after a large wave broke over her, she slowly moved, pushed off, and disappeared.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re being killed or saved by the hands that turn your life upside down.

—Barbara Taylor in Leadership

My Response: Am I confused about what God’s doing in my life now? Can I trust Him anyway?

Thought to Apply: We are always on the anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.—Henry Ward Beecher (New York preacher)

Adapted from Leadership (Spring 1992)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Art Therapy

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: You have engulfed us with your anger … You have hidden yourself in a cloud.  – Lamentations 3:43-44

Bonus Reading:  Lamentations 3:1-26

On my office walls are several colorful mosaic crosses made of broken tiles, dinner plates, and stained glass. It was about four years ago, during my slow crawl out of depression that I began making mosaics.

After seven years of chronic pain, I’d hit a physical and emotional wall. I felt like the broken mosaic of a shattered windshield, my life splintered into a zillion tiny pieces. Every day was a strange, surreal experience, as I begged God for help and strength.

When I could see absolutely no purpose in my brokenness, God used it to bring me to a new place of wholeness. My identity had been tightly wrapped around my writing career. Hitting my lowest forced me to discover that God loved me for who I was.

So I took a year and a half off from writing. I now write my books with a pen in each hand, hunting and pecking because it eases the strain on my wrists. For someone who knows how to type fast, this is a very slow way to write a book.

The pain in my life pushed me to utter dependence on God. It taught me more than all the blessing I’ve ever received: a whole new understanding of who I am as God’s child. He began to shape the brokenness into something beautiful He wanted to use for His purpose.

—Joey O’Connor in The Longing

My Response: What lesson has God used pain to teach me?

Thought to Apply: When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.—Charles A. Beard (historian)

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – Ask for Help? Me?

God will hlep youWho Said It…Joey O’Connor

As he sat at the keyboard, Joey, a writer, felt like “someone was pushing pins in my wrists, dousing them with gasoline, and then whoosh, lighting the whole mess into a finger-burning wrist flambé.”

He searched for a cure for years, then turned to voice-activated software. “After talking like a robot into a computer for a year, I wore out my vocal cords.”

Depression followed for Joey, now a pastor at Coast Hills Community Church in San Clemente, California, who also directs the Grove Center of the Arts.

What He Said…Ask for Help? Me?

“Don’t worry, God won’t give you more than you can handle.” How often do you hear that when you’re going through a rough time? Really? Show me where that verse appears in the Bible.

In this fallen world, God allows far more than we can handle to show us our true need for Him. Brokenness brings us to the end of ourselves. It brings us to our knees. It’s the very thing we need to lead us to the wholeness found in Christ.

God isn’t an almighty Advil for pain and affliction. He offers us more than relief, rest, and restoration in the midst of our pain. He offers us His presence.

As long as we’re strong, independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient, we’ll continue to depend on our own devices, ingenuity, skill, resourcefulness, and spiritual entrepreneurship to work out our salvation. We’d rather save ourselves than appear weak and needy by depending on God. We give help. We don’t ask for it.

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.

Broken Wholeness – When Your Wheels Fall Off

God will hlep youKey Bible Verse: Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Psalm 77:7

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 77:1-10

Our view of the victorious Christian is a bulletproof Superman who never doubts, always smiles, never struggles, and leaps tall churches in a single bound.

We want strong Christians who are always strong—not puny, weak ones who get sand kicked in their faces. In our society and even in the church, we’ve erected elaborate defenses against vulnerability, weakness, and suffering.

You and I need permission to be broken. To have seasons in our life when we don’t have it all together, just like in winter when the trees are barren of leaves. To have periods in which it’s okay to struggle.

To search for the wholeness that can come out of brokenness. To know it’s okay to have a bad day. Or week. Or month. Or year. To not have all the right answers or be able to explain why God is doing what He’s doing. To be broken simply because brokenness is part of the human condition.

But people get uneasy if your brokenness hangs around longer than a bad day. They still know the old you, the “you” before you were broken. They don’t know the new broken you and neither do you, because you’re numb just looking at all the broken shards of your life scattered at your feet.

—Joey O’Connor in The Longing

My Response: Have I equated brokenness with failure?

Adapted from The Longing (Revell, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me … so I can thank you.