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Posts from the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

Weed Out Worry – Shaky or Sheltered?

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: Just as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds and protects his people. Psalm 125:2 

Bonus Reading: Psalm 125:1-5

As a child I walked a mile to school with my two best friends. Along a quarter of that distance was a railway. We always walked on the rails. Each wanted to make it that whole stretch without falling off, but didn’t want the others to similarly succeed. We’d throw things at each other to upset balance, or say things to divert attention, cry out that the train was coming, or announce that there was a dead body in the ditch.

Some have supposed that that’s what Christian living is: teetering and wobbling along a rail, taunted by the devil. With some skill and a lot of luck, we might just make it to heaven, but it’s an uncertain business at best.

Psalm 125 says it’s not that way at all. Being a Christian is like sitting in Jerusalem, fortified and secure. So the last sentence is “Let Israel have quietness and peace.”  A colloquial, but in the context accurate, translation would be “Relax.”  We’re secure. God is running the show. Neither our feelings of depression nor the facts of suffering are evidence that God has abandoned us. There’s nothing more certain than that He’ll accomplish His salvation in our lives and perfect His will in our histories.

—Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

My Response: How can I factor God’s protection and provision into my outlook?

Thought to Apply: Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? It is “Fear not. Don’t be afraid.”—N.T. Wright (British theologian)

Adapted from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (InterVarsity, 1980, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.

 

Weed Out Worry – It’s the Big One

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.Psalm 121:5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 121:1-8

One summer we visited Yolanda’s parents in Desert Hot Springs, California, where temperatures hit 119 degrees.

As I began a late-morning run down the street, the dry heat felt invigorating. But after more than two miles of virtually effortless gliding, I decided to turn around and head for the house.

Desert Hot Springs is perched on a 15-degree incline, and my in-laws’ house is near the top. Facing more than two uphill miles in triple-digit heat under a cloudless sky, I ran four blocks, walked one; ran two blocks, walked one; ran 30 feet, walked the rest. By the time I lurched through the front door, I was seeing spots.

An hour after hydrating and a cooling shower, I still felt weak. Yolanda and I left for a drive to Palm Springs, but my anxiety heightened as I drove. Everything seemed dark. I’d never passed out before; was I about to? Was I having a heart attack? An aneurysm? Heat stroke? Glaucoma?

For miles I bravely kept my fears to myself. But after ten minutes of agony, it was too much. I tried to be delicate in notifying Yolanda of my imminent death. “Everything’s going black!” I whimpered. “I don’t know what’s happening!”

She took it well. “Oh, yeah,” she said, “it’s the eclipse.”

—Chris Blake in Searching for a God to Love

My Response: A major worry of mine that proved to be baseless was …

Thought to Apply: Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.—Swedish Proverb

Adapted from Searching for a God to Love (Word, 2000)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.

 

Weed Out Worry – Pregame Jitters

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  Of course not!”  – Luke 12:25

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:22-26

I look around the locker room and see my players trying to get into the “zone.” I’ve worked hard to get them prepared, but the team has the pregame jitters!

Maybe they think they aren’t as talented as their opponent. Or they lack confidence in the game plan. Maybe they don’t want to look bad in front of all those fans and media. Or they’re nervous that they won’t live up to their own expectations. Whatever, the result is worry and a lack of focus.

All of us who’ve competed know that pit-of-the-stomach feeling. Sometimes we’re not even sure if it’s fear or excitement, whether we should scream or cry. The men around Jesus had the jitters, too. Like us, they had anxiety about everyday life.

But in today’s Bonus Reading, Jesus put the “game” in proper perspective for His followers. He told them that if God takes care of the needs of ravens, He’ll also take care of those worth much more to Him than birds.

Jesus went on to remind His disciples that worrying is wasted energy. Then, in case they were still tempted to worry, He went further, proving God’s faithfulness by willingly taking their sins to the cross!

So why should we worry about our game?

—Michael Hill in Heart of a Coach

My Response: On what can I focus to replace my fears?

Thought to Apply: Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.—Reggie White (football defensive end)

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.

 

Weed Out Worry – Too Vulnerable?

Peace of MindKey Bible Verse: You are my hiding place.  – Psalm 32:7;    When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  – Psalm 56:3

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Michael sat on his bed in a rented room in Tucson, Arizona. With guitar in hand and Scriptures open before him, he experimented with setting part of Psalm 32 to song.

At 27, Michael Ledner was on fire for God—but also separated from his wife of nearly ten years, and feeling rejected. Writing “You Are My Hiding Place” in an hour or so was cathartic. He recorded it, put the tape on a shelf, and ignored it for nearly a year.

“I’d be in congregations sharing songs, but I didn’t do anything with that song,” he says. “It has words I felt were not real manly: hiding, afraid, and weak. Later I realized that we all hide.

What’s important is what we do with that. When I’m afraid, I can try to do something in my own strength to make me feel strong, or in weakness I can go to the Lord and really be strong in Him.”

When his publisher learned about the song and released it, people immediately identified with it. Eventually, Michael says, he realized, “Hey, it’s honest, good, and manly even, to sing that.”

—Phil Christensen & Shari MacDonald in Celebrate Jesus

My Response: What do I do when feeling inadequate or rejected?

Adapted from Celebrate Jesus (Kregel, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: You are my hiding place.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – Worldwide Communion Sunday – 10-2-2022

On this cool 17th Sunday after Pentecost, when we celebrate Worldwide Communion Sunday, and when the coronavirus prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

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

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

 



AND…

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

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

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

Central Church

 

 

Weed Out Worry – This Climb’s a Cinch

Peace of MindWho Said It…Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is known for his contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message. But this Montana-raised man isn’t in to public acclaim. He’d rather teach a class than speak to a large audience. After years as a pastor in Maryland and as professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in British Columbia, he’s now retired.

Eugene used to climb mountains and run the Boston Marathon. Those activities are out now, but still in are picking banjo and telling bear stories.

What He Said…This Climb’s a Cinch

When mountain climbers are in dangerous terrain, on the face of a cliff or the slopes of a glacier, they rope themselves together. Sometimes one of them slips and falls—backslides. But not everyone falls at once, and so those who are still on their feet are able to keep the backslider from falling away completely.

And of course, in any group of climbers there is a veteran climber in the lead, identified for us in the letter to the Hebrews as “Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Hebrews 12:2MSG).

Traveling in the way of faith and climbing the ascent to Christ may be difficult, but it is not worrisome. The weather may be adverse, but it is never fatal. We may slip and stumble and fall, but the rope will hold us.

Three times in his great Sermon, Jesus, knowing how easily we imagine the worst, repeats the reassuring command “Don’t worry” (Matthew 6:25,31,34).  Our life with God is a sure thing.

Adapted from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (InterVarsity, 1980, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  You are my hiding place.

An open table: How United Methodists understand Communion

During a Confirmation Class, the pastor asked a group of mostly 13- and 14-year-old students to name some things Christians—and specifically United Methodists—do that most other people do not.

One of the girls raised her hand and said with a smile, “We dunk our bread in grape juice.”

Yes, that is different.

The sacrament of Holy Communion is such a common occurrence in the landscape of our worship that its uncommon richness sometimes gets lost.

Regular Communion

Due to a lack of ordained clergy in the early days of the church in the United States, a history of receiving the sacrament quarterly (four times per year) is the habit in some places.

The vast majority of United Methodist congregations in the United States (97% in the most recent study) now celebrate the Lord’s Supper at least once per month.

One sacrament, several names

The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and the Eucharist are all names for this sacrament celebrated by United Methodists. Each of these names highlights an aspect of this act of worship.

  • The Lord’s Supper reminds us that Jesus Christ is the host and that we participate at Christ’s invitation. Jesus invites us to take part in the special meal he ate with his disciples the night before his crucifixion, and other meals he shared in homes and on hillsides.
  • The term Holy Communion invites us to focus on the self-giving of the Holy God which makes the sacrament an occasion of grace, and on the holiness of our communion with God and one another.
  • Finally, “Eucharist, from the Greek word for thanksgiving, reminds us that the sacrament is thanksgiving to God for the gifts of creation and salvation.

Open Communion”

“Ecumenically, the term ‘open communion’ … means that all of the baptized are welcome to receive,” explains the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources with Discipleship Ministries.

  • This distinguishes our invitation from some other Christian denominations that may require additional rites before one is welcome to the table.
  • “United Methodists do not practice ‘wide open communion,’” Burton-Edwards continues. “We are instructed to use the invitation as it appears in our ritual to make clear whom Christ does invite to his table.
  • It is those who ‘love him, earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to be at peace with one another.’ While we serve all who present themselves, not questioning their integrity in response to the invitation, these are actual conditions.”

Invitation

Our communion liturgy begins with words spoken on Jesus’ behalf inviting “all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.”

There are no conditions for church membership or completion of a class required.

The baptized present are all invited, even if they belong to a different church. Those not baptized are not barred from receiving, but should be counseled and nurtured toward baptism as soon as possible,

In addition, there is no minimum age.  Even baptized infants are invited.  To whatever degree they’re able to participate in the Great Thanksgiving—even if that’s simply being held in their mother’s arms while they sleep—they are there. They are part of what we are all doing together, so they are welcome to receive.

Confession, Pardon, and Peace

During the next part of the service, we prepare ourselves to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving by repenting of sin and seeking to live in peace with one another.

After praying a prayer of confession, we share words of pardon that remind us of the grace freely available to all who repent, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!”

The Peace then follows, where we offer one another signs of reconciliation and love, affirming our desire to live as a reconciled community in Christ.

The Elements of Communion

The Bread

It is appropriate that the bread eaten in Holy Communion both look and taste like bread.

The use of a whole loaf best signifies the unity of the church as the body of Christ and, when it is broken and shared, our fellowship in that body.

 The Cup
A single cup or chalice may be used for intinction—dipping the bread into the wine—or for drinking,

The use of a common chalice best represents Christian unity, but individual cups are used in many congregations.

This story uses the word juice over wine because historically, United Methodists have been committed to use “the pure, unfermented juice of the grape.”  That came out of our involvement in the temperance movement in the 19th century and into the 20th century.  It is also out of an ongoing concern for persons for whom alcohol may be a problem.

The Great Thanksgiving

During the next part of the service, the pastor leads the congregation in a prayer called The Great Thanksgiving.

Our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is The Great Thanksgiving. That’s why it’s essential that the people participate actively in this.

We join in the ancient tradition of sacrifice by offering God our praise and thanksgiving for the wondrous gift of salvation (see Psalm 141).

We offer ourselves and our gifts of bread and wine to God with thanksgiving.  Then we ask for the Holy Spirit to be poured upon us and these gifts, that they may become for us the body and blood of Christ, nourishing us, who have been redeemed by his blood, to be the body of Christ in the world.

We conclude praising the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—before uniting our voices in the Lord’s Prayer.

Then the bread is broken, and the body and blood of Christ are given to those who come to receive.

Prayer after receiving

Holy Communion brings together our worship and our work in the world.

Communion is our meal,  It is our feeding.  We need that sustenance and we need it regularly.

In the prayer after receiving, we affirm this.  We pray, “Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

All this is God’s gift to us.  We are fed with the body of Christ by the Father and empowered by the Spirit to live as Christ’s body in the world.

Dipping bread into juice may seem a little odd, but it is an important sign of our life as disciples of Jesus Christ.

What we’re doing in the Eucharist is two things:

  • When we receive ‘the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood,’ we are remembering.
  • At the same time, we are also re-membered, put back together again. We pray that we may be ‘one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.’

God’s work of making us one and uniting us with Christ, with each other and in our witness and life in the world—is the ordinary way by which God feeds us, sustains us, and empowers us to live as Christians in the world.

Defining Choices – Choices

ChoicesWe think of the Psalms as wonderful examples of praise to God and powerful expressions of the range of human emotions in relating to God.

We probably don’t think of them as instructional.  But here’s a catechism lesson!

Interact with God’s Word

Psalm 15:1-5

  1. What does David’s question imply about God? … about what separates people from Him?
  2. Why isn’t David’s answer about ritual purity or offering sacrifices?
  3. Is the conduct David describes an unreachable ideal or a basic reflex that can be drilled into our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit?
  4. What kinds of consistency are required by verse 2 over time? … between words and actions? … between the public and private? … between ends and means?
  5. Does mere external conformity to moral standards cut it for David?
  6. Could you do the things to be avoided (in v. 3) while remaining strictly truthful?
  7. What does verse 4 tell you about being morally discerning?
  8. In our interest-based economy, what kinds of “gouging” are still prohibited?
  9. What does “stand firm forever” mean? How does it refer back to David’s question?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the strength of character to actually be what you claim—as a model to those who observe your life, and to prepare you to live in His presence.

Psalm 15:1-5

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

3 Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.

4 Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts.

5 Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

Worldwide Communion Sunday at Central Church

World Communion Sunday – This Sunday, October 2, 2022, Central Church in our in-person and online worship services will join with congregations of all denominations around the world to celebrate Worldwide Communion Sunday.

You might be interested to hear that Worldwide Communion Sunday originated in a congregation in Pittsburgh!

For more info, check out this 2-minute video at:  https://youtu.be/MW9Z_Vi_tvA

Six Special Sundays – World Communion Sunday is one of our six Special Sunday in the United Methodist Church.

Here’s a list of all six of the Special Sundays in the UMC:

  • Human Relations Sunday – January 16, 2022
  • UMCOR Sunday – March 27, 2022
  • Native American Ministries Sunday – May 1, 2022
  • Peace with Justice Sunday – June 12, 2022
  • World Communion Sunday – October 2, 2022
  • United Methodist Student Sunday – November 27, 2022

Special Offering – As is our practice for each of the Special Sundays, we will receive a special offering during our in-person worship service this week for the ministry and outreach of World Communion Sunday.  If you are unable to attend in person, offerings and special gifts can also be made via PayPal through Central Church’s website at:  www.centralumchurch.com

Communion at Home – If you are unable to join us for our in-person worship service this Sunday, you can still participate in Worldwide Communion with Central’s family and the rest of the Christian world by celebrating communion at home with us during our special online worship service on Facebook and YouTube later Sunday afternoon.

In preparation for the online worship service, please gather together a piece of bread and some juice (any kind of juice is acceptable).  Then, when we reach the time for communion during the online worship service, follow along as the communion liturgy is read, and take the bread and cup as directed by Pastor Jan.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 9-30-2022

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of September 30, 2022, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

The Incidence Rate decreased from 142.1 to 125.6 (a decrease of 16.5, or 11.6%) in the HIGH category for the seventeenth consecutive week.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 16.4 to 14.1, in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures decreased in the HIGH category during the past week, moving from 103.8 to 87.3 and from 16.1% to 15.0).



The new “COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL” index:

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

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

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved up into the LOW category.  This metric was adopted on March 3, 2022, reflecting on the potential availability of hospital beds for new COVID-19 cases. 

CDC-Recommended actions when in the HIGH level:

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

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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 17.9, so resuming small group meetings may not be feasible for the immediate future.

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

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

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

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

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


Air Filtering at Central Church – The Latest Measurements

Here is some good news!

We have had our Sanctuary air filters in place for some time now to reduce our potential COVID-19 exposure during worship services.

Our Trustees have been curious about how effectively they are scrubbing the Sanctuary air for us, so they placed an air filter meter it in the Sanctuary last week to see what our readings would be.

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

Our Sanctuary is disinfected prior to every worship service, so the 20 ppm (parts per million) particulates that are floating around are mainly harmless dust and pollen.   (The Medify air filtration equipment that we have in place are rated to remove air-borne contaminants down to 1 micron.)

  • During the week, the air filters are not in use, and the Sanctuary air reading averaged around 20 ppm (parts per million).  When we opened the Church up early last Sunday morning, the level was still at a relatively low .  We turned on the Sanctuary air filters, and then watched that level steadily decrease, except for when we were singing hymns, when it briefly increased a few points before resuming its steady decrease down to 1 ppm.
  • At the end of the worship service, the reading was just 1 ppm, so our air filters are definitely doing their job of effectively scrubbing our air!

It’s always nice to get a confirmation that we are on the right track!

Since our objective is to reduce any air-borne COVID-19 virus (or cold or flu viruses) exhaled by an infected person during a worship service, we are definitely protecting our folks as best we can.

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

Central Church

Defining Choices – Hot Hauler

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have been honest and sincere in all our dealings.  – 2 Corinthians 1:12

Bonus Reading: Psalm 101:1-5

Years ago I purchased a dilapidated trailer to haul our family bikes for vacations. Several summers later, I took it to the local U-Haul to have work done on the taillights for an upcoming trip. Soon after the mechanics went to work, the store manager came out and informed me that the trailer I owned was stolen!

We couldn’t find a serial number, but the design matched an older model of U-Haul trailers that he showed me in a catalog. Scratching through several layers of paint, we uncovered U-Haul’s trademark orange color. The company never sells used trailers to the public, the manager assured me, so this had to be stolen.

When I came home and reported, my kids loved it: “Dad bought stolen goods!” But I knew they were watching me closely, wondering, What’s he going to do? I really wanted to get on with the trip, but knew I had to give up the trailer.

Soon after I told my family this, the manager called and offered the use of one of his trailers for our trip—free of charge. Because I made the right choice that day, my kids learned a powerful lesson: God takes care of you when you honor Him with your actions.

—Ken Canfield in They Call Me Dad

My Response: A lesson in integrity my family learned from me was …

Thought to Apply: I begin to find that too good a character is inconvenient.—Sir Walter Scott (Scottish author)

Adapted from They Call Me Dad (Howard, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

 

Defining Choices – Envelope Flap

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: The Lord demands fairness in every business deal; he sets the standard.  – Proverbs 16:11

Bonus Reading: Deuteronomy 25:13-16

In the very early days of Inmac, we received a shipment of tear-resistant envelopes from a supplier. During the unpacking, I accidentally sliced into one-third of the envelopes. It sickened me, because those represented 5 percent of the money for our fledgling company’s inventory. I couldn’t bring myself to remove the damaged items from the inventory.

When the first order for those envelopes arrived, I shipped a number of defective ones without thinking twice about it. Suddenly all of our orders stopped. Not a single call for three days.

As I was praying that night, I remembered those envelopes and sensed that God was trying to get my attention. I asked Him to forgive me for cheating that customer and vowed to make it right.

First thing the next morning, utterly embarrassed, I apologized for my mistake to my bewildered part-time employee. Then I rushed out a replacement shipment to the customer.

Normally, we experienced our lowest volume on Thursdays, but that day the orders came pouring in again—making up the entire shortfall from the beginning of the week! I believe the Lord was saying to me, “Ken, if I can’t trust you in the little things, how can I trust you in the big ones?”

—Ken Eldred in God Is at Work

My Response: How am I practicing honesty, service, and excellence on the job?

Thought to Apply: You must consider the bottom line, but make it integrity before profits.—Denis Waitley

Adapted from God Is at Work (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

 

Defining Choices – Sacrifice Play

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: Those who … keep their promises even when it hurts … such people will stand firm forever.  – Psalm 15:4,5

Bonus Reading: Psalm 15:1-5

When our younger son, Bryndan, played Little League baseball, he was on the Atlanta team one summer that played in the Little League World Series. At season’s end, the team invited him to play with them the next summer. When Bryndan heard about it, he was really excited. (So were Karen and I.)

But there was a hitch: Long before the LLWS team opportunity came up, Bryndan had given the coach of his neighborhood team his word (and so had I) that he would be playing with his team that summer.

This was a dilemma; if Bryndan played on the LLWS team, the skill level, exposure, and number of games would really contribute to his development. Yet, as we thought and prayed about it, I concluded that Bryndan’s word meant more than taking advantage of a great opportunity.

“Son,” I told him, “I’m not going to let you do that. We promised our neighborhood coach that you’d be on his team this year. This is a test. It’s important that you grow up to be an honorable man who won’t walk away from what you say you’ll do. If God wants you to play baseball on a team like the other one, He’ll give you that opportunity without sacrificing your integrity.”

—Crawford Loritts Jr. in Never Walk Away

My Response: A time when sticking to my word really cost me was …

Thought to Apply: One thing you can give and still keep is your word.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Never Walk Away (Moody, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

 

Defining Choices – Mickey Mouse Rules?

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: “Everything I say is right, for I speak the truth and hate every kind of deception.” Proverbs 8:6-7

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 11:1-6

While in line for tickets at a theme park, I suddenly realized, “I’m a liar and I’m teaching my children to lie.” That horrible moment of realization came shortly after I told my 11-year-old daughter, “If they ask, tell them you’re 10.”

It wasn’t a huge lie. People do it all the time. It was easily rationalized: She wasn’t tall enough to ride all the rides, so we shouldn’t have to pay full price for her ticket. Those parks are ridiculously overpriced anyway. And besides, if they cared enough, they’d be more scrupulous about checking age.

Those excuses flooded in but were stopped in an instant by a simple fact: I was being dishonest. Worse, I was modeling dishonesty to my child, and even dragging her into it. Hardly worth a $20 difference in the price of a ticket!

Since that day, I’ve made a commitment to play by the rules. If the menu says kids’ meals are for a certain age, we abide by it. If the adult-priced ticket costs too much, we don’t rationalize; we just stay home.

My track record so far isn’t perfect. But I know that every time I follow the rules, even when no one else does, I’m placing another block of character in my fortress, ready for the larger tests ahead.

—Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: One way I recently chose the path of integrity was …

Thought to Apply: When you have a fight with your conscience and get licked, you win.—Grit

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

 

Defining Choices – Flight Plan

ChoicesKey Bible Verse: “Be just and fair to all,” says the Lord. “Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you. Blessed are those who are careful to do this.” Isaiah 56:1-2

Bonus Reading: Psalm 25:1-5,21

My tires screeched rounding a corner at the airport parking garage. Debbie and I were running late. I spotted an open parking space. Backing up to squeeze in, I forgot about the trailer hitch we’d just installed. It hit the car behind me. I jumped out to inspect a slightly damaged bumper.

What to do?

The right thing was to leave a note—but taking the time to do so would make us miss our flight. Besides, the car was old, with dents and scratches. The damaged plastic probably would have no effect on the car’s owner, I told myself; but missing our flight would have a big effect on us. “We’ve got to get to that plane!” I announced, and headed for the terminal.

But I hadn’t gotten very far when a voice called inside me. “Is catching a plane so important,” it asked, “that it’s worth forfeiting God’s favor?” I stopped in my tracks, turned to Debbie, and said, “I’m sorry, Honey. I just have to leave a note.”

“I know,” she replied without a hint of misgiving. So I wrote a note with my phone number, and left it on the damaged car.

We did miss our flight, but lined up a later one and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

—Robert Morris in From Dream to Destiny

My Response: Am I attempting to ignore, or listening for, that inner voice?

Adapted from From Dream to Destiny (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 9-25-2022

On this cool and rainy first Sunday of Autumn, when the coronavirus prevents many of us from gathering in Central Church’s Sanctuary to worship in body, let us join together in spirit with our online worship service.

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

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

 



AND…

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

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

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

Central Church

 

 

Defining Choices – Stroke of Lick?

ChoicesWho Said It…Kris Young

Kris Young has worked as a screenwriter for more than 20 years and currently teaches screenwriting at UCLA and the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. In his courses, “Emphasis is given to the role of Christian faith and values as they relate to script content.”

Kris lives in the Southern California foothills with his wife, Celine, and son, Skye. His love of dogs shines in Four Paws from Heaven, a book he co-authored.

What He Said…Stroke of Lick?

Once in a while I’ve gotten letters and packages with uncanceled postage stamps. Finding one used to be like winning a micro-mini lottery. I’d cut out the stamp, soak it off, and reuse it, thinking I was doing some positive “recycling.”

One day I received an unblemished 55-cent stamp and proceeded to do what I’d always done. Suddenly, a Scripture came to mind: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV). My brain launched into dialogue with my Creator.

God: “Kris, why are you reusing that stamp?”

Me: “Because as a freelance writer, I’ve sometimes worked for years without earning a penny, so I’m trained to take advantage of any and every rebate.”

God: “Why?”

Me: “Because I don’t really believe You’ll meet my needs.”

Now any uncanceled stamp I receive in the mail I toss into the trash. God doesn’t want me to cheat over a stamp when as His child He’s promised to meet all my needs.

Adapted from Four Paws from Heaven (Harvest, 2006)

Prayer for the Week:  May the choices I make, Lord, honor You, showcasing Your transforming power at work in my life.

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 9-23-2022

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of September 23, 2022, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

The Incidence Rate decreased from 184.2 to 142.1 (a decrease of 42.1, or 22.3%) in the HIGH category for the seventeenth consecutive week.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 20.3 to 16.4, in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures decreased in the HIGH category during the past week, moving from 121.5 to 103.8 and from 17.6% to 16.1).



The new “COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL” index:

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

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

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved up into the LOW category.  This metric was adopted on March 3, 2022, reflecting on the potential availability of hospital beds for new COVID-19 cases. 

CDC-Recommended actions when in the HIGH level:

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

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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 20.2, so resuming small group meetings may not be feasible for the immediate future.

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

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

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

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

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


Air Filtering at Central Church – The Latest Measurements

Here is some good news!

We have had our Sanctuary air filters in place for some time now to reduce our potential COVID-19 exposure during worship services.

Our Trustees have been curious about how effectively they are scrubbing the Sanctuary air for us, so they placed an air filter meter it in the Sanctuary last week to see what our readings would be.

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

Our Sanctuary is disinfected prior to every worship service, so the 20 ppm (parts per million) particulates that are floating around are mainly harmless dust and pollen.   (The Medify air filtration equipment that we have in place are rated to remove air-borne contaminants down to 1 micron.)

  • During the week, the air filters are not in use, and the Sanctuary air reading averaged around 20 ppm (parts per million).  When we opened the Church up early last Sunday morning, the level was still at a relatively low .  We turned on the Sanctuary air filters, and then watched that level steadily drop before and during our worship service.

 

  • At the end of the worship service, the reading was just 1 ppm, so our air filters are definitely doing their job of effectively scrubbing our air!

 

It’s always nice to get a confirmation that we are on the right track!

Since our objective is to reduce any air-borne COVID-19 virus (or cold or flu viruses) exhaled by an infected person during a worship service, we are definitely protecting our folks as best we can.

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

Central Church

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Patience

Patience“Look at the prophets,” James advises, as examples of godly suffering. But a lot closer to home for most of us is an example of how to go about waiting.

For that, James declares, “consider the farmers.”  They can’t hurry the growth of their crops. But neither can they take the summer off. There’s work to be done in the fields as they wait for the harvest to ripen.

Interact with God’s Word

James 5:7-8, James 5:10-11

  1. Can the farmer force his crops to ripen any faster? Can we hasten the Lord’s return?
  2. Are you eagerly looking for His return? Why (v. 8) should you take courage?
  3. How does patient waiting for the Second Coming apply to other kinds of waiting?
  4. James cites Job (v. 11) as an example of patience. Why does Job-like endurance deserve “great honor”?
  5. How did Job’s trust finally end in good (see Job 42:10-17)?
  6. Might you, like Job, never have God explain to you the reason for frustrations or delays you experience?
  7. But can you, like Job, ultimately bank on God’s character, described here as “full of tenderness and mercy”?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God for humility and hope that will transform your approach from irritable impatience to steady endurance.

James 5:7-8, James 5:10-11

7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Why Wait?

PatienceKey Bible Verse: Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles … run and not grow weary … walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Bonus Reading: James 5:7-8, 10-11

A friend walked into the study of the great 19th-century preacher Phillips Brooks and found him pacing back and forth, terribly agitated.

“Dr. Brooks! What on earth is the matter?” he asked.

“I’m in a hurry,” he said, “but God is not!”

Isn’t that the way it often seems to be with God? You desperately want something apparently legitimate and worthwhile, and you’re forced to wait. I’ve become convinced that at least as important as the things we wait for is the work God wants to do in us as we wait.

Waiting with grace requires humility. Our culture scorns humility. It values people who “take charge of their lives” and seize life by the throat rather than wait. You and I will receive no applause for waiting. Our humility comes from being clear that we exist for God’s sake, not He for ours.

And hope is essential to waiting. There’s a logic to the world’s frenetic grasping for everything now. It has given up on a future that is anything more than an extension of the present. Since it has no great eternal hope to wait for, why wait for anything else? And many Christians live as though there were no tomorrow that shines with God’s promises.

—Ben Patterson in Waiting

My Response: Could how I’m “going for it” betray a deficiency in my hope?

Thought to Apply: God is not in your appointment book; you’re in His.—Chuck Swindoll (pastor & educator)

Adapted from Waiting (InterVarsity, 1989)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

 

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Stop, Look, and Listen

PatienceKey Bible Verse: Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Bonus Reading: Psalm 40:1-3

I don’t like to wait and I don’t wait very well. I’m the guy who cuts across the grass to get there faster. When there’s a line at the market, I watch for another check-stand to open and try to get there first. When I played baseball, I wouldn’t wait on the curve ball, and in track I’d jump the gun at the start.

But my friend Don Springer, a retired fisherman, taught me a lesson about waiting. I love to snorkel. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do than swim in the clear blue waters of the world looking at tropical fish, coral, and the underwater world.

Don and I went snorkeling in Napili Bay, Maui, Hawaii. He drove me crazy. He couldn’t swim for six feet without stopping for minutes at a time.

But a funny thing happened when I waited for Don. I saw more fish, more eels, more movements in the water than I’d ever seen before. Although I’d snorkeled at Napili Bay before, I never truly experienced Napili Bay until Don showed me how to wait.

It’s a good lesson for life. Maybe we should quit rushing around trying to find God. Maybe we should stop, look, listen, and wait. He’s here. He has something to reveal and say to you today.

—Jim Burns in Devotions on the Run

My Response: I could open up space in my schedule for God-listening by …

Thought to Apply: Exasperation is the mind’s way of spinning its wheels until patience restores traction.—George Griggs (writer & novelist)

Adapted from Devotions on the Run (Regal, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

 

 

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Purpose-Driven or Just Driven?

PatienceKey Bible Verse: We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. Psalm 39:6

Bonus Readings: Matthew 6:26-30; Luke 7:36-48; 17:11-19

Driven people are fanatical time managers. Living on purpose requires skillful time management, true, but not the kind that turns brittle, that attempts to quarantine most of what makes life itself—the mess, the surprise, the breakdowns, the breakthroughs.

Too much rigidity stifles purpose. I find that the more I try to manage time, the more anxious I get about it. And the more prone I am to lose my purpose.

The truly purposeful manage time less and pay attention more. The most purposeful people I know rarely over-manage time, and when they do it’s usually because they’re lapsing into a loss of purpose for which they over-compensate with mere busyness.

No, the distinguishing mark of the purposeful is that they notice. They’re fully awake.

Jesus, for example. He veered and strayed from one interruption to the next, with no apparent plan other than His single, overarching one: get to Jerusalem and die. But He noticed.

And those driven to get and spend, to judge and exclude, He called to attention. Look at the birds! Do you see this woman? Where are the other nine?

—Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God

My Response: How is my desire for efficiency hurting my relationships?

Thought to Apply: My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.—Henri Nouwen (Dutch-born priest and professor)

Adapted from The Rest of God (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

 

If You Watched the Queen’s Funeral, Try Going to Church for Yourself

Here for your consideration is a thought-provoking article by Jonathan Aigner that was published earlier today:


Apparently 4.1 billion people watched funeral of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday, making it the most-watched broadcast of all-time.

That’s pretty interesting.

As one Facebook poster said,

“That…63% of the world’s population were glued not to a runway or an awards show or a lip-syncing boy band being obliterated by light effects, but to Anglican chant, the strains of Howells, Weir, Parry, and Harris; not to words like “you hoes be trippin’,” but to “My soul, there is a country” and “The day thou gavest” and the Kontakion. I’m not sure it means anything for the era to come, and there was surely a celebrity draw here, but I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. I hope something sticks!”

I hope so, too. The world could use more of it. So could the church.

I’m sure a good percentage of those billions watched out of little more than curiosity, others out of a more general Anglophilic tendency that has little to do specifically with an interest in the church.

But I noticed more than a few on social media talking about the elegance of the liturgy, the sublime music, and the beauty in the solemnity of the occasion.

If that’s you, try going to church this weekend.

I don’t mean just any church.

Go to one of those liturgical churches. They aren’t as common as they used to be, but they’re still around. While the atmosphere of Westminster Abbey is hard to replicate, you might be surprised how close churches within driving distance of you can come.

You may have to do some research. Some churches in the Anglican Communion and other liturgical traditions don’t put much care into their worship these days. You might find some dude with a six-string Ovation and an untucked shirt at some of them, playing the Jesusy Hot 100 favorites just like at that pop-worshiping Baptist church down the street. They’ve been told, just like the rest of us, that he’s the key to reaching young professionals and families with kids. He isn’t, but you can understand why they’re trying.

At others, you might find that liturgical dance and silly modern pseudo-liturgies have taken the place of the timeless words you heard at the Queen’s funeral. Keep on looking.

These days, many others have replaced the Gospel of Christ with a works-based “do better” substitute and lots of talk about identity politics. They can’t really tell you what is distinctive about Christianity, but hey, you’re welcome, and you can walk their labyrinth every day from 9-5.

But other churches exist. They used to be the norm. They’re a little harder to find now. But they exist. These churches are committed to preaching the gospel, and they do it through more than a 45-minute self-help sermon and a pop-concert with vaguely spiritual lyrics. They employ fantastic musicians who know how to serve the liturgy with their craft. See, the Queen’s funeral was not a service designed for a monarch, but to reflect the beauty of a holy God. The “otherness” you might have felt watching it is inherent and intentional in its centuries-old design.

Liturgical worship rejects the pervasive idea that casual demeanor and extemporaneous speech are more sincere and authentic. Christians throughout history have known better. As my friend Les Lamkin once wrote here, such worship is nothing but “worship of our psychological selves. We have sacrificed the great Creeds and Confessions of the church for the sake of ‘meeting the needs’ of the congregants. We have sacrificed depth and beauty to the gods of relevance and sensuality.”

So, if you were intrigued by worship designed to reflect the beauty of holiness, I’d encourage you to go look for it in your own area. Look for a church that is intentionally NOT trendy, modern or contemporary. Go look for the “otherness,” a place where there is no attempt to domesticate the transcendence of God into cultural relevance.

Let me know what you find.


Central Church

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Measure Twice

PatienceKey Bible Verse: But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: Love, joy, peace, patience …Galatians 5:22-23

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:19-26

My father is a gifted carpenter. When I was young, I spent many hours with him carrying lumber or fetching his tools. I learned the name of every tool in the box, and what they’re for.

Dad is retired now. He and Mom sometimes come to visit so he can help me with a project: building steps from our deck or a new piece of furniture. And I’m still learning from him.

Especially about patience. In the time it takes him to meticulously measure and cut every board just right, my mind has raced ahead, dreaming up more “efficient” ways to speed up the process. I have to stop and ask myself why.

Those hours with Dad are a blessing, and I know from experience that his slow, steady methods are better than mine. Nevertheless, I often feel impatience creeping in.

Patience isn’t natural. It’s supernatural. It’s an outgrowth of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

We can’t muster it well on our own, and frequent impatience is often a signal that we’re not fully connected with God’s presence in our lives. When I think about Dad’s patience, I’m even more grateful for God’s patience when I’m sure I know a better way.

— Mark Geil in Georgia

My Response: The next time I feel impatient, I’ll pause and thank God for His patience.

Thought to Apply: This would be a fine world if all men showed as much patience all the time as they do while waiting for fish to bite.  —Vaughn Monroe (big band era singer)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

 

 

Impatience and What’s Behind It – The Long and the Short of It

PatienceKey Bible Verse: Love is patient. … Love is not irritable.  – 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5

Bonus Reading: Romans 5:3-5

What happens when your wife inconveniences you?  Does she have habits that “get on your nerves”?

For example, you ask her about her day, and she tells you—in Technicolor, with footnotes!  You get links to other sites in her brain along the way.  And all the time, you’re thinking, Will you please land this plane! What’s the point? What’s the main idea?

In older translations of today’s Key Bible Verses, you’ll read, “love suffereth long (ASV).

The root of impatience is usually selfishness. We’re not getting what we want or what we think we deserve. We don’t suffer long; rather, we think we’ve suffered long enough!

A young Christian man asked an older believer to intercede for him. “Pray that I’ll grow in patience,” he asked earnestly. His friend suggested that they pray together right then and there.

“Lord,” the older man began, “I pray that You’ll bring trials and tribulations into Ben’s life this very day. I pray that he’ll experience trouble this morning and again this afternoon. I pray … “

“Wait, please!” the younger man interrupted. “I wanted you to pray that I’d grow in patience!”

“That’s what I was doing,” the older man replied.

—Bob Lepine in The Christian Husband

My Response: What irritant may God be using in my life to produce endurance?

Adapted from The Christian Husband (Regal, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

Central Church – Online Worship Service – The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 9-18-2022

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

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

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

 



AND…

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

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

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

Central Church

 

 

Impatience and What’s Behind It – Post Office Ponderings

PatienceWho Said It…Gordon MacDonald

Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor and author for more than 40 years, chairs the World Relief board, and is an avid hiker. He writes mostly about issues of self-discipline, ordering one’s priorities, and developing a deep spiritual life.

“I think that’s kind of a joke,” he says, “because these are all things that didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve connected with readers because I’m not afraid to put my own life out there as an example of struggle, failure, and what I’ve learned from it.”

What He Said…Post Office Ponderings

I am standing in line at the post office and feeling this impatience. I used to think of myself as a patient man, but now I’m not so sure. I find a flicker of irritability rising in me at other times too: when everyone else decided to clog up the interstate at the same time I wanted to drive it, when someone sends me an e-mail file that takes ten minutes to download. I have a suspicion that these bits of impatience really echo other aspects—maybe more significant aspects—of my life that I refuse to face.

So I push myself to stop and think about my idiotic, immature reaction. Why am I upset because I’m going to lose four or more minutes in my schedule? What’s the deeper impatience? Where’s the anger coming from?

This moment in the line becomes a tutorial for my character. There will be moments ahead when this “fruit of the Spirit” will be needed for far greater issues than this one. Learn patience here so that you’ll have it then.

Adapted from A Resilient Life (Nelson, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:  Thank You, Lord, for Your infinite patience. Grant me a composure of spirit that reflects Your character.

 

Showing Our True Colors – Multicultural Worship

Multicultural WorshipBefore God ushered in the Church, Paul acknowledges, Jews were the accepted insiders while the Gentiles were the excluded outsiders. But now, he insists, these barriers of exclusivity, both religious and racial, have been dismantled.

So to what extent has the elimination of these barriers been reflected in our congregations?

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 2:14-18

  1. What characteristics differentiate people in your church from those in other churches in your community—theological perspective? Age? Political persuasion? Race? Economic status? Intelligence? Appearance?
  2. Is it fair to consider any of these to be dividing walls?
  3. In what specific ways (vv. 14, 16, 18) has Jesus’ death removed the walls that people erect between themselves?
  4. How, according to verse 15, did Jesus break down the “wall of hostility” between two groups?
  5. Do you think that continuing to think and react in terms of separate groups undercuts Christ’s sacrifice for you?
  6. Spell out how the unity of the Church involves each member of the Trinity (v. 18).

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for wisdom to discern the extent to which the diversity of His Church universal ought to be duplicated in your local fellowship.

Ephesians 2:14-18

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 9-16-2022

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of September 16, 2022, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

The Incidence Rate increased from 161.0 to 184.2 (a, increase of 23.2, or 14.4%) in the HIGH category for the sixteenth consecutive week.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate increased from 13.1 to 20.3, in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures increased in the HIGH category during the past week, moving from 117.0 to 121.5 and from 13.1% to 17.6).



The new “COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL” index:

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

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

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved up into the MODERATE category.  This metric was adopted on March 3, 2022, reflecting on the potential availability of hospital beds for new COVID-19 cases. 

CDC-Recommended actions when in the HIGH level:

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

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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 26.3, so resuming small group meetings may not be feasible for the immediate future.

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

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

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

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

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

Central Church

Showing Our True Colors – Local Flavor

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent.  – Acts 6:1

Bonus Reading: Acts 6:1-7

At the inner-city Chicago high school where he coached, Wayne Gordon launched a Fellowship of Christian Athletes program. Guys lifted weights in his storefront apartment and talked about serious issues.

When Wayne’s bride, Anne, moved into the ‘hood with him, the gathering took on a coed flavor. The newlyweds urged several youths who became followers of Christ to become involved in a good church. But after an in-depth Bible study on the subject, the youth determined that their fellowship was a church and that Wayne was their pastor!

Soon the Gordons’ storefront living room was packed, and guitar-strumming young professionals showed up to lend support. The teenage “elders,” concerned that white folk were molding the young church to their own cultural preferences, called a closed meeting. They unanimously voted that while others could attend, only neighborhood residents could belong to their Lawndale Community Church.

Curious parents began joining. Professional outsiders relocated to the community. Today 600 families attend the church, which has reclaimed entire city blocks, started small businesses, and operates a health clinic and a residential drug rehab program.

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: Do I see ruling out commuter church growth as negative or positive?

Thought to Apply: What I am is God’s gift to me; what I do with it is my gift to Him.—Warren Wiersbe (pastor & author)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

 

Showing Our True Colors – Well, Excuse You!

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse:  So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified. Romans 15:7

Bonus Reading: Romans 15:5-9

Seven of us spent the summer in England, extending ourselves to international students who’d come to study in Oxford. This was my second summer mission, so I felt I’d mastered how to be a team player. But one team member started to drive me crazy. During meals Susan would reach over to my plate, grab one of my french fries (“chips” in England), and proceed with dinner as if nothing had just transpired. Where was “May I have one?” or “Do you mind?”

One morning I was in the kitchen preparing food at the counter. Susan needed something on the other side of me. Without saying a word, she reached across me to get it. That was the last straw!

“Susan,” I blurted, “you can’t keep violating my personal space any time you feel like it.” In Korean culture, she explained, a sign of friendship is to treat one another like family. There’s no need for such formalities as “Excuse me” or “May I try some of your food?” She’d just been paying me the compliment of being relaxed in my presence. As Susan spoke, I became aware of my own unwritten rules. We white people, I thought, are very dependent on verbal cues for interactions.

—Doug Schaupp in Being White

My Response: Do I let a friend shape how I view him or just make up my mind about him on my own?

Thought to Apply: To get a person to understand our point of view, we must first get to understand his.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Being White (InterVarsity, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

 

Showing Our True Colors – Who Died?

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples”. John 13:35

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-18

A dozen years ago, my wife and I parachuted into Columbia, Maryland, to start a multicultural church. This community of 95,000 is racially diverse; we hoped that would increase our odds for success. But you can count on one hand the churches there with significant integration. Planting Bridgeway Community Church proved difficult.

What church consultants were saying was no help. One told me, “David, I’ve never seen a racially mixed church grow without one culture having to die. If there were blacks and whites in the church, then one of the cultures died.”

This statement perturbed me. I went back to my congregation of 50, composed mainly of whites and blacks at the time. After repeating the consultant’s statement, I threw my hands in the air and bellowed, “Why can’t we both die? Let’s all make a pact to die to ourselves to build a new culture, a multicultural army of devoted followers of Christ!”

The inspiration and resolve from that Sunday lives on. Today Bridgeway is 60 percent African-American; 13 percent Asian, Latino, or other ethnicity; and 27 percent Caucasian. We celebrate the beauty in the body of Christ within our congregation. And it’s rich!

—David A. Anderson in Multicultural Ministry

My Response: What cultural preferences might I have to forego in a diverse fellowship?

Thought to Apply: Racial reconciliation is one of the best roads to humility we can take because of the opportunity to die to self.—Glen Kehrein (Chicago ministry leader)

Adapted from Multicultural Ministry (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

Showing Our True Colors – Dealing the Race Card

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us. Ephesians 2:14

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 2:14-17

Moving to an urban Boston neighborhood after high school opened my eyes to the tensions between African- and Asian-American residents. “They call us ‘chinks’; we call them ‘niggers’!” blurted out the Korean-American owner of a mom-and-pop store who lived across the street. Today he visits his son and grandchildren in a multi-ethnic church that is a sister congregation to our own.

Our church is intentionally becoming multi-ethnic. But my wife and I at times grit our teeth as we entrust our kids to the nursery or Sunday school classroom. Why? Because “red and yellow, black and white” make comments about each other without thinking.

“Why do your eyes slant? Because you’re Korean!” my adopted Chinese daughters heard from one classroom.

“I don’t want to put my kids in a class with inner-city kids!” exclaimed a suburban African-American dad another week.

“That teacher is a Jew!” muttered an Arab man, shaking his head as he exited our English-as-a-second-language (ESL) class.

We need God’s power to work through our weakness so we can live out the reality that Christ has smashed the wall, and so we can enter a “conspiracy of kindness.”

—Doug Perkins in Delaware

My Response: Does my church conform to, or resist, community racial patterns?

Thought to Apply: All the people like us are we, and everyone else is they.  —Rudyard Kipling (English author)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

 

Showing Our True Colors – All Souls

Multicultural WorshipKey Bible Verse: “Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”.  – Revelation 5:9

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 2:9-10

During a research stint at Oxford University, I visited historic All Souls Church in London. The preaching of its eminent pastor John Stott was insightful. But it was the array of nationalities that amazed me. I was greeted by people from all over the world. This, I thought, must be what heaven is like!

The apostle John must have been captivated to find himself peering into a worship service in heaven. If he were writing today, I imagine he’d express his vision like this: “Wow! I was amazed to see brothers and sisters from every conceivable people group worshiping our Savior. Some had slanted eyes and straight hair. Others had dark skin and thick lips. There were men and women, light and dark, young and old, sincerely worshiping our God.”

This vivid picture of the church purchased by the blood of the Lamb isn’t only in the mind of John but in the heart of God. Can you imagine segregated worship services in heaven? Are only white Anglo-Saxon Protestants there? Black Baptists? Korean Presbyterians? Latino Pentecostals? Of course not! So now picture a colorful rainbow of saints singing a chorus of worship and praise to the Lamb here on earth.

—David A. Anderson in Multicultural Ministry

My Response: When have I experienced a true cross-section of Christ’s church all together?

Adapted from Multicultural Ministry (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

 

A Prayer for the Anniversary of 9/11

9-11 MemorialO God, our hope and refuge,
in our distress we come quickly to you.
Shock and horror of that tragic day have subsided,
replaced now with an emptiness,
a longing for an innocence lost.

We come remembering those who lost their lives
in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.

We are mindful of the sacrifice of public servants
who demonstrated the greatest love of all
by laying down their lives for friends.
We commit their souls to your eternal care
and celebrate their gifts to a fallen humanity.

We come remembering
and we come in hope,
not in ourselves, but in you.

As foundations we once thought secure have been shaken,
we are reminded of the illusion of security.

In commemorating this tragedy,
we give you thanks for your presence
in our time of need
and we seek to worship you in Spirit and in truth,
our guide and our guardian. Amen.

Showing Our True Colors – As It Is in Wal-Mart…

Multicultural WorshipWho Said It…David A. Anderson

David A. Anderson is the founder and pastor of Bridgeway Community Church, a multicultural congregation in Columbia, Maryland.

He earned a doctorate in sociology and religion from Oxford University and teaches cultural diversity at the University of Phoenix’s Columbia campus. He also hosts Reconciliation Live!—a Washington DC, radio talk show on race relations.

What He Said…As It Is in Wal-Mart …

I was in Orlando as a consultant on diversity for business leaders. I was surprised at how segregated Orlando is. But near our meeting place was a Wal-Mart. When I walked through its doors, I bumped into Koreans and Puerto Ricans, whites and blacks, the disabled, the young, and the aged.

Hmm. While churches worship uniculturally, Wal-Mart spans color, class, and cultural lines by meeting the common needs of various groups. The common value that draws people to the Wal-Mart is their desire for a myriad of products for less money. Rich or poor, white or black, young or old, most people want to save money.

Your vision for ministry, if it doesn’t include cultural diversity, isn’t 20/20! What is the church’s common value that will cause people to come together? How will our churches become places where the common needs of all are met? How can they learn to be a place where everyone feels welcome, included, and valued? When we discover the answers, people will surface from pockets of obscurity.

Adapted from Multicultural Ministry (Zondervan, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:  Lord, Your Church should be validating Christ’s reconciling power. Help me to do my part.

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 9-9-2022

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of September 9, 2022, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

The Incidence Rate increased from 160.4 to 161.0 (a, increase of 0.6, or 0.3%) in the HIGH category for the sixteenth consecutive week.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate increased from 12.5 to 13.1, in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures decreased in the HIGH category during the past week, moving from 129.2 to 117.0 and from 17.3% to 13.1).



The new “COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL” index:

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

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

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved down into the LOW category.  This metric was adopted on March 3, 2022, reflecting on the potential availability of hospital beds for new COVID-19 cases. 

CDC-Recommended actions when in the HIGH level:

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

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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 23.0, so resuming small group meetings may not be feasible for the immediate future.

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

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

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

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

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

Central Church

Down with Put Downs – Gentle Speech

Gentle SpeechIn his letter, James contrasts “God’s kind of wisdom” with that which is “motivated by the Devil.”

Satan-speak, he declares, is full of bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, earthly concerns and desires, unspiritual thoughts and ideas, disorder, and evil.

God-speak, on the other hand, is characterized by purity, peace, consideration for others, submission, mercy, sincerity, impartiality, and goodness.

Interact with God’s Word

James 3:2-12

  1. Do verses 9 and 10 describe your own mixed record of positive and negative speech patterns?
  2. Which kind of speech reflects your true identity?
  3. Which kind of speech serves as a sobering reminder of your basic sinful nature?
  4. Is it really possible to “take back” words spoken carelessly or in anger?
  5. What is the ultimate source (v. 6) of the poisonous words we utter?
  6. Does James’s verdict, in verse 8, mean that it is hopeless to attempt to control your tongue? What does his exclamation in verse 10 imply?
  7. What resource can we draw on in our battle to assert control of our tongues?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to change you from the inside out, by His Spirit increasing your power to monitor and control what you say.

James 3:2-12

2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.

5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

Down with Put Downs – Clearing the Air

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.  – Ephesians 4:29

Bonus Reading: Ephesians 4:31-32;5:4

Fourteen men, including the pastor and elders, led a church’s weekly home Bible study/sharing groups. They met once a month for breakfast to compare experiences in their home groups and their own lives. The 14 became tight, helping each other grow in their leadership roles and personal qualities.

But then, beginning with a couple of men, put-down humor crept in. This spread. Their motive—to connect and have fun with shared humor—was right. But humor, conveyed in a sarcastic tone and containing an element of truth, carries a bite. Sometimes they walked away wondering What did he mean by that? This injected suspicion and disquiet, and undermined mutual trust.

During a church retreat, the Christian camp staff overheard, and became recipients of, this mocking banter. The camp director shared their concern with the pastor, who passed it on to the leaders. They discussed it as a group and agreed to put a stop to the practice. Unhindered by put-down humor, their friendships and sense of shared mission continued to deepen. And the entire congregation benefited from the cleared air.

—James Hilt in Wisconsin

My Response: A group I’d like to see agree to desist from cutting humor is …

Thought to Apply: Not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.  —George Sala

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

 

Down with Put Downs – Play the B.U.G.

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.  – Proverbs 12:18.

Bonus Reading: Romans 1:11-12

Even as the words float off the end of my tongue, I realize that I’ve blown it. This kind of situation usually involves me saying negative words to my teammates or others. It’s so easy to become the “cut-down king.”

You know the routine. You call one of your teammates a name, and your other teammates laugh. You may try to justify your unkind remarks with the fact that everyone does it, but the truth is that those reckless words cut. They pierce like a sword and cause damage.

Instead of just going with the flow and drifting into the Cut Down Game, God desires us to play the B.U.G., or the Build Up Game. This game takes effort, and we have to be intentional to play. It doesn’t come naturally, either. But when it’s played, it’s awesome.

The B.U.G. blesses so many people. A friend of mine once said that everyone in the world is under-encouraged. I agree! I ask the Lord to show me ways that I can encourage teammates, friends, family members, and even people I don’t know. I want to build others up and show love through my words.

I believe that the tongue can heal. Are you ready to play the B.U.G.?

—Dan Britton in Heart of an Athlete

My Response: Have I realized that my words can heal? Where could I start?

Thought to Apply: Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.—Mother Theresa (Albanian missionary to India)

Adapted from Heart of an Athlete (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

 

Down with Put Downs – A Joke or a Jab?

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 16:24;18:21b;26:19-19

One verbal maneuver inflicts intentional pain, then hides behind a phrase such as “Can’t you take a joke?”

It’s the coward’s approach. It’s saying, I have an issue with my spouse, but I’m too chicken to bring it up honestly where I might face disapproval or anger. So I’ll come up with a joke, often in the company of other people, designed to hit at the heart of some tender area between us.

Not long ago I was commenting on the fact that when our children were little they didn’t pull all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards and play with them like so many toddlers do. I was wondering why that might be, and John responded that maybe it was because they’d never seen the pots and pans.

Translation: I wish you’d do more of that home-cooked meal thing. But it was easy to hide behind, “Oh no, I was just kidding.”

One decisive husband we know loses no opportunity to jokingly tease his wife about being unable to decide how much salt to put on her salad or what dress she’s going to wear. Sadly, now their sons are also doing it.

It would be better for that couple to have a discussion in which they say, “I wish you could make decisions better” or “Can it be okay that I have trouble making decisions and you don’t?”

—Nancy Ortberg in Marriage Partnership

My Response: How have I teased others in a hurtful way? How could I be more aware?

Thought to Apply: Words are loaded pistols.—Jean Paul Sartre (French philosopher)

Adapted from Marriage Partnership (Spring/06)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

 

Down with Put Downs – “Your Mission…”

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: No one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:8

Bonus Reading: James 3:2-12

“Innocent” jests that inflict minor wounds have become accepted practice in every setting, from sporting events to church socials. We’re exposed to a culture of trash talking, one-upmanship, and a false masculinity reinforced by every macho stereotype in society.

If someone gives a man a verbal jab, he has to come up with a better one. The man who isn’t quick enough with his comeback skulks away as the loser while the “guys” pat the glib-tongued winner on the back. As James declares in today’s Bonus Reading, “this is not right!”

To tackle this deeply rooted problem, let’s borrow the classic style of the show Mission Impossible as we craft a mission for men:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Phelps. It seems that a wild beast is loose in the dark regions of your mouth. It has the ability to spew acidic venom, causing the rapid breakdown of marital harmony.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, requires you to tame this tantrum-throwing, invective-spitting, complaint-mumbling tyrant—your tongue. As usual, once your tongue begins to speak consistently with grace and kindness, your mission will be complete. Good luck, Jim.”

—Bryan Davis in Spit and Polish for Husbands

My Response: Does taming my tongue seem an impossible mission? How could I begin?

Thought to Apply: A word rashly spoken cannot be brought back by a chariot and four horses.—Chinese Proverb

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

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

 

Down with Put Downs – A T for the Tongue

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Those who control their tongue will have a long life; a quick retort can ruin everything. Proverbs 13:3

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 15:28 21:23; 29:20; Psalm 141:3

As a young basketball coach I had a short fuse, especially when it came to dealing with men in stripes. It was hard keeping my mouth shut, and I often said things that got me in trouble.

One game in particular, I thought my team was being treated unfairly and was quick to point it out. Late in the game, I stood up and yelled, “What?!” It was only one word, but the officials had heard enough. I got a technical foul that cost my team the game.

Controlling the tongue is a problem for many coaches and athletes. Many times, we create more problems with our mouths than with our actions. Why? In my case, it was because I wouldn’t think before I spoke.

Why does God want us to keep our tongues in check? When we speak before thinking, we usually do not honor Him with our speech. He would much rather we say nothing at all than speak too quickly.

It’s the most difficult thing in the world to tame the tongue, but God’s Spirit living in us through the work of Jesus can help us think before we speak—even in the midst of challenging situations!

—Jere Johnson in Heart of a Coach

My Response: What came out of my mouth the last time I was under pressure?

Adapted from Heart of a Coach (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

 

Central Church – Online Worship Service – The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 9-4-2022

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

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

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

 



AND…

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

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

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

Central Church

 

 

Down with Put Downs – Attitude Check

Gentle SpeechWho Said It…Dan Britton

Dan Britton is a senior vice president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, overseeing its camps and its campus, sport-specific, and coaches’ ministries.

Both the Virginia high-school football and lacrosse teams he captained won conference and state honors. At the University of Delaware, he was the lacrosse team captain and a leading scorer. He then spent four years as a starter for the Baltimore Thunder.

What He Said…Attitude Check

Carson Palmer, a Heisman Trophy winner and the number one NFL draft pick in 2003, signed a $49 million, six-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. $10 million of it was his signing bonus.

However, that $10 million wasn’t contingent upon his great throwing arm, his intelligence as a quarterback, or his great play-calling.  It was contingent upon his not saying anything negative about his team, coaches, or management.

Basically the $10 million signing bonus was a loyalty pledge in which Carson guaranteed that he wouldn’t be critical.  If he ripped into his team, he lost the cash.

After someone has wronged us on the field or in the locker room, it’s easy to lash out.  God desires not only for us to keep our mouths from cursing but also to keep them positive.

The tongue is only a reflection of what is in our heart.  When you’re under pressure, what comes out?  Criticism or encouragement?  You might not get paid $10 million for having a Christlike tongue, but your Savior will be glorified!

Adapted from Heart of an Athlete (Regal, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.

 

COVID-19 – Beaver County Metrics – 9-2-2022

COVID-19 Integrated County View:

Here are the weekly COVID-19 statistics for Beaver County, PA as of September 2, 2022, showing Beaver County continuing in the HIGH category.

 

The Incidence Rate increased from 143.9 to 160.4 (a, increase of 16.5, or 11.5%) in the HIGH category for the fifteenth consecutive week.

  • The PCR Positivity Rate decreased from 15.4 to 12.5, in the HIGH category.

(Allegheny County’s figures decreased in the HIGH category during the past week, moving from 133.3 to 129.2 and from 17.9% to 17.3).



The new “COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL” index:

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

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

The CDC currently reports that current “COVID-19 Community Level” moved down into the MODERATE category.  This metric was adopted on March 3, 2022, reflecting on the potential availability of hospital beds for new COVID-19 cases. 

CDC-Recommended actions when in the HIGH level:

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

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

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

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

    • 1.5-2.0 – for everyone except those at high risk; and
    • Less than 1.0 for those at high risk.
    • Our current level is 22.9, so resuming small group meetings may not be feasible for the immediate future.

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

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

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

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

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

Central Church

Heaven Is the Finish Line – The Hope of Heaven

The Hope of HeavenPeter’s letters were written to encourage believers who would likely face trials and persecution under Emperor Nero.  So he exhorted them to take the long view and focus on God’s salvation that would deliver them from the hostility of an unbelieving world.

Of course his readers understood that, in another sense, their salvation had already commenced from the moment they were “born again.”

Interact with God’s Word:  1 Peter 1:3-6

  1. When were you included among those to whom God has bequeathed a “priceless inheritance”?
  2. What is the solid basis (v. 3) for your confidence that you will obtain this inheritance?
  3. What does Peter say (v. 4) is the advantage of having your inheritance reserved for you in heaven?
  4. What, according to verse 5, is your outlook for living now? And for the future?
  5. Why should you be glad now (v. 6) for joy that is still future?
  6. Some have ridiculed the believer’s hope as “pie in the sky bye and bye.” What is inadequate about the perspective of these critics?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to deliver you from the human tendency to a shortsightedness that overvalues the temporary and under-rates the permanent.

1 Peter 1:3-6

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for the hope of heaven. Use it in my earthly life to inspire and sustain my passion and purpose.

 

Heaven Is the Finish Line – Acquired Taste

The Hope of HeavenKey Bible Verse: I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you … realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people. Ephesians 1:18

Bonus Reading: 2 Peter 3:11-14

Our friends Mark and JoAnne gave us their unused NordicTrack.  As they delivered it, we started talking about exercise, and I commended the benefits of running.  Even in mid-winter, you can stave off cabin fever and keep yourself in shape.  JoAnne said, “You know, I don’t like to run but, I like the idea of liking to run.”

I thought, That’s a good admission—filled with hope.  How could she turn that idea into the reality of liking to run?  Run!  Get out and do it.  Start simple and build up an appropriate pace.  Learn about the sport.  Do it as a discipline until it becomes a joy.  Soon you’ll be an avid runner.

Some of us need to admit the same about God and His presence.  “I don’t like the presence of God.  If I did, I’d spend more time cultivating, acknowledging, and seeking it.  But I like the idea of liking the presence of God.  So I’d better make a start right now.”  You don’t want to show up in heaven one day without maximum capacity to enjoy this God who wants to usher you into His very own happiness.  Heaven is an acquired taste, and we’ve got to get ready for it now.

—Greg Lafferty in Preaching Today

My Response: I could make a start at liking the presence of God by …

Thought to Apply: We are meant to be addicted to God, but we develop secondary addictions that temporarily appear to fix our problem.—Edward Berckman (writer)

Adapted from Preaching Today (254)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for the hope of heaven. Use it in my earthly life to inspire and sustain my passion and purpose.

 

Heaven Is the Finish Line – Homecoming

The Hope of HeavenKey Bible Verse: And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:11

Bonus Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-6

Sarah’s question took me by surprise.  My 11-year-old asked if her grandparents would be married in heaven.

As I stumbled through a sophomoric answer, I began anticipating a place where sadness is consumed by joy.  It’s hard to picture the new heaven and new earth, but I suspect there’ll be green and yellow tents and baseball mitts and countless opportunities for healing conversations.  I imagine the homecoming feast described in the Bible will include families and stepfamilies spanning dozens of generations, celebrating a new home where all is set right.

If you’re like me, you are skilled at ignoring this—going about daily business as if the matters of this mortal life deserve our full attention.  Many of us work, raise children, get promoted, coach Little League, save for retirement, buy a house, travel, retire on a lake in the Ozarks, and life goes on.  Or does it?  Eventually it ends.

My musings in response to Sarah’s question were founded on my Christian faith, which has come to shape the way I see everything. I believe we’re people with a future that will last much longer than our present bodies.

—Mark McMinn in Finding Our Way Home

My Response: To periodically get beyond the details of daily life and focus on my true spiritual home, I’ll …

Thought to Apply: All men think all men mortal but themselves.—Edward Young (author)

Adapted from Finding Our Way Home (Jossey-Bass, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for the hope of heaven. Use it in my earthly life to inspire and sustain my passion and purpose.

 

Heaven Is the Finish Line – Tuned Elsewhere

The Hope of HeavenKey Bible Verse: So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not seen. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9

On a balmy 1982 October afternoon, Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, was packed with over 60,000 University of Wisconsin fans watching their football team play Michigan State’s Spartans.  It soon became obvious that State had the better team and would win.  What was odd, however, was the seemingly unconnected and increasing eruptions of applause from the Wisconsin fans despite the mounting defeat.  Why were they cheering as their team was losing?

Many fans, it turns out, were listening to portable radios broadcasting another game in progress 70 miles away in Milwaukee, where the Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the World Series.  They were responding to something they couldn’t actually see.  Likewise, Paul encourages us to fix our eyes on the unseen.  When we do, we celebrate even in difficulties because we’re tuned in to see God’s larger picture at work.

Paul says a Jesus follower can live confidently because of the guarantee that God’s presence indwelling us carries.  His power is available to us here and now!  And we rest assured of a secure future.  We are at home in either place—in our bodies or with the Lord.

—Tom Taylor in Paradoxy

My Response: Am I really open to being at home in either place?

Thought to Apply: The bottom line is in heaven.—Edwin Land (physicist & inventor)

Adapted from Paradoxy (Baker, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: Thank you, Lord, for the hope of heaven. Use it in my earthly life to inspire and sustain my passion and purpose.