Aslan Came Bounding In

Written by Gary Taylor

I was fascinated to learn of C.S. Lewis’ creative process when he wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia.”  This is what he said:

“All my seven Narnian books began with seeing pictures in my head. [The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe] began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let's try to make a story about it.’ At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it…once He was there He pulled the whole story together.”

“Suddenly Aslan came bounding in.”  (In case you are not familiar with his series of Narnia books, Aslan is a lion who represents Christ.)

C.S. Lewis paints such a beautiful picture of what each of us crave:  That Jesus would suddenly come bounding into our story.  Jesus’ presence is not just a key to the creative process, it’s the key to experiencing fulfillment in our work, love in our homes, and care for our neighbors.  When Jesus comes bounding in, He changes everything.  Just as Aslan redeemed an icy and fallen Narnia, Jesus bounding into every scene of your life melts what has numbed you, and redeems your fallenness.  

The story of Central Christian Church is nearing a new, exciting chapter.  Our Search Team will be prayerfully seeking God’s will regarding our next Lead Pastor.  I’m very excited to see who God will choose as our next Lead Pastor.  I’m not only praying for our future, I am praying for us right here and now.  Join me in praying that Jesus will suddenly come bounding into our story, into our worship services, into our youth and children’s ministries.  

Once Jesus comes bounding in, He will pull our whole story together.

Do You Have a Red Chair?

Written by Gary Taylor

I went to Crema Coffee Shop. The overstuffed red chairs in the back corner caught my eye. The ideal place to drink my coffee, read, and journal. It's been a busy week and my mind needed a quiet place to re-center.

I plopped down in the chair. Literally plopping down, butt first, dropping all my weight instantly and heavily onto the vinyl seat cushion. I mention this detail because my plop expelled trapped air with a loud and embarrassing, trombone-like blast. There's no other way to describe what happened: Imagine my 270 pounds crashing down on a giant whoopee cushion.

A few people looked up, I blushed and mumbled something like, "Really...it was the chair." 

So that's how I began my time of silence. Perhaps if I had eased into the chair, it would have started differently, more quietly. My long exhale would have been more noticeable than the "long exhale" by the chair, if ya know what I mean.

In some ways, that scenario accurately describes my time spent in intentional silence and prayer. Not sounds of bodily functions, of course, but how noise and commotion sneak up in unexpected and unwanted forms.

If you have ever tried to set aside time to get quiet and pray, you know that it's difficult to find quiet places in this world, and especially in your own head. I can't recall a time that I ever "instantly" plopped down into a mental state of focus before God. It always takes a few moments to mute the clatter in my mind. Realistically, silence is eased into. 

My suggestion for you: Ease into a time of silent reflection by planning ahead. Determine in advance the time and the spot to read Scripture and pray. Scan the day and pick out your ideal red chair. But show yourself some grace when you struggle to overcome the distractions and sounds in your own head. Ease into it today. Ease into it over the next week and beyond.

I believe that if you and I diligently pursue moments of quiet with the Lord, we will eventually be able to take the red chair with us wherever we go. A calm will begin to characterize even a stormy day.

And when people ask you how you remain so centered you can say, "Really...it's the chair."

Natural Day of Prayer

Written by Gary Taylor

May 3rd is the National Day of Prayer. 

What would it be like to have a NATURAL Day of Prayer?

To be honest, prayer does not come natural to most of us. For a variety of reasons, it can feel awkward or daunting. What feels unnatural really should feel natural because of our relationship with God. In the Lord's Prayer, it begins by describing this close and trustworthy relationship: It is a Father-child relationship. To be more specific, it is the Perfect Father-stumbling child relationship.

And yet God the Father delights in His children. Always.

Imagine one whole day where the most natural thing for you to do is to engage in an ongoing dialogue with God the Father. All the pressure to "pray right" or "get His attention" fades. All the shame of what you thought was irredeemable melts away. All the false perspectives of a grumpy, distant God are washed clean, leaving you in the presence of a Father who delights in you as His child.

For prayer to become more natural, do these 4 things:

  1. Confess to how unnatural prayer has been for you. Let God the Father love you in the truth of your confession.
  2. Pray the Lord's Prayer. It can be found in Matthew 6:9-13. Trust that what Jesus modeled is always a good prayer for you to pray.
  3. Read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The best way to correct your perception of God the Father is to get to know His Son. Note how natural it was for even the most sinful and irreligious people to talk to Jesus. 
  4. Persist. Prayer is a relationship between yourself and God. Like any healthy relationship, it develops and deepens over time as two people consistently show up and are present to one another. Set aside a specific place and time to pray every day for the month of May.

The Very Worst Friend

Written by Gary Taylor

I recently read a book titled, "The Very Worst Missionary." It's a super-raw, naked-honest, irreverent memoir by Jamie Wright. (If you choose to read the book, be warned: it is NOT Rated G, or even R. Probably more like MA.) I found portions of the book refreshing, especially for a guy like me with my own "very worst" moments.

A phrase similar to "very worst missionary" popped into my head this morning while following our Bible Reading Plan. Matthew 26 chronicles the dark hours of Jesus earthly life leading up to His arrest in the Garden. As Judas drew close with poisoned lips and a stabbing kiss, Jesus said, "Do what you came for, friend" (verse 50).  

How did Jesus love the "very worst friend"???

I sat on the couch until my coffee grew cold. I couldn't wrap my mind around Jesus' persistent and endless love. Then I penned this reflection/confession to my Bible Reading Plan group:

Perhaps the only miracle greater than the resurrection was that Jesus could still call Judas (and me) "friend."
When I am at my very worst. 

When I am in a position to wound Him most. 

When my lips are still puckered and my kisses pierce like rusty spikes. 

Even then, Jesus miraculously calls me friend. He loves me when I'm flat on my back in the cold grave of my darkest choices.

Like smelling salts waved beneath my nose, the name "friend" is exhaled in my face, like smelling salts waved beneath my nose, startling me back to life.

Outta Gas

Written by Gary Taylor

My car sorta ran out of gas this morning. I say "sorta" because after it shuddered and stalled at the light, I got it started back up.

This occurred as I took Calleigh and Hannah to school. I mention that only because I figured if the car had to be pushed, I would need to do the pushing. And the steering. Funny how the threat of that much exercise can increase fervency in prayer.

I turned around to head back the opposite direction on Curtner, the closest gas station being behind me. It is a station I normally avoid because their gas is much more expensive than others around it.

My car shuddered again, but didn't stall out. I pulled up to the pump, literally with a sigh of relief (and a gasp at the cost of a gallon of gas).

Last week my soul ran out of gas.

I felt myself shudder and stall. My needle sagging on empty. I've followed Jesus long enough to know that I can't push and steer my own way through life. Not very far anyways.

So I turned around.

Refueling my soul always involves a turning around. It means heading back to the moments I drove past - the moments when I could have refueled but blindly chose to keep going instead.

I turned around by reviewing my day and my week. I reflected on "desolations" - those moments I talked about in last Sunday's sermon: moments where God had been present and active in my life, but I didn't recognize Him at the time.

I paid close attention to "consolations" - God-moments that tended to the dryness of my soul. I opened up and shared my struggles with a trusted friend. I directed my thoughts to a particular passage in the Bible. I went to bed early. 

And I'll continue refueling later this week: A block of extended time in solitude, Scripture reading, and communing with God in creation. That day will include a literal sigh of relief, and a gasp as I reflect on how much Jesus was willing to pay so I can complete my journey and draw near to the Father.

Is your needle on the south side of half a tank? If so, turn around. Review your day and your week for consolations and desolations. PLAN a near-future fuel stop rather than assuming you'll coast to a cheaper gallon around the next blind curve.

See you Sunday. We will gather and pay attention to the God who is with us. Hands raised in worship, needles rising towards full.

The Silent "P" in Psalm 19

Written by Gary Taylor

A while back I had a conversation with a young friend who was wondering why the word "pneumonia" was spelled with a silent "P."

For fun, we carried on the remainder of our conversation by pronouncing a not-so-silent "P" sound in front of other words. I said that my name was Pgary. And my Pdaughter was a middle school Pstudent. I'm sure we were not the first to emphasize a loud "P" sound in front of words like that, but we thought we were quite funny. "Pfunny."

The book of the Bible named "Psalms" is a word that actually does begin with a silent "P."

Read these opening verses of Psalm 19...

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
Their words to the ends of the world.

Nature - God's handiwork - declares God's glory much like the "p" in Psalms: silently. I am in awe of how something so big and majestic communicates in silence.

Try this: On the next clear night, step outside and gaze heavenward. Listen to the stars. Attune your ear to God's silent speech. Allow creation to quietly lead you to worship God in the fullness of His glory. Listen in reverence as the hushed heavens echo throughout your Psoul.

Eternal Family Tree

Written by Janessa Gonzales

As a church, we are currently reading the Bible together, and I love it! There is no place I would rather be than in God's Word daily.  It is exciting to be able to discuss God's word with the people around me. In our reading on Monday we read Proverbs 11.  WOW! What a chapter, so much we can learn. 

But the verse that stuck out to me was Proverbs 11:30.  It says, "The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends." 

The two questions I asked myself were, am I a wise person? Am I winning my friends? Then I went back to the first part: "become a tree of life." Well what does that look like? The thought came to me about my family tree.  When you chart your family tree, most start with Mom and Dad and above them Grandma and Grandpa, with Aunts, Uncles, & Cousins forming branches and limbs.  This may sound morbid, but the fact remains that everyone in our family genealogy will one day die or has already died.  In contrast, this Proverb describes for us a "tree of life."

For the first time, I think I am really understanding the meaning of the first part of Proverbs 11:30, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life."  In Romans we read, "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one."  The unbeliever is seen as unrighteous, but the believer is seen as righteous because of what Christ did on the cross.  The fruit of the believer is souls (lightbulb!).  It is a believer reproducing himself.  The fruit of a believer would therefore be another believer. So when a believer leads someone to Christ they become a son or daughter in a somewhat spiritual family.  We are in actuality the spiritual parent to those that we lead to Christ (crazy thing to think about). If you lead someone to Christ they become your son or daughter in the Lord.  If they in turn lead someone to Christ, that person becomes your grandson or granddaughter in the Lord.  Christians can become a parent to a whole tree of persons who will live forever, the eternal tree of life. 

I want to have a large spiritual family, a giant tree of life.   I want to be wise in God's sight. I want people to join me on that eternal tree of life. It's a huge job and right now my tree branches are sparse, but this is what God's purpose and call is on our lives. What does your eternal family tree look like?

My Mind: Shaped by Scripture

Written by Scott Primeau

I love reading the Bible together with friends at Central on my Bible App!  I like the ability to see who in my group is on track, and who needs a little nudge.  I find I receive encouragement when I need it as well.  I particularly like the comments section and hearing what God was saying to others, and sharing my thoughts as well.  There have been seasons in my life where I have fallen out of this daily practice, and what I can tell you from my experience is that it doesn't take very long before I begin to notice that I start loving "other things" more than I should.  Not necessarily bad things, many good, but they begin to occupy my thoughts and affections more then Jesus.   This is why daily Bible reading and meditation is so important because it shapes our minds and thoughts.

This weeks reading has taken me through one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture, Romans 8.  Verses 5-6 say "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace."  What we set our minds on shapes our lives, and our beliefs determine our behaviors.  And this verse is talking about more then just thinking about good things from time to time.  It is talking about totally occupying your mind and completely capturing your imagination, and it tells us that it can either be on what the flesh desires or what the Spirit desires. 

So what is your mind predominately focused on? What are you really living for? There are many things that help me set my mind on what the Spirit desires - worship songs, sermons, podcasts, scripture memorization - but the greatest practice for me is to get up early, and spend some time with Jesus reading His word and meditating on it.  Thanks to the "Let's Read the Bible Together" plan, I now get to do this in community with my brothers as well.

The Day of Atonement

Written by Kyle Power

If you are following along on our Bible reading plan you read Leviticus 23 earlier this week. And if you are not doing the reading plan, I would encourage you to jump in with us, grab a bookmark from church this Sunday! Leviticus is a hard book full of rules, guidelines, punishments and festivals the Israelites were supposed to observe. Leviticus chapter 23 talks about one of those festivals called the Day of Atonement.

"The Lord said to Moses, The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement... when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God."

The Israelites were human, they sinned, they screwed up, they messed up, they broke promises, they missed deadlines, they didn't always do what they said they were going to do, they lied, they cheated, they stole, they murdered, they were broken people.   Because of their brokenness, they needed God; they needed His provision, His guidance, and His forgiveness. You read it all over the Old Testament, God lead Israel out of Egypt by a pillar of fire and a cloud, He told David when to engage in battle and when not to, He forgave sins, He stayed faithful to the covenant with Israel.

As we keep reading through this plan I hope you notice the pattern - God saves His people from the destruction they brought on themselves. They cheer and pledge their loyalty and their love to God, but then they forget, break their promises and walk away from God. He warns them about what will happen if they continue in their ways. Israel is stubborn and rarely listens, which leads to slavery and destruction, but God stays faithful to His people and His promises. Eventually He restores them, and it all starts over from the beginning again!

God set up this "Day of Atonement" as a yearly festival where the priests would offer a sacrifice as Atonement, as payment, for the people's sins. As in God was receiving the sacrifice of the animal rather than releasing His wrath on the people. This was a yearly tradition because, well, they kept sinning, and animal sacrifice was not a perfect sacrifice, so it needed to be repeated.

Here's the cool part - JESUS WAS THE PERFECT SACRIFICE. Jesus was the perfect human, which allowed Him to be the perfect sacrifice for all of humanity to atone for EVERY sin, past, present and future. The festival the Israelites celebrated year after year after year was pointing them again to their need of a sacrifice that would be enough that would actually cover their sins.

Jesus atoned for your sins, meaning he paid the price! The wages of sin is death, and yet your penalty for your sins has already been paid by the perfect sacrifice - the sacrifice that will never have to be repeated!

Trusting in Jesus as your savior, means that you are forgiven, you have been forgiven already. I hope that truth gives you some peace today. I hope it also gives you confidence to live with confidence and not shame - God saw you as worth sending his son to pay your penalty for your sins. You matter.

Before the Lord

Written by Kristin Potter

I have a confession to make.  

I am "anti-process".  

I'm all about the short cuts. If there's a quick fix for a problem- you bet I'll find it.  I'm awesome at loading the dishwasher... but I can't be bothered with the process of putting in the soap and running it, because THEN I have to unload it- and who enjoys that process, am I right?!  I'm not a fan of stopping for gas, either. It's an annoying, mundane waste of time- making, yet, another stop on my way to do errands.  Standing at the tank, waiting for it to fill up... why does it take forever?! I'll be honest- I get so annoyed with this task, I will only fill my tank up halfway, just so I can get back in the car and on my way to the next thing... just to "save time".  Yes- I'm aware- doing this only FORCES me to go through this whole process of getting gas more often, but still, in that moment, I just want to be done with the whole process. And don't even get me started on the infuriating adventures of Ikea furniture assembly. Nope, not gonna do it.  (Pray for my husband, you guys, he's fighting an uphill battle.) 

I've been following our bible reading plan here at Central, and this week began with the first couple of chapters in Leviticus. We find the Israelites camped out at the base of Mt. Sinai. The tabernacle has been built and they are ready to implement the "process" of sacrifice. Now, the idea of sacrifice wasn't new to Israel, but now that the tabernacle had been completed, the Israelites finally had ONE place to bring their sacrifices and could follow the same procedure for each sacrifice moving forward.

Listen to ONE of the processes that God told Moses to share with the Israelites...

"If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd...

  • You are to offer a male without defect. 
  • You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. 
  • You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you.
  • You are to slaughter the young bull before the Lord.  
  • Then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 
  • You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. 
  • The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.
  • Then Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 
  • You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water.
  • The priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  (Leviticus 1:3-10)

And I thought assembling Ikea furniture was rough! 

So, what did this "anti-process" girl get out of my reading this week? 

First- I'm in awe of those early believers who valued process, who desired consistency and structure. Even though I rebel against it, structure is something I know that I need.

Second- the phrase "before the Lord" really stood out to me. I looked it up and found that the phrase  "before the Lord" is seen more than 60 times in the book of Leviticus - more than any other book in the Bible. What happens in Leviticus happens before the Lord, and every sacrifice that was made was to be made before the Lord. I know that my idea of "the process" of my own offering and sacrifice changes when I think about it being done before the Lord.  That's really the lens I should be viewing everything through... my every action is done before the Lord. 

And, finally, my reading this week so timely reminded me of how thankful I am for Jesus, the man who destroyed this intense process of sacrifice by saying 3 words before the Lord...

It. Is. Finished.

Consecration of the Priests

Written by Brooke Commons

Okay so first you have to get a bunch of metals and make an ephod (whatever that is), a breastplate (wait, is that the same?), and then make some rings and twisted rope chain things and jewels and and and

We got the garment, now grab some animals, well the specific ones mentioned and follow this recipe precisely to burn certain pieces and use the blood to spray against the sides of the altar. 

After you’re in your fancy outfit that’s probably dripping in blood….you have completed the sacrifice that will atone for the sins of all the people. But you have to do it again next year. 

So maybe if it’s all for forgiveness, it’s worth it to go through the hassle. But reading through these instructions in Exodus seems quite daunting. Maybe because it’s not so much a part of our culture today but maybe just because it was a lot. Then I got to the end of chapter 29 where God says:

“So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.’ (Exodus 29:44-46)

“Then I will.” Our God is a holy God. He wants to dwell with his people and have relationship with them, but if he approached us in our sin we would die - literally. 

So instead - He died for us. 

God sent his Son to be the ultimate priest and sacrifice himself once and for all as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. That’s why we no longer have these rituals as part of our practice because Jesus. And through him, we become part of the priesthood and we become the tabernacle. Our bodies are the new temple of God and he sent the Holy Spirit to inhabit us. 

God now dwells in us, always. And we don’t have to dress fancy and kill stuff. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Confessions of a Pastor

Written by Gary Taylor

Confession: I often don't know what to pray.  I sorta psyche myself out and can grow discouraged while searching for "just the right words."  I know God does not require eloquence, but for some reason I feel that I should be better at stringing together the kind of prayer that is really gonna get God's attention.  Crazy that I'd think that way, right? 

The Psalms are the original "manual on prayer."  For centuries, God's people have prayed (and sung) the psalms.  I find myself turning to the psalms more and more, especially when I'm not sure exactly what to pray.

A couple days ago I felt prompted to pray for several people.  But, again, I was struggling to find the words.

Earlier that morning I had read Psalm 123.  (You have also read Psalm 123 if you are following our Bible Reading Plan.)  Verse 3 is a brief, straightforward, and earnest plea:

"Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us."

As I said, I wasn't sure how to pray for the people who were on my heart.  But this verse resonated with me (perhaps because I am keenly aware that I need mercy!) 

Here's what I did, and I encourage you to do something similar:  In place of the pronoun "us," I inserted the name of the person I felt led to pray for.  I began with my family.  One by one, I held them in the Lord's merciful presence. 

Have mercy upon Beth, O Lord, have mercy upon Beth.

Have mercy upon Jack, O Lord, have mercy upon Jack.

Have mercy upon Calleigh, O Lord, have mercy upon Calleigh.

Not that the number of people matters, but I probably prayed that verse for about 30 friends and family.  Slowly, meditatively, calling on the Lord to show mercy to people I love.

If you struggle with what to pray, know that you are not alone.  Would you consider using Psalm 123:3 as a template for intercessory prayer? 

Not sure who to pray for?  Begin here: Have mercy upon Gary, O Lord, have mercy upon Gary.

Be Bold

Written by Scott Primeau

When I read the book of Acts I am reminded God really can do ANYTHING!  We read how God performed miraculous signs and wonders.  We see the church filled with the Holy Spirit, buildings shaken, 3000 baptized in a day.  We see the church persecuted, and believers seeking and proclaiming the gospel with massive courage.  The book of Acts is amazing!  

I love it, but it is also incredibly challenging.  

I am challenged by the boldness of the church.  They faced imprisonment and even death to proclaim the gospel, and yet they were full of joy, loved each other, and through them God demonstrated His power and faithfulness.   I love thinking about how I can more boldly proclaim the gospel.  I pray for it.  I talk about it with my Christian friends.  But the truth is, "thinking about it" and "wishing for it" aren't enough.  Faith without works is dead.

To really live this out I have to go further than just believing God can and will use me to save people.  

First, I need the Holy Spirit. John 6:63 says "the Spirit gives life; the flesh can do nothing." It doesn't matter how persuasive or talented I am, I cannot raise people from the dead.  Jesus can. And I need His Holy Spirit, His leading, conviction, and power.  

Secondly, I need courage.  To be honest, at times I am fearful.  I sometimes care more how others perceive me instead of the One who made me, loves me, and gave His life for me.  

And lastly, I need a greater sense of urgency.   I often tell myself I have more time.  I think there will be other conversations or opportunities to challenge someone to give their life to Jesus.  But time is short, and I need to seize every opportunity to be His witness.  

It is my prayer in 2018 that the Holy Spirit would empower me to speak the Word of God more boldly, that I would GO and LIVE IT OUT like the church did in the book of Acts, and that I would get to participate with God in bringing many more to salvation.  

PS - I've been following the Bible Reading Plan we introduced to the church.  You can link to it here ....

Ireland Update

Written by Kayla Power

All of the paperwork is in. Background checks completed. Prayer and financial support letters sent out. Airline tickets have been booked. We are less than 80 days away from leaving for Northern Ireland! As the online training courses have begun, and our team bond grows through our dinner activities together, so does the spiritual warfare. We have waged war against the enemy's schemes to destroy each of the 16 members of our team, and against his destructive deceit in Northern Ireland.

This war is real, and some of us are beginning to feel the affects of it. So, as we are intentional to stand firm in battle with the belt of Truth to protect our core, righteousness as our breastplate, strapping onto our feet with readiness the gospel of peace and never forgetting our shield of faith, we are thankful to put on our helmet of salvation and carry with us always, the sword of the Spirit...would you join us in battle? We read in Ephesians 6 that after putting on the full armor of God we are to then pray, at all times.

In my life group I've been learning that prayer was not an afterthought in Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus when we taught them how to prepare for spiritual warfare, but that Paul regarded prayer as the source for activating each of these pieces of armor. Please pray for our team. Set an alarm in your phone to remind you, write us prayerfully encouraging notes, stop us on a Sunday to lay hands on us right then, however you choose to pray for us, please, just choose to. 

Also pray for Northern Ireland. Did you know that less than 1% of the population there proclaims to be an evangelical Christian? That there are almost no non-catholic church plants there? That the youth there are among the most responsive group to the gospel? (YAY, because this is who our team is going to serve!) And bonus, that 50 percent of the population is under the age 30!?

We are a young team of missionaries with only 3 of our 16 ever having been on a missions trip before, and heading into battle. We are preparing and training with FULL confidence that God is already at work there and that we are already standing on the side of victory, so humbled, and thankful, that He has called us to His mission field. 

Humbled, and thankful for your support also, to press on!

So much love Church fam, you rock!

Eat This Book

Written by Gary Taylor

This past Sunday we introduced a Bible reading plan titled, "Let's Read the Bible Together."  I talked about having an appetite for God's Word, and read a verse from Ezekiel 3.  The Lord instructed Ezekiel to eat a scroll.  Yes, a scroll.  Ezekiel did just that, and then, like a food critic, wrote "it tasted sweet as honey."

John, too, was asked to partake of a scroll sandwich, and he talks about it in Revelation 10.  "I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour."

I'd love to tell you to read your Bible every day of 2018 because it is always sweet.  But there will also be days when a truth pierces us, messes with us, unsettles us.  We need the sweet with the sour.  We need the loving encouragement, and we also need the loving and soul-searching correction.  I really hope you will join me for this daily feast.

Why I love this particular reading plan...

  • Through the YouVersion App, you have the option to listen to the daily passages.  If you are not a big reader, or if you have time during your commute, use the audio feature.
  • In total, this plan requires only 15 or so minutes of reading per day.  (Or, again, 15 minutes of listening.)

And this is the big reason...

  • We read through the Bible TOGETHER.  It's a shared experience, with shared conversations.  What seemed sweet to you may taste sour to me, but that's OK.  We read it together as a group while God mysteriously speaks to us individually.

Pick up a bookmark on Sunday with this month's reading schedule.  Or click here....to get started today.

Snow

Written by Gary Taylor

When I was a kid, we had snow on our television.  You've got to be a certain age to know what I mean by snow on television.  

Back in the rabbit-ear days of television, there were certain channels that never came in clearly, if at all.  The signal was too weak.  On those channels, it was impossible to make out the characters or the voices due to a hissing noise and the thousands of white, flickering pixels otherwise known as "snow." A white, static-like blanket covered the television screen.  An electronic blizzard.  

I would fiddle with the antennae, pointing the thin, telescoping metal rods this way and that, hoping to pick up a clear, analog signal.  Aluminum foil crudely wrapped the ends of each antenna, but sometimes that wasn't enough; the snow storm continued.  Strangely, placing my hands on the antennae somehow helped clear up the picture and improve reception.  When that was the case, I'd have to continue standing there - not letting go - so my dad could watch his program.  From a very young age I accepted my call as a human antenna.  

The homes surrounding Central have huge and brilliantly clear flat-screen televisions.  But Jesus is a channel our neighbors don't tune in to.  We are praying that 15-tons of snow on Christmas Eve will improve their reception of the Christmas story. In this way, snow is not the annoying hum and static of an old television; snow becomes a path leading people to the humble Savior.

The television kind of snow obscures the characters and drowns out the storyline, but what if our snow actually helped people see more clearly?  What if snow could clarify rather than conceal?  What if a single day of snow led to the melting of decades of doubt and skepticism?

One more parallel I wish to draw from this snowy metaphor: My dad could watch television best when I was a human extension of the antenna, improving reception.  Would you accept your call as a human extension of God's incarnating love?

We are asking you, Central family, to lend a hand so someone can see Jesus more clearly.  Stand beside the people you invite, not letting go, so they can hear the Christmas Story.

Spread the word.  And sign up online to serve.

Give Hope

GiveHope.jpg

Written by Marshall Commons

I asked my colleagues at work what they think of when they hear the word "Christmas". These were their responses: presents, trees, winter, weight gain, scotch tape, temporary satisfaction, Santa, ham, ornaments, snow and reindeer. I wonder how many of these same words come to mind when you hear "Christmas". When you clear away the ribbons and wrappings, the cookie crumbs and receipts, what is at the heart of Christmas?

If you look carefully, I believe that you will find the most famous verse of scripture known to believers and non-believers alike...John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son..." Jesus-God's greatest gift, sent to "seek and save the lost". A missionary from heaven sent into a dark world to not just bring light, but to actually be the light of salvation. Knowing what lay ahead, the Father's passion for us outweighed the pain He would feel.

Sharing the Father's passion for the lost and having His heart for His children is the mission of the church and what I love most about Central. As a newly baptized, young believer I came here with my family in 1974. I was discipled by Jim Yost and later guided into mission work by him. I had the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with some great, godly men and women while serving together on our Missions Committee and later being served by them as a missionary myself.  Dot Isbell, Jewel Yost, Hope Ingraham, Don Hart, Jon Ottinger and Veltie Jessup. They were the links between those serving on the field and us at home. The missionaries were their friends, their family and their teammates. We supported them with our finances, our prayers and often-our tears as we shared in their struggles.

I believe Central has been blessed by God because we share His heart. Sending out missionaries around the world to bring the good news is like having Christmas year-round. A gift with no receipt-although it cost the Father everything, it is free to those who will receive it.

Like most of you, I just put up lights on our home. Plugging them in at 4:00 pm did not have much of an impact. I could barely tell that they were even on. However, they look pretty great at night. Where will you let your light shine this Christmas? Will it just be absorbed by all of the other light around or will it stand out as a beacon of hope in the midst of darkness?

God is the God of Mission. He sent His word, His law, His prophets, and above all He sent His Son. This Christmas, take a moment to stop by our wall of missionaries (it's in the lobby of the auditorium, in case you are wondering).  Look at their pictures, and thank God for them. Pray for them. Send them a note of encouragement.

A few weeks ago, we heard from our missionaries Harold and Connie Knepper about their expansion program for the Hope of the Nations Bible College. Last week Scott Pernice from City Team shared about their desire to redo the courtyard of the Men's Recovery Ministry facility making it a safe and fun environment for kids to connect with their Dads. Won't you consider partnering with these and with us as a family?

This Christmas let's Give Hope! 

Empty Plates

Written by Gary Taylor

Every plate was, as they say, licked clean.

Jon brought it to my attention.  We sat around the Thanksgiving table - actually two tables end to end - 13 of us in total.  After a 20-minute feeding frenzy, a drizzle of gravy or a dab of cranberry sauce were the only things left on the plates.  Thirteen hungry people sat down to eat.  Thirteen people with an appetite for turkey and stuffing and ham and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

After we ate it, we sat and talked about what we ate.  The food was that good.

The image of a cleaned plate symbolizes what I would love to see happen at Central in 2018.  I'd love for everyone to develop a voracious appetite for the Word, a hunger for Scripture.  And by the end of 2018, like a 365-day meal, we devoured it all.  There's nothing left unread.  We licked the pages clean.

And in 2019 we go back for seconds.

I want to let you know that we are rolling out a great Bible Reading Plan for this upcoming year.  It's broken into bitesize readings, and you have the option to include accountability with your friends; friends with whom you can sit around and talk about it after you read it.  The Bible is that good.

As a warmup, of sorts, we found a 25-Day plan specifically for Christmas.  It highlights Christmas Carols (a major theme of our Sunday sermon series), and includes Scripture verses pointing to the birth of Jesus.  In the craziness and distractions of this season, it's a great way to press pause and remember the reason.  

If you have our church app then this Christmas Reading Plan is already on its way to your phone.  Don't have our new church app?  Give yourself an early Christmas present by texting "CENTRALSJAPP" to 77977.  Or you can download the YouVersion Bible and search "Carols: A Christmas Devotional."

Heavenly Father, we are hungry.  In this special season, we thank you for sending us the Bread of Life.

NASCAR - Return

Written by Gary Taylor

I've only been to one NASCAR race.  Talladega.  I went with some great friends who love racing, and who also love to "people watch."  As you might guess, Talladega Raceway is an AWESOME place to people watch.  The shirtless guy who wears a car tire like a skirt...priceless (and disturbing).

To those of us who know very little of the sport, NASCAR may seem like little more than mashing the accelerator and turning left.  A series of left turns at Talladega bring them back to where they started, over and over again.  I was seated at the start/finish line, a mere 3 rows removed from the protective fencing.  The roar of the cars shook my chest like nothing I'd ever experienced.  At 200mph, the cars whooshed! past with tornado-force. 

There I sat watching guys (and Danika Patrick) return, over and over again, to the place where they started.

This past Sunday we learned about another church that began well, but the people of that church needed to make a couple more lefts in order to return to that good place where they had started.  For those of us prone to driving off in the wrong direction, God calls us to repentance: a series of lefts, so to speak, designed to bring us back to the starting line of Garden-like union with Creator God.

What if our church had so many repenting Christians that the world showed up to "people watch"?  What if repentance was like a Holy Roar and whoosh! of hearts speedily returning to Jesus?  What if there was such a drastic change in us - a series of turns towards stunning Christlikeness - that it captured the attention and the hearts of our city?  What if???

Ears to Hear

Written by Gary Taylor

When I made my grand entrance into the world, my ears were sticking out, folded forward.  I suppose it was because I positioned myself in the womb in such a way that the cartilage grew funny. To remedy this unfortunate predicament, my parents taped my ears back for a week or so. Really. Some people have bad hair days; I was born with bad ear days.

And I was bald. My ears stuck out, and I was bald. Picture a VW Beetle with the doors open.

It was a rough start for me. I eventually grew some hair, and - thanks to yards of Scotch tape - my ears now lay a little flatter against the sides of my skull. All these years later I don't have the most aerodynamic head, but the ears are closer to where they belong.

In Revelation 2 and 3, a certain phrase is repeated near the conclusion of each letter to the seven churches: "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Jesus was saying, "Listen up!  I'm calling attention to the particular, significant way your life needs to change."

Because it's such a funny story, I've often told people about my parents taping my ears to my head.  And most every time the person pauses to look at my ears, and then comments, "It doesn't look like your ears stick out to me."  To which I say, "Correct.  BECAUSE MY PARENTS TAPED THEM TO MY HEAD WHEN I WAS A BABY."

I was born with something that needed to change - ears whose natural bent was in the wrong direction.  So the problem was addressed, in this case, with tape.

We are all born with a natural-yet-ugly bent towards sin.  Each of us. As you know, it takes more than tape to redirect our wayward bent towards sin.  Throughout our life, Jesus calls out to us - each of us with ears to hear - calling us to repentance.

Earlier this week I was listening to someone share their story.  She didn't give the gory details, but did divulge the ugly, wayward bent of her life back in her teenage years.  I was completely surprised to learn that about her.  In fact, my comment was, "I would have never guessed that about you."  I may as well have said, "It doesn't look like your ears stick out." 

And this person responded in her own way of saying, "Correct!  The change in my life is because of what my Father has done for me."

She acknowledges that those changes took more than yards of tape.  She had ears that heard Jesus calling her to obedience and new ways of living.  And to this day, she acknowledges her daily need for the stretched-out arms of Jesus - forgiving arms stretched out on a cross, loving arms stretched towards her for companionship.

This Sunday we look at two more examples of Jesus saying, "Anyone who has ears to hear..."  Metaphorically, maybe your ears stick out, or you've got a friend who has ears that stick out.  Invite them to come to our church - a gathering of people -acknowledging that we have sins that still stick out, but Jesus offers life-change through repentance.

I hope to see you at 9 or 11.  And if you own a VW Beetle, think of me when you open the doors.