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Loving & Seeking the Lost

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You may notice two lovable-yet-mischievous guests in the backyard of the missions house. Those are our dogs, Tory and Reggie. If you are a dog lover, you know they become part of your family once they enter your home, and these particular two hold a special place in our hearts. Whether they are on their best behavior or getting into mischief, our love for them runs deep and is unconditional. Mostly.

Reggie is a Brittany Spaniel and our resident “Houdini,” seemingly able to find his way into or out of just about anywhere. Monday evening he somehow managed to push and climb his way out of the backyard and disappeared into the Davis Place neighborhood. Our family began a desperate search, but after several hours and no Reggie, we gave up for the night, but continued to pray the Lord would bring him back to his family. Was he ok? Will we ever see him again? Our hearts were broken, and it was a difficult night.

It occurs to me that this is a powerful picture of how our heavenly Father feels when we go astray. We are precious to him, dear members of his  family. When we run away it breaks his heart, but he will not stop his relentless pursuit to bring us back home. He is the faithful Shepherd.

This week I begin serving as your Senior Pastor, and we’re beginning a study of  Isaiah. Isaiah offers a snapshot of God’s never-ending pursuit of us as our Father and our Shepherd. Time and again, the people of Israel turned their backs against the Lord, but time and again, the Lord pursued them and called them to relationship. We may climb our way out of God’s proverbial yard, and think we have found the good life in our new found “freedom.” But in reality, we put ourselves in grave danger when we do so.

Isaiah also boldly reminds us that the Lord calls us back for a purpose. God wants to save and protect us, but he also calls us to be part of his mission to rescue a lost world. He invites us to sense the burden he feels for a world that is full of pain and in rebellion against him, as we once were. This is God’s mission, and I wonder what role that he has for Central to play in it in the years ahead? As we begin this new chapter of ministry together, I am overjoyed and full of anticipation as to what God has in store for us.

It is a great relief to share with you that a “good shepherd” found Reggie and brought him to a local shelter, safe and sound. He is home again, and we could not be happier. The Lord God Almighty rejoices over us, and we can only imagine his great joy when we return to him. May that joy be our strength as we join him in the mission that he has for us in the years ahead.

With humble gratitude for each of you,

Pastor Clay

Posted by Clay Smith

Emotions

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Emotions are very real and very powerful. This morning I packed up my church office in preparation for our move from Clayton back to Pittsburgh in just four days from now.  I felt deep emotion as I packed those boxes. In about three hours, the staff is hosting a luncheon for Tacey and me as a kind of final farewell.  It will be for us an emotional luncheon.

I think, too, of the emotions on display after the recent presidential election.  To love our neighbor well we must seek to understand and respect their emotions, even when we may not be able to relate to those

Scripture says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and that includes our capacity for emotions.  The Christian life is more than mere emotion, but not less. God has created us as multi-faceted creatures made in his image. We are emotional (feelings), intellectual (minds), volitional (wills), relational, sexual, vocational, and temporal beings.  What is missing from this list?  Are we not, at our core, spiritual beings as well?

Often the intensity of our emotions reveals the spiritual reality of our hearts.  When I sense anxiety rising in my heart, it often reveals a weakness of my faith.  When I grow angry with my circumstances, that anger often reveals my refusal to accept God’s providence.   Emotions – especially unhealthy ones – are the means by which God reveals to me my heart and my need for the gospel every day.  Emotions are a blessing, but they can also be a cruel taskmaster and an idol.  When they rise to a place of power and control and supersede the lordship of Christ, they must be dethroned.

There is a power greater than emotions, greater than elections, greater than transitions – it is the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  Deep in every human heart there is a trinity of need, a triangle of desire, and a three-fold perpetual hunger for significance, security, and belonging.  We want to believe that our life matters (significance), that we are safe (security), and that we are meaningfully connected to others (belonging).  The gospel provides us with all three, while the world and our flesh pursue imposters. 

Although God is the source of all three, he often grants us to experience all three through his body, his church.  We are the instrumental cause of providing these three essentials while the Lord is the ultimate cause.  I believe the Lord has used us in the life of Central and he has used Central in our lives to affirm the life-giving and life-directing truth that Jesus Christ provides us with ultimate significance (we are his children), security (no one can snatch us from his hand), and belonging (to Christ and his people).

Because our cup is full of his grace and truth, we then reach out, love our neighbor, and by word and deed point them to the only One who is the true source of significance, security, and belonging.  It was been a joy for Tacey and me to be part of this reality at Central Presbyterian Church. 

Thank you for your love and kindness,

Bob and Tacey

Posted by Bob Hopper

A Taste of Central

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Are you new to Central? Have you had questions like these?

Who are the pastors and other leaders in this church?

How can I find out more about what is happening at the church?

Where are the rooms and buildings I keeping hearing about?

What opportunities are there to connect with others?

What groups are available for me to join?

How can I volunteer and use my gifts to serve at Central?

How do I become a member of Central?

If any of these questions resonate or there are similar topics you are curious about, we invite you to attend "A Taste of Central" lunch on Sunday, August 21, from 12:15-1:15pm in the Fellowship Hall.  

You will have the opportunity to enjoy a meal and fellowship with pastors, ministry staff, and lay leaders who will answer your questions and provide an introduction to the core values and vision of the church. It is our desire to give you a “taste” of how you can connect and begin to know and be known by others in different ministry groups for adults and children of all ages. We promise a delicious meal and an opportunity to take the next step in knowing and being known at Central. An optional campus tour will follow lunch for those who would like to explore our campus and learn how to navigate its many twists and turns.

If you have ever wondered about why and how to become a member of Central, "A Taste of Central" also provides an introduction to Discovery, a four-week class providing an introduction to the basic beliefs, history, and ministry of Central. Discovery is a great chance to meet new people and to learn even more about Central. There is no requirement or expectation to continue to the Membership class after Discovery ends, but the course is a prerequisite for the eight-week membership class. Discovery begins September 11.

If you are interested in attending "A Taste of Central," please RSVP to Kate Spielman ( or 314-854-0178).  Childcare will be provided. Thank you for being at Central, and we look forward to getting to know you better!

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