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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

Run the Race

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In a previous life (while pastoring a church in Williamsburg, VA) I became a high school coach for girls varsity softball.  It was quite a three year experience, with our daughter Jessie being on the team and our young son Luke serving as the team mascot.  

For our home games it was necessary to line the field before each game, a responsibility that fell to the head coach.  Just before the first game, I dutifully prepared the white spray paint machine and meticulously began my task, starting at home plate and moving to first base.  My eye was very focused on the blurred remains of the previous line and, with head bowed and hand steady, off I stepped into the world of softball-game-line-painting.  When I reached first base I proudly turned back to home plate to see my work of art, only to be shocked to painfully discover a line that must have been painted by a drunken sailor posing as a head softball coach.

For the next game, I figured there simply must be a better way and, happily, there was.  Well beyond first and third bases, in the outfield, were outfield foul polls standing about 12 feet high.  I found that if I stood at home plate with my eye focused on that poll several hundred feet away, walked slowly and not breaking my gaze from  it, that my painted line to first base was straight and true.  Play ball!

The Christian life is something like that, and God tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2 that as we live the Christian life (running the race that is set before us) we are to fix our eyes on Jesus.  What does that mean?  We will be exploring that very question in a 12 week sermon series after Easter called, "Looking Unto Jesus."  I hope you will be blessed by these messages from God's Word, and invite a friend who perhaps has not yet placed their faith in our Lord.  May Jesus be lifted up, and hearts, minds, wills, and emotions be drawn to him.

Two Motivations for Prayer

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We recently remembered the national tragedy of 9/11. Do you remember where you where when you heard the news? I was leading an off campus staff retreat for a church that I pastored in Pittsburgh. We cut the retreat short and returned to the church campus to be available to those who were in such deep distress. We quickly made a large banner and hung it near the road by our entrance driveway: "We Are Open For Prayer – All Are Welcome".  

It was amazing to see people stop to pray – many of them strangers. We made slides of many Scriptures and just rolled them on our big screen continually. We had soft music of classic hymns playing in the background. People were wrestling with the gravity of the situation. People wept. People prayed.

It was a rare moment in our national and ecclesiastical history. What does it take to motivate people to pray with such fervor? Tragedy is one such motive, but so is opportunity. At Central, the Lord has been pleased to protect us from tragedy and equally pleased to place before us opportunity. This is why we launched the "3 for 30" prayer initiative. The gospel of our Lord calls us to repent of the idolatry of self-reliance and to seek Him at all times, in all circumstances, and for all things.

At this point Central's history, we are praying for our Senior Pastor Search Team, we are praying that the Lord make us a contagiously warm and friendly place on Sunday morning, and we are praying for the peace of St. Louis. We have asked that each gathering of Central folks – any study, event, or meeting – simply pray for those three things. Of course we cannot know how many people have engaged in this prayer initiative, but I imagine it is easily in the hundreds.  

Many people assumed, when those planes struck the twin towers and the Pentagon, that WW III had begun. Of course there was much debate about the cause and consequences of the attack. “Are we really at war, and against whom are we fighting?” There is no debate for the Christian church. We are at war against the devil and all his designs and devices to assault the glory of God and the health and growth of His church.  

Would you "join the war effort" in remembering to "pray without ceasing"?  Would you "support the war effort" with your financial giving to Central?  Would you "participate in the war effort" by looking for new faces on Sunday morning and showing them the love of Christ and by looking for ways to serve our city?

God is answering our prayers.  God has spared us from tragedy.  God has placed before us great opportunity.  May we seize the moment – and pray.  

 - Pastor Bob

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