Sunday, August 17, 2014
Today we worshiped at Family Bible Church, 325 Freedom Crider Road, Freedom, PA 15042, 724.774.2276, www.thefamilybiblechurch.org, Pastor Ed Bailey.
Scripture – King James Version
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
We thought we were choosing a new place to worship when we tried to visit this church a few weeks back. A waitress at a pizza shop had recounted how much she enjoyed worship here, so I was curious what we would feel.
I had driven through on two occasions to find no one home, and was thinking this a last attempt. The real surprise was when we went downstairs while Sunday School was going on in the sanctuary and we both recognized the kitchen. Until then neither of us remembered visiting about a year and a half ago.
We were welcomed by, I believe, the entire congregation.
The sermon developed from part of an in depth study of Rev. Bailey’s which brought up the point that our deeds will follow us and our works will be judged in heaven.
Neither Bob nor I had any memory of having visited this church before so I did not checked the blog to see if we had. We believed we were first-time visitors here until we went downstairs and saw the kitchen area and our memories were both jogged at the same time. It turns out we visited here 1 ½ years ago.
There may have been a few people there who did not greet us, but anyone anywhere near us came and introduced themselves.
This is a quaint, well-kept church that is off the beaten path, but one that seems to take their mission seriously. In the course of the service there were many references to answered prayers and some stories of presenting the Gospel to family members. It was good stuff.
Big Knob Fair is a good-sized annual event nearby where this church gives out candy to the kids along with tracts to both kids and adults; many present seemed to participate in some way or another.
Upon entering we were handed glossy, colorful 11” x 17” graphic representations depicting an interpretation of the events of Revelation, the topic of the pastor’s current sermon series.
A couple of points that caught my attention were what we do for the cause of Christ lasts forever and that in the end, even good works done with bad motives are bad works.
Last week, at another church, we heard a reminder that people from every nation will be saved, and we heard this again here this week. In the midst of all the upheaval around the world, this is something we all need to remember. Every human being, no matter their stance on any given issue, is created in God’s image, and this should make us think long and hard about every issue that comes to our awareness.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You continue to bless this church and continue to lead them to where they need to be. Amen.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Today we worshiped at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 740 Washington Road, Bridgeville, PA 15017, 412.221.5132, www.bethanypresby.org, Rev. Dr. John G. Hamilton, Senior Pastor.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us— so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.
The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
I appreciated this opportunity to visit Bethany with its well thought out, welcoming sanctuary and impressive cross. Maybe people thought we were only there for the baptism, which was enjoyable, however the only welcome we received was at the restrooms. I remember it being friendlier at past visits.
I understand little about music but I think the organ sounds different in a Presbyterian church.
The sermon was entitled “All People, Really?” The Bible teaches that all people who accept Christ as Savior and Lord will be welcomed to heaven. What about our church? They are different, will we welcome them? What would that be like? Heaven, perhaps?
It has been about three years since we last visited this church, which this year is celebrating their 200th anniversary. The building is as beautiful as I remembered but we saw none of the friends we have encountered here in past visits. I enjoyed a conversation with a woman I met in the ladies room, but no one else spoke to us.
A gifted tenor presented three solos and it was a joy to listen to his strong voice and perfect enunciation.
As visitors it is always a privilege to witness a baptism; seldom do we end up seeing the family and their guests at the restaurant where we randomly choose to have lunch afterward, as happened today.
Associate Pastor Rev. Robbie Ytterberg’s sermon, “All Peoples, Really?”, almost felt more like a passionate conversation. He spoke of people-watching and noted how different people can be. In listing a broad array of diversities, some cultural and others simple personal preferences, he reminded us of the biblical promise that ALL will be at God’s throne…those we love and those of whom we are not so fond, those who are like us and those with whom we are uncomfortable. Christ purchased every single one and all will be represented in the Kingdom.
His question “Do we pray for blessings for ourselves or so that we can bless others?” is a good question to ask when we pray. I believe it is acceptable to pray for ourselves, but I also believe God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others. That is one of the ways His living water flows through us. If we are not using our blessings to bless others, if we are hoarding our blessings, we are imitating the Dead Sea. This message has me thinking about how I have or have not used my blessings.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray we can all open our hearts and doors to Your children who are different from us. May we embrace them in Your name. Amen.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Today we worshiped at New Brighton Christian Assembly, 1810 Valley Avenue, New Brighton, PA, www.nbcafamily.com, Sam DeMarco, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Acts 10
In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.
Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.
And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”
As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.
Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”
So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”
They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.
They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.
Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”
Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
“And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.
Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.
We revisited New Brighton Christian Assembly to experience worship at the Life Center. It was pouring rain when we got to the parking lot and there was a man with two large umbrellas escorting people in.
We were warmly welcomed at the door and engaged in conversation by a few people.
I did not see a cross but noted one projected on the screen, and when the words to the songs were projected there was a small cross in the corner of the screens.
This was the last Sunday the church was meeting at the Life Center while their Sanctuary was being remodeled. I don’t know what all is done at the Life Center besides youth ministry.
The sermon was on transition, most importantly Christ from heaven to earth to hell and back again. We all are guilty of resisting God, and we should not be giving God our left-overs in time or money.
The volume for the singing nearly overpowered my earplugs; at times we could have used some of that volume for the sermon. The pastor had an insightful message with passionate delivery; most importantly he was in sync with the congregation.
We learned through a newspaper ad that this church was meeting in a different location so we attended for our second visit.
To experience this degree of friendliness at a two-service church was impressive. Many folks simply smiled and said good morning while others took the time for some conversation.
I am unclear on exactly what this building is/was, but it seemed to work well as a temporary home for this congregation while their church building was being renovated. There was a definite air of excitement in anticipation of returning to their home location next Sunday.
The voice of the lead singer was quite powerful and I’m sure she would have done just fine even without a microphone.
My only real issues had to do with things that will change next week: trying to see the words on the screens and the too-cold AC which was loud enough that hearing the message was at times a problem for me.
The message had to do with “Transitions” which ironically could be the theme of my life right now. The Scripture outlined Peter’s belief transition which, though he resisted, God persisted in getting Peter to understand the broad scope of the change Christ had accomplished through His death: He had not only removed dietary restrictions but also the boundaries regarding with whom the Jews could associate.
Another interesting point had to do with God’s sending Peter to Cornelius because He saw the latter’s generosity. Cornelius gave unstintingly and God blessed him for it, so how we give reflects our heart which cannot be hidden from God.
The pastor stressed that we should not give God leftovers, i.e., money left over after we have taken care of everything else, time left over purely because we had nothing better going on right then. God deserves the first fruits; the best we have to offer should always go to Him.
I am anxious to visit this church again in their new location. Part of their goal is to create an inviting experience for visitors…I think they already have the atmosphere and attitude, all they need now is the facility. I’m betting it will have been worth the wait.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church will always be in transition to what You want them to be. Amen.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Yesterday we worshiped at New Life Christian Ministries, 12031 Hopewell Road, Hagerstown, MD 21740, 301.733.0307, www.nlcm.org, Ken Harris, Senior Pastor.
Revelation 22:1-5 -
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 4:2-8 -
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” who was, and is, and is to come.
With help from Siri, we found a church where we could worship on our way home, although at first it did direct us to a nearby Tractor Supply Store…
We were welcomed at the door by a few people, including a Marine, which gave Jan some time to look around.
A large cross is displayed in a front corner of the sanctuary; there were two large screens along with monitors mounted up high partway back. This was the first time all the praise songs were new to me so I was pleased the words were on the screens.
The greeting time must have been 5 minutes, with a countdown timer on the screens. Though I thought the most welcoming were some folks we talked to outside after the service.
The sermon quoted a lot of Scripture but I was uncomfortable with the interpretation.
The most inspirational moment yesterday was the t-shirt of someone I saw at our hotel. I thought it was a great message for us all: “The Church has left the building.”
En route home from a visit to northern Virginia, we stopped at this church yesterday morning. As we entered, a friendly greeter caught sight of Bob’s Marine t-shirt and initiated a conversation. Several others spoke with us and introduced themselves, some of whom we had extended conversation with after worship.
The room was wider than it was deep, but in addition to the two larger projection screens in front, there were some monitors placed halfway back which provided clear vision of the words on the screens.
One of the single pages in the bulletin was called the “Caring & Sharing” page. Members who either needed something or had something they no longer needed can notify the church to have it listed under either category; nothing that is sold, only given. What a great way to bless each other.
The music was exceptional, and I appreciated hearing the four lead singers as each led a song.
The time for greeting each other went for 5 minutes which was counted down on the screens, giving everyone plenty of time to say hello to nearly everyone else present.
The message was entitled “What Will Heaven Be Like?” and based on mostly Revelation 22:1-5 and 4:2-8. Although I can’t say I agreed with everything he said, I surely agree that our finite mental capacities cannot comprehend all that John attempted to convey. We will just have to wait and see.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray this church is in sync with Your purpose for them as they serve and glorify You. Amen.