Sunday, February 7, 2016
Today we worshiped at Discovery Christian Church, meets at The Regional Learning Alliance, 850 Cranberry Woods Drive, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.779.1010, www.discovertogether.com, Toney Salva, Founding and Lead Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
James 1:1-2 –
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror.
James 1:27 –
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
We often see the signs to this church in an area where we frequently shop and dine, but I was surprised how well the signage was carried all the way through the development to the building. It was so complete, with even some humor added, that I couldn’t believe there was nothing at the building. We drove around a little bit and settled on the door nearest the most cars. A simple sandwich board sign would have sufficed. Later when the lot was fuller there would not have been much question.
I always thought when we followed the arrows to Kennywood something to help you find your way home would be helpful…such as signs on the back of those leading to the church to get back to 19 or 228.
Coffee was available for a token fee with free refills. The attendant introduced herself and pointed the way to the worship center, as did another couple we spoke with. This church has been here for a while but no cross is displayed yet.
I was lamenting not being able to hear the female lead singer over the instruments and almost immediately she sang without accompaniment. I enjoyed her voice and the praise team overall, and the volume was bearable for me.
I found it odd that we were welcome to take Communion but requested not to present our tithe. As it was I heard nothing about confession of sins prior to Communion so we declined to participate.
I am still not sure why we would not be welcome to give an offering.
The sermon was the first of a series on the book of James. With some logical suppositions, we can assume that James was there for Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine and perhaps that was when he became a follower. I always thought it would be fascinating to know more of Christ’s growing up and interactions with His younger siblings.
One of the greatest lessons from James is to find joy in our trials. I must admit, I’m often thinking ahead to the joy and rewards after the trials. Another important call from James is to not just read or listen to the Scriptures but to take them to heart and act upon them. The message developed well and brought to light some good points.
We have seen signs for this church for some time along Route 228 in Cranberry, though this was my first time inside the Regional Learning Alliance building. As we turned off the main road and into the complex, the signs continued popping up and even displayed a sense of humor with “Don’t give up!” and “You’re almost there!”
Indoor signage was ample, and several folks were generous with conversation as well as directions to the worship area.
The music was presented by a talented group, though many songs were unfamiliar to me. The volume was not overwhelming.
The message was the first in a series entitled “religious” and each of the five weeks of the series will involve walking through successive chapters of the book of James. This first week was an introduction to James’ identity as Jesus’ brother and that James is believed to be the oldest of the New Testament books.
The pastor noted that Job is considered to be the oldest book of the Old Testament and both Job and James state clearly that people of faith should expect to encounter trials in this life. However Proverbs 29:11 states just as clearly that it is foolish to give full vent to our anger and we should be slow to speak (or these days, to post on social media) in the midst of our trials.
He declared that if we are to be ambassadors for Christ in our world, we must return to the mirror of God’s Word daily in order to fix what is out of place in our hearts before we go out into the world.
He then likened believers to mops, saying that we are not clean, but we can be used as long as the Water is changed daily, concluding with the admonishment that we are the mop, not the cleaning solution for the world.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray we all do more than just listen to Your Word but that we are inspired to act in Your Name. Amen.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Today we worshiped at Prince of Peace Anglican Church, 1314 Gringo Road, Aliquippa, PA 15001, 724.375.5351, www.pop-church.com, Rev. John M. Heidengren, Rector.
Scripture - NIV
Jeremiah 1:4-10 –
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Psalm 71:1-17 –
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.” Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
1 Corinthians 14:12b-20 –
Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”
Luke 4:21-32 –
He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ”
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
A neighbor worshiped in this building some years ago until she could no longer climb the stairs; her church merged with another and moved to a new location. I had been hoping we would get to visit, but God was way ahead of me.
There is a large backlit wooden cross, uplifting banners on all the walls, and dual projection screens. I enjoyed the worship team music and the harmonization of the two female leads. Seeing the enthusiasm and smiles made me happy.
An assistant priest provided the message regarding Jesus’ authority; it was well delivered and supported by Scripture. I was amused that it was the theme God gave me in praying for healing, to pray with Christ’s authority. I believe when I was ordained as a Deacon and Elder that I was touched by hands that were touched by Christ and that the power of Christ is in me, to His glory alone.
I never grow tired of the way God uses us, though I’m often surprised but not overwhelmed that He does so. Recently during my morning devotions I had a vision of praying for a woman’s health. He presented that opportunity this morning, though I was having such a good time exchanging smiles with her granddaughter I almost missed recognizing her. The setting and some of the dialog was right out of my vision and we were able to reassure her of the healing God, to His glory, has already done.
The Scripture quoted in support of Christ’s authority from His reading from Isaiah was part of my morning devotionals. (He really does work that hard for me to hear His message.)
We lose sight of the fact that Christ has that same authority now.
We were able to partake of Communion and the elements were offered aloud.
We were blessed with a good worship experience and the opportunity to pray over someone, so I will be energized all week.
After having driven past this church countless times, today was the day to visit.
The signage was excellent, including outdoor signs distinguishing the main entrance from the office entrance, and indoors, both directional and identification signs.
The sanctuary was tastefully decorated with colorful, coordinated banners on most walls.
We were greeted warmly upon entering the sanctuary, and although we ended up sitting in a sort of out-of-the-way corner, more than a few people took the time to stop over and welcome us, including the Rector.
The blended music was presented by a talented contemporary praise band.
The sermon, “Jesus’ Authority,” was presented by the Assistant Priest, Rev. Philip Bottomley, who emphasized the power, weight, and influence of Christ’s words, words that “changed His hearers.” Words that, in the beginning, spoke the very light into existence. The wind ceased at His command, and Lazarus returned to life at His word. The pastor pointed out that He speaks now with the same authority and every knee will bow, willingly or unwillingly.
I was pleased to participate in Communion this day, and we enjoyed the fellowship following worship.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray this congregation will be empowered to act on Christ’s authority as they move forward with Your plan for this, Your church. Amen.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church, 707 Thomson Park Drive, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 412.494.9999, http://crossroadsumc.org/locations/cranberry/, Mike Arnold, Campus Pastor.
Scripture - NLT
James 5:16 – l
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Joshua 6:1-5 –
Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the LORD said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
2 Corinthians 10:4 –
We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
It was a special worship experience for me to be able to witness our daughter and her husband join church today. When I came to Christ, our daughter was just finishing the communicant’s class and we joined church together, a special, warm memory for me.
We were cordially greeted by two of the pastors when we came in and engaged by the woman preparing coffee. A number of others came by and joined us in conversation and when we said we were there to watch family join their church, there was even more connection: we are in the same small group, husbands meet on Fridays, and of course the antics of our youngest granddaughter.
Was interesting that the sermon was also on connection, our connecting in prayer. A step we have all been guilty of with an overwhelming problem, we try to fix it instead of stepping back and letting God work.
God will help us break the strongholds in our lives, be they bad habits or transgressions that we can’t get past. We need to step back out of God’s way and let Him work miracles.
Sometimes when we are called to read our Bible or pray for a time period, I realize that I just can’t imagine trying to get through a day without God’s Word and prayer time.
It’s great to worship here and feel God’s Presence, I am happy our children have found a good home.
Today we were privileged to worship and celebrate with our daughter and son-in-law as they joined this church.
Although we arrived quite early, several people greeted us warmly as they prepared coffee, snacks, and made general arrangements for those who would soon arrive.
I truly enjoy the music here. The songs themselves lean toward the contemporary, but even the traditional (such as today’s “Holy, Holy, Holy”…one of the most traditional I know) feature original arrangements – and a saxophone – that catch my ear and make singing a joy.
The message was entitled “Targeting Strongholds” and was the first in the series called Breakthrough Prayer. The church is being led through 21 Days of Prayer beginning today through February 13 designed to encourage daily prayer in battling one specific personal stronghold and one specific Kingdom stronghold.
The pastor urged everyone to text PRAYER21 to 313131 in order to receive a daily text reminder to pray for the next three weeks. This is surely one way to use our ever-present cell phones for an uplifting – and perhaps even life-changing – purpose. I’ll be anxious to see what comes from it.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray the congregation accepts the challenge to lift their strongholds to You, awaiting the miraculous solutions You will send. Amen.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Our great intentions for worship this morning got waylaid by a late night for us on Saturday. After such an encouraging conversation with the student pastor last week, I was looking forward to our next church visit and the chance to interact with the members.
I have thought for some time how important visitor greeting is for the greeter…the opportunity to potentially influence a visitor to return…the unknown potential a visitor could add to a congregation…even a new believer brings a special enthusiasm.
I have reflected about how much that greeting can mean to the visitor. Sometimes just a simple hello can make the visitor feel so connected and welcome. Engaging conversation and sharing your faith walk can make a tremendous difference.
Lord, open us all to sharing our personal story so we can be used by You. Amen.