Sunday, September 16, 2018

Stone United Methodist Church


Today we worshiped at Stone United Methodist Church, 956 South Main Street, Meadville, PA 16335, 814.724.6736, www.stoneumc.org, Rev. Sarah Daniels Roncolato.





Scripture – NIV



Philippians 2:1-11 –



Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.



In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:



Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!



Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.



Micah 6:6-8 –



With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?



Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?



Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?



He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.



And what does the Lord require of you?



To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.





Bob’s thoughts:



In looking to visit a store in the area, we combined shopping and worship and enjoyed a pleasant drive together.



We were greeted by a woman on the praise team who is a Marine. It’s always great to meet a Marine sister who is also a sister in Christ.



The tall gothic church has a section in the rear for nursery; with the removal of a few pews they created a nice child care area. High above the cross on the Communion table is a white lighted cross.



The pastor was out with a death in the family and the pastor who filled in is being installed at his church tonight.



In his message he mentioned the song Just Say Jesus. It brought back pleasant memories of working with the youth group at church where, in response to almost every question put to the youth, one young man would always offer “Jesus.” Thinking back, it may have been the right answer more than we wanted to admit. And we know Jesus is never the wrong answer.



I remember a discussion with an Old Testament scholar, that I came away with the realization that the pain Christ was asking God to take away from Him was the pain of separation from God. The physical pain the human Christ endured was beyond our comprehension, but He loved us that much.





Jan’s thoughts:



The scenery was breathtaking as we made this drive, arriving with time to look around a little and speak to a couple of members.



The reason for the name of the church was clear: this is a large, stone building with a vaulted ceiling and some of the most intricate stained glass I’ve seen. The sanctuary is sizeable and several rows of pews at the rear were rearranged to complete a closed-in space for containing and caring for little ones during the service. It was an imaginative and attractive solution.



The voices of the music leaders blended well and, with just the keyboard and acoustic guitar, it was gentle on the ears.



During the greeting time, everyone seemed to know how to make their way around and greet everyone else.



The echo made it a challenge to understand words spoken or sung, but as the preacher wore a microphone, I was able to hear him clearly.



The congregation had assembled I believe 20 “flood buckets” and personal care kits to be donated for flood relief assistance.



The installed pastor was away this week and the pulpit was filled by a visiting pastor who seemed to be known to the church. This evening he is slated to be installed as the pastor of a nearby non-denominational church and he and his wife have made five mission trips to Haiti since 2005.



The message was entitled, Do. Love. Walk, referring to Micah 6:6-8. He reminded us that we should love loving others and that everyone has a role to play within the Body of Christ.





Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray Your guidance for Your church and Your comfort for their pastor. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Crossroads Church Cranberry


Yesterday we worshiped at Crossroads Church Cranberry, 8533 Peters Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 412.494.9999, www.crossroadsumc.org, Mike Arnold, Campus Pastor.





Scripture – NIV



Genesis 50:15-20 –

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.



His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.



But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”



Hebrews 12:15 –

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.



1 John 1:9 –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.



Psalm 103:12 –

…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.



Romans 8:28 –

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.





Bob’s thoughts:



Having been away most of the week, we looked forward to worshiping here and seeing some of our family. I didn’t realize God was using our visit for much more.



Early in the service, a young woman on the worship team sang an amazing rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul”, a song that brings bittersweet memories as it was one of the songs in church the day after our son was killed. It was performed so flawlessly that I may be able to get past the memory. Yesterday everything seemed right about the praise team…the right instruments and voices. Maybe it always is, but this day, it was right to me.



This past week I had the opportunity to introduce my wife to some of my family she had not met. At a reunion of Marine Combat Helicopter Squadrons from Vietnam she met, or at least got to see, a few thousand of my brothers. I came to realize while we visited the 30 or so survivors of my squadron, there was an aroma of Christ there which I did not expect. When I read a devotional in “Our Daily Bread” based on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, it was clear to me that this was what I was sensing.



When the pastor was talking about being released from revenge, there was a second moment of clarity. It was part of my experience of releasing my heart from vengeful thoughts. Long before Christ claimed me, I learned to block these prideful inclinations toward revenge, and those who wronged me were dealt with way more severely than I would ever have thought of. When people treated me wrong, I would pray for them because the punishment was so severe.



I realized that there were people at my reunion who caused me pain/suffering that I had not forgiven. I pray they may never know that they caused me pain, and thanks be to God that He brought me release.



A thought from the message I appreciated: “No one can foil God’s purpose for you.”





Jan’s thoughts:



Yesterday was Grandparents’ Day, so we took the opportunity to worship with our grandchildren who live in the area.



I always enjoy worshipping here: the people are friendly, the music is well done, and the coffee is delicious. Also, I enjoy the hugs and watching the members interact warmly with each other.



Yesterday morning we watched two young brothers in the row in front of us as they stood singing with their arms around each other. I felt privileged to witness such a sweet moment.



The message was part four of the series Then God… and is called Used it for Good. Past messages in this series were said to have focused on times when God worked in unexpected ways, so now I’d like to hear the rest of the series.



This entry focused on God’s use of Joseph and his hardships, and how Joseph was able to avoid allowing bitterness to gain a foothold in his heart. The pastor observed that everyone gets hurt, it’s only a matter of time, but holding on to that hurt causes much harm to us and those around us. The only cure for bitterness is forgiveness, defined as releasing the right to get even. He stated that the power to forgive comes from “50/20 vision” – Genesis 50:20, Joseph’s affirmation to his brothers of God’s sovereignty and grace: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”



The pastor identified the specific path followed by Joseph in healing from hurt: Joseph faced his hurt, he released his right to revenge, and then he blessed his offenders.



He concluded by openly sharing a personal story about his own effort to forgive someone with whom he had a falling-out. This required a great deal of vulnerability on his part, and I am grateful to have this example to follow in the future. Indeed, God works in mysterious ways.





Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray for Your continued comfort and guidance for Your church. Lead them to where they need to be next. Amen.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

New Brighton Free Methodist Church


Today we worshiped at New Brighton Free Methodist Church, 925 11th Street, New Brighton, PA 15066, 724.843.2777, www.nbfm.org, Rev. Joshua A. Mackenstein, Pastor.





Scripture –



Romans 12:11 ESV –



Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.





Bob’s thoughts:



We were warmly welcomed, it was about Sunday School time and we were invited to join one of the adult classes. We were not told what they were studying, only who was leading the class so we thought it best to wait in the air-conditioned sanctuary for the service to start.



We were greeted by the substitute pastor who shared a little about the Free Methodists.



There is an exquisite relief carving and picturesque banner on the front wall along with a wooden cross hung so it is angled out from the wall.



A number of members offered friendly, welcoming gestures such as which areas might be cooler and making sure we had bulletins. I was glad to get a prayer list.



I appreciated seeing the worship team meet for prayer before the service started. As always, I enjoyed watching the children, especially the two (obviously) sisters a few rows in front of us.



The trombone was a nice addition to the praise music.



The message dealt with our slothful approach compared to the zeal we should have for God. It made me remember when Christ claimed me. I was probably obnoxiously on fire for Christ. (This is true. ~Jan)



But longer-term Christians waited for that zeal to taper off. I still have trouble with that thinking. I found ways to be zealous without being so obnoxious and most importantly, to be all about Him, not me. I guess a goal would help new Christians not to settle to the level of the church.



I may be the only one who heard this part, but I heard a reference to getting back in sync with Christ as like a refreshing drink. It reminded me of something I read this morning about Marines just off the lines at Belleau Wood being called to fight at Soissons. They were marching to get to this new fight with little rest, no food or water, when they came to a muddy pool on the side of the road. They pulled out the sticks and leaves and had that refreshing drink that they still remembered long after the war as their best drink. Christ is like that. When we obey, He washes over us.





Jan’s thoughts:



We arrived especially early and several members greeted us cordially. We opted to look around a bit then wait in the air-conditioned sanctuary.



The pastor we met was filling the pulpit this morning and kindly took time for welcoming conversation along with some education about the denomination. The Free Methodists are much older than I realized, dating back to the Civil War era. A number of other folks also stopped on their way into the sanctuary to greet us.



After we found seats, someone thoughtfully stopped to let us know that coffee and pastries had been set out in the outer area.



The music was led by a trio including a trombone. When I saw it, I thought it might drown out the two leaders’ voices and the acoustic guitar, but he played softly and it was a delightful touch that blended perfectly.



In the message, called Awaken Your Spirit Within to Conquer Evil, Pastor Jim Miller spoke to anyone who has felt lethargic and in a slump: he asked “What will you do about it?” He reminded the congregation that we are not helpless and must take responsibility for our spiritual condition.



He pointed out that self-pity “is a dragon we need to slay NOW” and if we find ourselves in a slump and lacking fire in our spirit, we should call on God to restore our spirit instead of trumpeting the call that “I got this!” We don’t have the answers, but they can be found if we will open God’s Word because the answer IS in there. He said we have no business living like life is a duty and choosing to live hopelessly…that attitude is the equivalent of spitting on Jesus. We must come to the Cross as we are and ask God to restore our soul because we cannot restore our own souls any more than we can save ourselves.



I was pleased to partake in Communion and, following worship, to visit with some friends we did not know attended here.





Our prayer for this church:

Father, we pray You are with Your church as they struggle to carry on during their pastor’s illness. We ask that You touch the pastor and restore his health completely. Amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

McKees Rocks Assembly of God


Yesterday we worshiped at McKees Rocks Assembly of God, 835 Broadway, McKees Rocks, PA 15136, 412.331.8020, www.mckeesrocksag.org, Pastor James Tracey.





Scripture –



Romans 8:1-13 NASB –



Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.



However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.



So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.



Galatians 5:19-21 NASB –



Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.



Galatians 5:9-21 The Message –



It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.



This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.



Galatians 6:7-8 NASB –



Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.





Bob’s thoughts:



This church was on our list to visit for some time and today God directed us here. We were warmly welcomed from the door and many stopped by in the pew. The real welcome was the smile of a young girl as she danced around the sanctuary.



There was a great harmony between the pastor on guitar and the female lead singer. I found it a challenge to follow the words as we sang as there was much repetition and I got lost easily although she did try to lead us to what was next.



I enjoyed the banners and was happy to see a large cross behind the projection screen.



The message was part of a series on rebuilding His church, and today focused on discipleship. The pastor raised a thought that has gotten me in the past: “Is this what God wants or what I think God wants?”



I had a large garden and sent tons of produce to local food banks, then one year I felt God calling me to stop. Since most of the garden was hillside and it was killing me, it should have been easy to obey. But I believed I was doing this good stuff for God and put in a garden anyhow, a little smaller maybe. The next year I planted peas and started buying seeds, then I heard clearly, “I meant that!” His peace washed over me when I obeyed and that part of the property is now mostly grass.



Another statement I liked – when you are caught in the flesh – “just stop it.” When He calls you, “just do it!”





Jan’s thoughts:



This church has been on our list for approximately four years, and today seemed like the day to visit. We were greeted even before entering the building and welcomed warmly and often. The building is modest, neat, and clean, with some striking banners on the side walls.



The volume of the music was perfect, with the pastor playing the guitar, his wife on the keyboard, and a single vocalist. The voices blended beautifully.



If the message had a title, I think it would have been “Believer’s Choice.” The pastor spoke of the church’s emphasis on discipleship, then defined the term as “learning how to live in relationship with our God, Who loves us.”



He stated that Christians have a choice to live either according to the flesh or to be led by the Spirit. However, living in the Spirit is not a one-time event but an ongoing process of learning to depend on God alone.



He spoke of putting to death the deeds of the flesh through the Spirit, and that we “can’t cast out what must be crucified,” which I thought was very well put.



He asked an excellent question: are you who God wants you to be, doing what He wants you to do where He wants you to be doing it?



There was enough food for thought in this message to munch on for some time.



We appreciated the kind invitations to join the congregation for lunch which would be followed by a baptism, but we had to decline.





Our prayer for this church:

Lord, Your church is preparing to grow where You planted them. Fertilize the fields of their hearts and help them grow in their love for You. Amen.