Sunday, June 17, 2018

Bell Memorial Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Bell Memorial Presbyterian Church, 610 Line Avenue, Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.758.3458,, Rev. Ray Medina, Pastor.

Scripture – 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 NKJV

Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”

And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.”

But the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”

So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”

And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him!”

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were welcomed by many from before we got out of my truck. After a brief look around we found our seats and were greeted there also.

The modified arch ceiling is paneled with lighter wood and offset by dark wood beams. The acoustics were better than I expected but there was a higher-pitched noise, maybe from the instruments, that made it hard to hear the singing.

I was delighted to see a cross on the chancel wall and to be greeted by a Marine brother along with others who thanked me for my service.

I noted that the Prayer of Illumination was offered before the Word was read. We were tripped up again by “It is Well With My Soul” …it still brings difficult memories.

The message Dare Mighty Things “Hope” pointed out how much better we are at looking back with our blessed hindsight to see how God worked. How can we lack so much heart in the moment? With 22 suicides per day in the Veteran community, we need to take up our call to be messengers of hope. To me, the best line in that regard is: “If we can’t do that, we should close our doors.”

I was reminded of a funeral home visit where I never spoke a word, don’t even think I said hello. I held the widow’s hand, got her tissues and water, and later overheard her say that what I said meant the most to her that day. Bring your message of hope; speak if you need to.

I was glad to meet the speaker’s family; his children won my heart early on. I wish we could have talked more of Malawi mission trips.

My breathing has gotten to the point where I will have to look for air-conditioned sanctuaries, it’s too hard to breathe without it.

So glad the church is in the process of examining itself, getting clarity about “who do we say we are/who are we?”

Jan’s thoughts:

Numerous people stopped to welcome us with warm handshakes and introductions.

For some reason it was difficult to understand those who spoke toward the beginning, although by the time we got to the sermon, the issues seemed to have been fixed.

The well-populated praise band led mostly contemporary songs, which I enjoyed hearing.

The sermon was presented by Ed Sutter of The Soul Shop and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh’s South Hills. The summer series begun by the installed pastor is called Dare Mighty Things, and the topic of the day was hope.

According to their website,, the mission of The Soul Shop is:

To train leaders to equip congregations and communities to minister to persons impacted by suicidal desperation:

A.   Persons who have experienced loss

B.   Persons concerned for family/friends

C.   Persons engaged in suicidal thinking

D.  Second Day people (people who have walked through the dark night of suicidal desperation and survived to see a Second Day)

He spoke of small moments ordained by God that we often miss, when we are called to preach good news and hope to someone desperately in need of them. We are divinely appointed to preach light to those sitting in darkness and be messengers of hope with our presence, our conversation, and encouragement.

We often shun the idea that God could use us in such a big way, but God uses the small moments, the ones we do not even think about. He orchestrates these very times and uses them to accomplish His good plans. Ed pointed out that our words need not be perfect, they only need to be after God’s heart.

I encourage you to check out the link above. You never know how God may use you.

Our prayer for this church:

Father, we pray You will be with this congregation through their exam (it’s an open book test and the book is right in the pew). Bless them to know how to be Your church. Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Very Little Church

We were extra early for the church we planned to attend and stopped to get a few things at a local grocery store. We checked out with a cashier who had asked me to pray for her and her family. As she updated us, we felt moved to assure her that God would use her situation to achieve His purpose, that He was firmly in control, and this would work out to His glory. Her face reflected her relief and encouragement that He was active in her situation to bring her family closer to Him.

After leaving we were still early, so we stopped for coffee at a restaurant that turned out to be not the best choice on this Sunday morning: by the time we were served and on the road, we had minutes to spare. We arrived only to find they were meeting at a remote church location today. Had we stopped there first, we would have tried driving to that location but as it was, my truck overheated again and we likely would have been stranded far from home.

We sought churches in the area, but this was summer schedule change time and when the truck started to overheat, we headed home with the windows open and heat on full blast.

I need to find a way to replace this vehicle and wait on God to show the way…He has never failed us yet.

We didn’t realize how prophetic Jan’s comment was as we left the grocery store, that “we just had church.” God is amazing.

Lord, we pray for Your little churches that are struggling, that they might feel Your Presence. Amen.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

First United Methodist Church of Ellwood City

Today we worshiped at First United Methodist Church of Ellwood City, 416 Crescent Avenue, Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.758.6278,, Rev. Angelique Bradford, Senior Pastor.

Scripture –

Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG –

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Acts 20:1-12 NLT –

When the uproar was over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia. While there, he encouraged the believers in all the towns he passed through. Then he traveled down to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He was preparing to sail back to Syria when he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life, so he decided to return through Macedonia.

Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. They went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. After the Passover ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later joined them in Troas, where we stayed a week.

On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved.

Bob’s thoughts:

We arrived just before the service started so it’s hard to guess if we would have been welcomed by anyone in addition to the greeter.

The only crosses I could find were in the stained-glass panels. The walls are white with dark paneling and beams for the ceiling, which created a beautiful contrast.

I had trouble understanding most of the singing…I couldn’t hear what part they were singing over the organ.

The woman who presented the graduates was easy to hear and understand.

I am always interested to see how the Scripture readings match up to whatever version is up on my phone.

I thought the main point of the message was to be willing to change, an abhorrent thought to most old mainline churches. The pastor raised the point to not only break out of the box, but to break the box.

The old churches want the world to change to what the church was. The churches that are thriving and blessed by God have kept the biblical truths but became welcoming to the young people of today. Crawl out of the box and live for Christ.

One of the most impressive things to me has been each time I read my Bible, it changes. What I find is what God wants me to know right then.

Jan’s thoughts:

This is a good-sized building with traditional d├ęcor (including stained glass), some traditional songs, and organ-led music.

Since it was graduate recognition Sunday, we were two among many visitors.

We were pleased to be there for recognition of the church’s graduates, including two adults. As it was a special day for so many families, we were only two among a number of visitors.

I appreciated hearing the Scripture readings read with inflection and emotion.

It was convenient to have the words to each song printed in the bulletin.

The Message of Hope (sermon), referring to thinking inside versus outside the box, was entitled “Break the Box”. The pastor spoke of the call to change, growth, and moving forward.

Communion was expressed verbally and served by intinction, an enjoyable change.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray You will bless Your church with understanding, that they may know how to serve You now. Amen.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Out of the Mouths of Babes

With a daughter in town from North Carolina and a reunion picnic on Sunday, we missed the opportunity to worship in church.

At one point, one granddaughter commented that she hasn’t been going to church because the youth minister “always talks about his son instead of God’s Son.” Her statement got me to thinking about some of the churches we’ve visited.

I think we all tend to indulge in preconceived views of churches by their name or denomination, i.e., Church of God, Christ Fellowship, Church of Christ, and many others. We tend to think they must teach rightly if Christ or God is part of their name, but is Christ IN the church? Sadly, some we have been to are focused more on their building or the minister. But do they preach God’s Word or their own interpretation?

There is only one true Church, and it is not a building. Are we discerning about where we worship? We should pay attention and test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Go to God in prayer. Meet with Him where He wants you to be.

Blessed Memorial Day.