Sunday, September 25, 2016

NorthWay Christian Community

Today we worshiped at NorthWay Christian Community, 1414 Beaver Street, Sewickley, PA 15143, 724.935.6800, www.northway.org, Scott McCabe, Campus Pastor.


Scripture –

James 1:5-8 ESV –
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Proverbs 16:18 ESV –
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Genesis 3:6 MSG –
When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.

John 15:1-11 ESV –
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Philippians 2:3-8 NIV –
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!

1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV –
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.


Bob’s thoughts:

We were greeted by a few people, including meeting two Marines near the door who didn’t know they were brothers beyond Christ.

Although they are not saddled with a church building, they meet in a school, so perhaps they are prohibited from displaying a cross.

It was easy to follow the music and message with the three large projection screens.

The sermon was the final message of a three-part series titled “What Was I Thinking?” with a focus on ‘pride or abide.’ Plenty of Scripture quotes and scholarly commentary supported the message and I liked the line: “Where Satan doesn’t go personally, he sends a critic.”

She talked about how vanity, deceit, and arrogance cause an alienation from God. My Marine pride was a stumbling block till I learned to submit that to Christ (Philippians 4:13).

The message included Scripture from John about the Vine and the branches. This reminded me of when we moved from a home where I had painted ivy on the wall and before we moved, felt directed to include the Scripture. I always hoped God found a way to use it.

It was great to see a healthy mix of ages at this service; lots of young people is indicative of a healthy church.

We enjoyed a pleasant conversation with some church leaders and the pastor after the service.


Jan’s thoughts:

We sensed God’s nudging us to visit NorthWay and opted to visit a campus we’ve not seen before.

This location meets at an elementary school, which means each week all the accoutrements are moved in and set up for worship and then moved back out afterward, obviously an incredible effort by an extremely dedicated team.

We arrived just as the service was starting and were greeted at the door by a gentleman who turned out to be a Marine who had been stationed in some of the same parts of Vietnam where Bob served. We committed to meeting after worship to discuss this connection further when two other Marines greeted Bob. I always enjoy witnessing these reunions of “brothers from different mothers.”

The music was robust so we found seats at the back, then watched with some surprise as our first Marine friend entered and sat with his wife immediately in front of us.

We learned during the announcements about some of the mission efforts of this church during October, one ambitious one aimed at making a difference in the Aliquippa area. Also today was Small Group Connect, where the various small groups were set up at tables and interested parties could talk to someone and/or sign up to join a specific small group.

The message was presented by a member of the staff, Shannon Libengood, who had spent a fair amount of time (8 years, I think she said) as a long-term overseas missionary. This week’s message was the final in a series entitled “What Was I Thinking?” The first week focused on doubts, the second on fear, and this week’s title was “The Culprit of Pride.”

I always know when the message was one I want to remember because I take lots of notes, and today I took more than that…so many that I don’t know where to begin. So I will blatantly copy the message notes so kindly provided as we entered worship because this says it all:

Pride defined:
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves… And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others… According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Pride defined in our relationship…

…with God, is an excessive belief in one’s own abilities that interferes with our recognition of the grace of God.

...with others, is dangerously corrupt selfishness, the putting of one’s own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of people.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18, ESV)

Pride expressed: Vanity, conceit, and arrogance

Fruit of pride: Conflict, gossip, and alienation from God

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take
advice. (Proverbs 13:10, NIV)

Again, the above is directly from today’s message notes and not written by me.

She ended with a powerful statement: “A war is being fought over our souls daily.” Indeed. And we see the fruits of that battle every time we look at the suffering in our world. Or in our hearts.

Satan is the enemy of our souls and he will stop at nothing in his attempt to snatch us away. Praise God that through His Son, once we are in His hand, He will never let us go (John 10:28).


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, it is encouraging to see the enthusiasm for mission through Your people at this church. We pray for Your continued guidance and encouragement upon them as they go. Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Oak Hill Alliance Church

Today we worshiped at Oak Hill Alliance Church, 2782 Rochester Road, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 724.776.4350, www.oakhillcma.org, Pastor Dan Aluise.


Scripture – NIV

Joshua 9:1-27 –
Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.

However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”

“We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.

But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.” ’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them. So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel.

The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.

Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”

They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.”

So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.

Psalm 27:1-2, 5-6 –
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 –
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Proverbs 15:22 –
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 –
Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.


Bob’s thoughts:

We were welcomed by many in the congregation and all were genuinely friendly, not perfunctory greetings.

I was pleased to see more than one cross; I also appreciated the prayer page. At times God speaks to me as I pray for people I probably don’t know (or haven’t met yet).

The songs were not listed so I was taken aback by “As the Deer.” After our son was killed, we found out it was one of his favorites and including it in the memorial service changed its effect on us. We were blessed by a young family sitting in front of us whose son reminded me so much of how hard it was to get Dan to sit still that I smiled in spite of the hymn.

The message, “The Art of Making Foolish Decisions,” was not the personal critique of my life that I thought it would be. In my walk with Christ it has been hard at times to seek God’s direction first but it has always been rewarding when I do. The sermon was well supported by Scripture, and a caution that stuck with me was, “Don’t be blinded by your desires.”


Jan’s thoughts:

A young man held the door for us as we entered the building, and numerous people greeted us and took the time to chat.

Just prior to the start of the service, as I was reading over the two-page prayer list, we noticed the pastor and several others forming a prayer circle at the front.

The music was led with vigor, and I enjoyed singing several songs I like but haven’t encountered recently. One of the songs was “As the Deer,” which brings bittersweet memories for us.

The message was intriguingly titled “The Art of Making Foolish Decisions” and centered on the consequences of Joshua’s choices in the above Scripture. The sermon notes included in the bulletin laid out how to make foolish decisions along with the application, instructions on making wise decisions.

Make foolish decisions by:
1 – failing to gather all the information;
2 – making big decisions quickly;
3 – not inquiring of the Lord.

Make wise decisions by:
1 – gathering as much true information as possible before deciding;
2 – waiting on the Lord;
3 – praying. Stop and ask God for direction.

It is important to make wise decisions because:
1 – there are lifelong consequences or blessings;
2 – people are looking to you as an example;
3 – you will want God’s best.

He added one final note: God can and does redeem our poor decisions by His grace and mercy. However, we must repent. He courageously used a personal story to illustrate this point, adding that the right decision is often not the easy one.


Our prayer for this church:

Father, we pray this church – and we – remember to seek Your answer first to all questions. Amen.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Westside Christian Church

This past Sunday, we worshiped at Westside Christian Church, 5086 Styers Ferry Road, Lewisville, NC 27023, 336.777.6185, www.westside.cc/, Marty Anderson, Lead Minister.


Scripture – NIV

John 8:32 –
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

1 John 1:8-9 –
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Luke 7:36-50 –
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.””

1 Timothy 1:15 –
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

Ephesians 2:8-9 –
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 –
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.


Bob’s thoughts:

I am always overjoyed when I have uncertainties about a church we have not worshiped at and God overwhelms me with His Presence. We needed Christ’s comfort and reassurance this day, and we found it here.

We were warmly welcomed, engaged in conversation, and offered coffee. I was pleased to see a 7-11 nearby where I could get a decaf.

I enjoyed the female worship leaders’ voices together and was pleased to hear them solo. I especially liked their rendition of “If We’re Honest,” a perfect segue to the message about honesty. The sermon was well supported by Scripture references throughout and the pastor interjected personal humorous notes for application, such as interpreting online dating site ads.

Who can you be honest with? Who can be honest with you? Can we live life without a filter? The pastor’s best line: “If you are perfect, you can leave…except Jesus, You can stay.”

While I was disappointed to not find a cross, I did think the wall above the baptismal would be a perfect place for one.

The pastor talked of women crying uncontrollably and most could relate. I’ve never known those uncontrolled tears, but when our son was killed, these Marine eyes did sweat profusely.

Communion was served, albeit silently, by people stationed around the sanctuary space.


Jan’s thoughts:

While visiting Winston-Salem, we ended up near this church in the company of a homeless veteran who had no place else to go and was truly uplifted by the service. The church is situated in a strip mall, which seems fairly common in the south. We were ushered inside by one of the greeters who graciously showed us around, pointing out the Land of a Thousand Hills free-trade coffee (some of the best I’ve had anywhere), and invited us to feel at ease.

People continuously stopped to welcome us and introduce themselves, taking time to chat and ask where we were from…maybe they thought we had an accent.

Some of the signage was painted on the walls, and the lobby area was comfortably arranged with chairs, sofas, and a couple of tables. On one wall was a whiteboard containing Post-It notes bearing handwritten prayer requests.

The auditorium/worship area was spacious and comfortable with an excellent praise band and vocalists.

The sermon series was called “No Filter” and centered on the question, “Can I be honest?” This is a big question for most people, he pointed out. “Confession and vulnerability are painful, but a life of truth is freedom,” he said.

The topic turned to the masks we wear, the filters of what we wish to share with various people in our world. He stated mask hides scars and attempts to make sure others see only our successes and strengths, our “best” sides, which, he pointed out, cannot be seen from our own perspective, the inside of the mask.

He asked questions: where else do we wear masks? What do our kids see? Where can you be at peace without a mask? Then reminded that we must remove the mask with Jesus…He knows the truth already. He declared that Jesus will forgive every sin we confess honestly to Him. And:
1.    The more honest you are with God, the better you know His mercy.
2.    When you know God’s mercy, you can be honest with others.
3.    When we are honest with others, we can show them mercy.

He said we can start by showing mercy to our spouse and children, that home should be a safe place to fail, and show mercy to others in the church with “me too” statements that let them know that we’re the same and we struggle in the same ways. It’s how we find – and help others fine - find forgiveness, hope, mercy, and a future.

I was glad to partake of Communion at the conclusion of the service.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we felt Your power behind this church You are growing. We pray for Your continued Presence as they go forth in Your Name. Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Glenwillard United Methodist Church

Sunday past, Bob worshiped at Glenwillard United Methodist Church, 1328 Main Street, Crescent Township, PA 15046, 724.457.6325, www.glenwillardumc.org, Dennis L. Bouch, Pastor.


Scripture – Philemon 1:1-25 – NLT

This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”


Bob’s thoughts:

I pulled out papers from the file on two churches this morning, but He had already made the choice and I obeyed without question. The other was new, fancy-looking, and probably large, but today I needed to be in a small family church.

I was sitting in my truck when the pastor pulled in, and when I explained some of the trials my family has recently encountered, he prayed for us then and there. He knew that God had sent me, and I needed to be with brothers and believers.

I was greeted and engaged in conversation, especially by a Marine who was serving as usher. A woman came in with three children and sat behind me, which increased my sense of family. The seven souls in the choir sounded like many more and I liked their smiles. There were numerous crosses, including one with a dove perched atop.

The sermon, “My Own Heart,” was based on Philemon 1:1-21 but read all the verses, which I liked. Paul’s discourse not only asked for the welcoming of a slave back as a brother in Christ, but that any debt that might be owed be transferred to him (Paul). Verse 22 urges, “Prepare a place for me in faith, that I may come.”

The pastor talked of Christians forgiving as the Spirit of love comes in, and on cue a train came in near the building. I took it as a sign of God’s love coming into the congregation.

The invitation to Communion was extended, welcoming all to the Table. The pastor apologized for running late but would not speed through Communion. This contrasted in my mind with one church that announced the Communion elements were set up in the back, just go help yourself when you are ready.

I was blessed to be able to offer the elements to the pastor and he asked me to remain up front. I was asked to kneel at the rail while the congregation came and laid hands and prayed over me for my family. Long ago I learned to leave retribution to the Lord, but with this prayer, God’s peace settled over me and, I hope, my family.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray Your continued blessings on this, Your church. Guide them, use them, and grow them to Your will. Amen.