Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hope Assembly of God

Today we worshiped at Hope Assembly of God, 3008 Cleveland Avenue, Hopewell Township, PA 15001, 724.378.7864,, Janet Giles, Pastor.

Scripture – John 11:1-44 NIV

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Bob’s thoughts:

It always surprises me what I remember when we revisit a church. I remembered the pastor and worship leader, but little else; nothing outside looked familiar. When we sat down almost in the same pew where we sat four years ago, I remembered a couple with a baby who had a host of serious problems; I felt a strong call to go to the narthex and lay hands and pray for this little girl. My wife joined me to pray for complete recovery. When I tried to check on her condition sometime later, we learned the couple were also first-time visitors. The call to pray was so strong that I don’t doubt God answered prayers and healed her.

When the praise worship was to begin, there was the sounding of a ram’s horn and a long brass horn that caught us both off guard. I had some trouble hearing after that.

The message was about Christ’s raising Lazarus. A thought that stuck out for me: “with the resurrection, we will realize no joy in sin.”

A highlight for me was the call to pray in gratitude before receiving a blessing.

Jan’s thoughts:

It has been nearly 4½ years since our last visit here. It is still a pretty sanctuary, decorated much the same as I recalled. The windows were clear glass block with pink glass block in the shape of a cross.

A gentleman greeted us and kindly held the door for us to enter, and we were welcomed by several folks prior to and after the service.

The first 45 minutes or so consisted of worship through music. Though I was unfamiliar with the songs, I enjoyed the impromptu use of bells and tambourines by members of the congregation.

I do not recall hearing a shofar or trumpet used in worship before, so the volume surprised me, though they were intriguing.

The message was entitled “Jesus’ Perfect Timing” in which the pastor taught through the Scripture about the death and raising of Lazarus.

She stated that Thomas, also known as “the twin,” is believed by some to have been called that because he looked so much like Jesus. This is the first time I’ve heard this. I always supposed Thomas must have had a twin. She pointed out this would have put him at special risk…a remarkable perspective.

The pastor told a personal story about an issue faced by her late husband. Some time after they had buried two of their children, her husband was losing his eyesight. One day he heard God urge him to praise Him. Her husband obeyed and his sight was restored. The pastor pointed out that when we pray for things, we should be thanking God in faith even before we see His response.

She pointed out a striking detail of the story of Lazarus also: when Lazarus walked out of the tomb, Jesus instructed those nearby to remove his graveclothes, knowing at some point Lazarus would need them again. But when Jesus left His tomb, He left His graveclothes behind as He would never need them again. A nice touch, I think.

Our prayer for this church:

Heavenly Father, we pray Your continued blessing on Your small church full of prayer warriors. Amen.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mayfield Bible Baptist Church

Today we worshiped at Mayfield Bible Baptist Church, 521 37th Street, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.8738, Pastor Ken Manypenny.

Scripture – James 1 NKJV

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Bob’s thoughts:

We had some confusion today on worship but understood it was His plan.

We tried a second time to visit a church nearby, with enough time in between attempts to forget that no one was home. Looking in the windows it appears to still be in use, so we’ll check with other nearby churches.


We drove past a few neighboring churches before finding this one, which we were certain we had not visited before. It was about 10 a.m. and the sign indicated an 11 a.m. start time. We talked for a while and decided to go for a coffee and wait.

But on our way past, we heard singing and, deciding the 11 a.m. signboard must be in error, went in for worship. We didn’t know we were attending Sunday School, not worship, until it was over.

The building is a small chapel with painted white panel walls and a high arched ceiling. The natural wood beams framed the room well. I noticed a cross leaning against the rear chancel wall. I saw no signage but found the restrooms downstairs.

Hanging on the chancel wall was a large painting on velvet of a cross spanning a chasm showing the way to cross over to God. This is the only velvet painting I’ve seen bearing a Christian message; I hope it’s one they heed.

We were sitting in the best seats for cross ventilation, with doors open on either side, but probably the poorest for audio for the same reason. Consequently I missed a lot before the youth pastor picked up a hand microphone.

The pastor had an opening prayer and offered a report on his wife’s hospitalization: she had a very high sugar reading and some other problems I didn’t catch. At the hospital, there was a point where it was announced her sugar was at 700 and they praised the Lord (her numbers were coming down).

I was reminded of a time when I was in the sanctuary praying for the pastor search committee of what was then our church. The daughter of a member had been ill and they had been searching for answers for some time. The mom came in exclaiming with joy that it was whooping cough, not normally joyful news, but they had an answer and it was treatable.

The pastor had to leave to minister to his wife and I knew then that was why God had us there. I followed him out and reassured him to pray boldly for complete healing for his wife, not just the nice church prayers we use but with the power of Christ Jesus that is ours. Whatever the problem, to pray that errant cells or demonic presence be gone from her body and she experience complete healing.

The youth pastor delivered a message dealing with the rich coming to Christ, that God has no problem with wealth but what you do with your wealth. I have never had anyone who was having financial problems that I convinced to tithe come back to me and complain. This was true for individuals and churches, God will bless you.

Jan’s thoughts:

It took us some time and exploring to locate the church God wanted us to attend today. We arrived by accident some time into what we thought was the worship service…only afterward did we learn it was not worship but Sunday school.

This is definitely a small country church with the atmosphere of a large extended family, and they operate on a fluid schedule.

We entered because we heard a hymn as we walked past, and we found seats during a prayer. The pastor spoke about his wife, who we gathered had been dangerously ill and in the hospital most of the past week. After a brief prayer, he turned over the microphone to the Youth Director, Tim Winkle.

They were in the first chapter, working their way through the book of James. Tim explained that the problem was not that the recipients of James’ letter were rich, but that they were hoarding their wealth and not using it to bless others.

He stated that when we have less, we need to view it as an opportunity to glorify God and His faithfulness. That even temptation can be viewed as a blessing if we keep in mind that those who are faithful in temptation are promised crowns in heaven. Of course, as he also pointed out, when we are presented with these crowns, we will acknowledge that they belong to Jesus because we will know we are not responsible for getting through our trials and temptations ourselves.

We were greeted afterward by several folks who invited us to return next week if we don’t come back this evening. We do plan to return one Sunday to hear the pastor preach.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray in the power of Christ’s name Your healing touch to the pastor’s wife and Your continued guidance for Your Church. Amen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Victory Family Church

Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.453.6200,, Pastor John Nuzzo.

Scripture – Philippians 4 NIV

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

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

Bob’s thoughts:

We visited Victory again because a daughter had surgery and isn’t allowed to drive yet, and we were happy to bring her and her family.

I thought it unusual that the bass was so strong out in the lobby that I had to resort to going outside, but in the doorway found some people to talk with and witness to. I believe the loud bass was God’s way of getting me there. I’m sorry I didn’t get to pray with them before they left for the sermon.

On the way back into the church, I noticed the (I think) 6-child stroller getting filled and got to pick up a few things the children dropped and quiet three who were crying. It reminded me of some years ago when I was doing some repairs at a church. I walked into the large daycare and as soon as I spoke all the children quit crying. Before I left I let the wholly female staff know that I was not the baby whisperer, just a male voice the children had not heard all day.

There were baptisms scheduled in the impressive fountain with cross and waterfall, but we could not stay.

The message dealt with worry, and what we rest our mind on. We hopelessly wait to see if we can trust God before we act.

As a Marine, I came to fear nothing, though I often wondered if the bullet holes were bigger would I have minded more. When Christ claimed me, I realized my lack of fear was not bravado, but simple faith in our God Who reminds us not to fear 365 times in His Word. My verse since He claimed me has been Philippians 4:13. Perhaps you would consider making it yours also.

Last night I learned the Heimlich Maneuver by applying it to myself. I tried absentmindedly to swallow some soft food I had not chewed well enough. There was no fear, only wondering if my survivors would realize what had happened.

Jan’s thoughts:

Our daughter is temporarily unable to drive, so we offered to assist by accompanying them today.

We took part from the lobby seating for a variety of reasons.

The message was part 4 of the series He In Me and focused on the 4th chapter of Philippians. He spoke of the battle against worry, defining it as letting fear govern your thoughts and leaving God out of the equation. Philippians 4:7 promises that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds, making it possible for us to live independent of our circumstances, trusting in God and His economy.

He spoke of a scenario of which I’ve often thought: when we get to heaven, we will know beyond any question that God has everything perfectly in hand and there is nothing we need worry about. He said we should live like that BEFORE we die. I agree completely.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray You will reassure Your church and calm every fear as they move forward in faith. Amen.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

First Baptist Church of Ambridge

Today we worshiped at First Baptist Church of Ambridge, 1112 Maplewood, Ambridge, PA 15003, 724.683.1998, Rev. Matthew R. Klenk, Pastor.

Scripture – NASB

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 –

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

2 Corinthians 7:8-9 –

For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it- for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while- I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.

Isaiah 41:1-10 –

"Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, And let the peoples gain new strength; Let them come forward, then let them speak; Let us come together for judgment. "Who has aroused one from the east Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him And subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.

"He pursues them, passing on in safety, By a way he had not been traversing with his feet.

"Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? 'I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.'"

The coastlands have seen and are afraid; The ends of the earth tremble; They have drawn near and have come. Each one helps his neighbor And says to his brother, "Be strong!" So the craftsman encourages the smelter, And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil, Saying of the soldering, "It is good"; And he fastens it with nails, So that it will not totter.

"But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'

Proverbs 3:5-6 –

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

1 John 4:17-19 –

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.

1 Peter 5:1-11 –

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:25-34 –

"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Bob’s thoughts:

From a chance meeting with the pastor at a local Walmart to our visit today to the church he pastors.

There were many crosses, as the pastor stated he holds them in the same importance as I do.

A dropped ceiling isolates the balcony, which is not currently used and which helps keep their utility bills low.

I appreciated the pastor in the early prayer referring to the church as God’s church.

The organ player plays every Sunday from the hymnal by ear and another member, who is blind, plays the accordion. Another member is a State Police officer who operates a safety program for children. Out of 30-some worshipers, an interesting involvement.

The pastor’s message was on overcoming your fears and anxiety and he quoted a lot of supportive Scripture.

When he quoted Matthew 6:27 where Jesus asked, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” I couldn’t help but recall a message from one of my granddaughters that I would live to be 1,000 if I drank more water. I don’t know that I want to be around that long, but good advice nonetheless.

I liked a lot of what is going on at this little church and hope to talk to the pastor to refine a few things he said. It’s always interesting to see a growing church.

Jan’s thoughts:

This church has been on our list for a couple of months, ever since Bob encountered the pastor at WalMart and enjoyed an extended conversation.

The building is small with a nicely paved parking area adjacent. A planter beneath the marquee displayed some lovely flowers. We surely appreciated the air conditioning today.

We entered just as adult Sunday school was ending and took seats in the back. The pastor stopped to greet us and several other folks did the same. The pastor shared a little of the history of this church: it was started in the 1800s at another location, and the current building was built in 1916. With air conditioning, upgrades have obviously been made and right now, it’s just the right size for this congregation which is focusing on taking the Gospel to the community. Despite carrying the Baptist designation in their name, they are independent of any denominational affiliation.

The music was led by the excellent organist (who does not read music, we were told) and individuals at different points in the service, all of whom had fine voices.

The pastor confessed early on that he loved preaching, and he obviously felt appreciated by the congregation when he expressed his gratitude for a zucchini bread left for him as a gift. He also thanked the congregation for praying for him recently over a painful physical ailment which disappeared quickly.

In beginning the sermon, the pastor stated he wanted to address anxiety and fear. He reminded the congregation that anxiety comes from brokenness in the world and even when we do not feel God’s Presence, we can trust He is right beside us. Since most of what we worry about never happens, we should make it a practice to focus on the Kingdom of God and get past our fears by doing something good for others.

We left with the sense this is a close-knit church family that is doing all they can to bring the Light of Christ to their neighbors.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray Your continued blessings in growing Your church and ask that You open their eyes to Your purposes for them. Amen.