Monday, July 28, 2014
Yesterday we worshiped at New Life Christian Ministries, 12031 Hopewell Road, Hagerstown, MD 21740, 301.733.0307, www.nlcm.org, Ken Harris, Senior Pastor.
Revelation 22:1-5 -
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 4:2-8 -
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” who was, and is, and is to come.
With help from Siri, we found a church where we could worship on our way home, although at first it did direct us to a nearby Tractor Supply Store…
We were welcomed at the door by a few people, including a Marine, which gave Jan some time to look around.
A large cross is displayed in a front corner of the sanctuary; there were two large screens along with monitors mounted up high partway back. This was the first time all the praise songs were new to me so I was pleased the words were on the screens.
The greeting time must have been 5 minutes, with a countdown timer on the screens. Though I thought the most welcoming were some folks we talked to outside after the service.
The sermon quoted a lot of Scripture but I was uncomfortable with the interpretation.
The most inspirational moment yesterday was the t-shirt of someone I saw at our hotel. I thought it was a great message for us all: “The Church has left the building.”
En route home from a visit to northern Virginia, we stopped at this church yesterday morning. As we entered, a friendly greeter caught sight of Bob’s Marine t-shirt and initiated a conversation. Several others spoke with us and introduced themselves, some of whom we had extended conversation with after worship.
The room was wider than it was deep, but in addition to the two larger projection screens in front, there were some monitors placed halfway back which provided clear vision of the words on the screens.
One of the single pages in the bulletin was called the “Caring & Sharing” page. Members who either needed something or had something they no longer needed can notify the church to have it listed under either category; nothing that is sold, only given. What a great way to bless each other.
The music was exceptional, and I appreciated hearing the four lead singers as each led a song.
The time for greeting each other went for 5 minutes which was counted down on the screens, giving everyone plenty of time to say hello to nearly everyone else present.
The message was entitled “What Will Heaven Be Like?” and based on mostly Revelation 22:1-5 and 4:2-8. Although I can’t say I agreed with everything he said, I surely agree that our finite mental capacities cannot comprehend all that John attempted to convey. We will just have to wait and see.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray this church is in sync with Your purpose for them as they serve and glorify You. Amen.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Today we worshiped at Pinehurst Alliance Church, 113 Edgewood Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, 724.385.0069, Pastor Dale Roberts.
Scripture – Isaiah 54:1-10
"“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you."
Our shared thoughts:
We were unable to blog while waiting for Jan’s computer to be repaired so we mostly visited churches we were familiar with and had blogged about in the past.
Something I (Bob) noticed was that the more familiar we were with a church, the less I noticed the lack of signage…much the same as most members, we believe.
Today we planned to worship at a different church, but when we arrived we found no one home. The signboard appeared to be up-to-date, and everything looked well kept, but we found no indication why no one was there.
I (Bob) noticed this church while on a trip for parts. It is a small church but we were welcomed by all. We noticed a Marine sticker on a car in the lot and learned the pastor and his wife have three sons who are Marines. It is always bittersweet to talk with parents of Marines. Then one of the worship songs was “I Can Only Imagine,” a song we sung at our son’s memorial service. The reminders are unavoidable.
The pastor’s message developed from Isaiah 54. He talked about preparing the church before they try to minister to the surrounding community, asking God to stretch their faith that they may go far beyond their abilities.
We both appreciated the striking cross framed in stone.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You prepare this church. May they open their hearts to Your guidance. Amen.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Today we worshiped at Burry’s Church / St. John’s United Evangelical Protestant Church, 1835 Route 68, Rochester, PA 15074, 724.452.6941, www.burryschurch.org, Win Groseclose, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Luke 12:22-34
"And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
I was glad to get back here for a visit…we were moving some things for our daughter, and this church was on en route.
I like the feel of this church, especially the lighted cross and stained glass.
The exceptional response to the first praise song fell off for the rest of the music.
The sermon was a reminder for us about getting out from under our stuff. God has never failed to provide but the excess stuff is a burden, not a blessing.
Circumstances placed us in this neighborhood this morning, so we returned to this church after only one year. Unfortunately we arrived just as the service was starting so had no time to chat beforehand.
The ¾-full sanctuary was lovely with intricate, colorful stained glass.
Those seated nearby welcomed us at the appointed greeting time.
The first song was contemporary, and I was amazed at the enthusiasm from the song leaders and the congregation: there was clapping and even foot stomping!
We were privileged to witness the Installation of the Vacation Bible School Servants, a large group committed to teaching the youth about Christ…an awesome responsibility and privilege.
The sermon was “The Raven and the Lily” and spoke to the topic of worry. He explained that when Jesus referred to the ravens and the lilies, His audience would have recognized that He was referring to all that was unclean (as were the ravens) as well as clean (the lilies).
He continued to say the pagans have reason to worry, but when a believer gives in to worldly anxiety and fear and lets worry get the better of them, it betrays their lack of faith. Faith is impoverished by worry.
This message was a strong reminder of the uselessness and sinfulness of worry. In our culture we always say we know we should not worry, but we often forget to remind ourselves that God knows our needs and will be faithful to provide. Of course there are times when He provides in unexpected ways, or He uses trials to teach us. But the bottom line is that He will always give us what we need, whether or not it is what we want.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray the church will feel liberated and their souls refreshed by getting their excess stuff gone. Amen.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Yesterday we worshiped at Neelsville Presbyterian Church, 20701 Frederick Road, Germantown, MD 20876, 301.972.3916, www.neelsville.org, Rev. Dr. Peter Della Santina, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Romans 12:14-16
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
We were headed home after a fast-paced and very meaningful weekend in Virginia, driving along 70/270 and searching for a church where we could worship. Most times the search would show a church we had just passed, but after a few false starts we found this one. We arrived just as the service was starting and following some confusion as to where we should park and which door to enter, we were led to a seat. If there was any welcoming, it was before we arrived.
The church ceiling rises to a sharp peak with a tall cross suspended in front, and we enjoyed the decorative light fixtures suspended from the ceiling.
The pastor talked about the recent meeting of the elders and the attempt to discern God’s direction for the church. It is a Presbyterian church so acceptance of any change will likely be resisted by some.
The message offered some clarity to the Scripture, Romans 12:14-16, and broke it out to five main points.
When the pastor started the sermon I sensed the onset of spiritual warfare, and silently offered prayer for the pastor and congregation to be armored by God. I am sure He will comfort and sustain them through the coming onslaught.
With the great diversity of the congregation, I expected some passion in the singing; however I could only hear a few voices.
We did get to speak with one member who sported a great t-shirt, and had a moment with the pastor.
We spent this past weekend visiting our family and attending a special ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a gorgeous weekend for travel and a meaningful time.
On our way home we sought a church in the area and found ourselves at Neelsville in Germantown, MD. The building was recently renovated, so I’m guessing that signage is on the list yet, although the restrooms were easy to find as the signs protruded into the hallway…always most helpful. The design of the sanctuary is breathtaking, with lots of stone and wood work, and just the right touches of stained glass.
We arrived a bit late but several folks greeted us on our way in, a smiling usher made sure we had bulletins and another helped us locate seats in the large, crowded sanctuary. We were able to talk with several other folks following the service.
The sermon had the feel of a family meeting, with the pastor filling in the congregation on the results of what sounded like long-term discernment on the future direction of the church. These results included continuing to grow the youth ministry, holding to their convictions, caring for each other, and reaching out in mission.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You bless this church with discernment, that they may know the direction of Your call for them. Amen.