Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pinehurst Alliance Church

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

Burry's Church / St. John's United Evangelical Protestant Church

Today we worshiped at Burry’s Church / St. John’s United Evangelical Protestant Church, 1835 Route 68, Rochester, PA 15074, 724.452.6941,, 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."

Bob’s thoughts:

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.

Jan’s thoughts:

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

Neelsville Presbyterian Church

Yesterday we worshiped at Neelsville Presbyterian Church, 20701 Frederick Road, Germantown, MD 20876, 301.972.3916,, 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."

Bob’s thoughts:

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.

Jan’s thoughts:

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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Christ Church at Grove Farm

Today we worshiped at Christ Church at Grove Farm, 249 Duff Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, 412.741.4900,, Rev. Dr. John Guest, Interim Senior Pastor.

Scripture – John 15:1-8

"“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Bob’s thoughts:

Whenever we have questioned if God still wants us to visit churches, we have always gotten an answer. Today we were unsure of where to go. I was praying for God to lead us to a church that would be celebrating Pentecost, but quickly revised my prayer to wherever God wanted us to worship, and Christ Church at Grove Farm came immediately to mind.

We were welcomed and engaged in conversation by a number of people.

Both the sanctuary and the hall where contemporary worship was held have a prominent cross.

I thought the signage was excellent but would appreciate exit arrows from the parking lot.

We sat in the back to distance ourselves from the speakers and got by without ear plugs.

We sat across the aisle from a familiar face and I thought about how difficult it must be for someone so well known to be able to just enjoy worship.

We were blessed to be able to pray for founding pastor John Guest as he had concerns for his voice after an ailment. Christ not only used him to deliver a message for us, but let his voice be clear throughout.

The message was well put together and delivered, interspersed with supporting Scripture and personal stories. When Christ referred to Himself as I Am in the presence of the Jews, He was speaking as if He is God because He is. As God is using us, He is calling us to be productive for Him.

The Scripture made me smile as it reminded me of when I painted ivy on the walls of our bathroom in Crafton and included some of these verses before we moved. I often wonder how God used it.

I was glad we got to hear the female praise leader sing as she had a delightful voice.

Jan’s thoughts:

We have visited this church twice before but at this visit I was struck by the signage: everywhere I looked, I knew where the hallway led or what was behind the door. And the signs jutted out from the wall, so I could see them from a distance. Truly some of the best signage I’ve seen at a church.

We saw a few of the people we know who now belong to this church, and several others introduced themselves and struck up conversations.

I have not heard John Guest preach before, but was grateful God sent us here today. The message was the last of the series “The I AM’s” about Jesus’ “I Am” statements, and centered on His statement, “I Am the true vine.”

The pastor pointed out that the Jews were well aware of the significance of the words “I Am,” that He was speaking as if He was God, which we know is because He is God. When He said He is the vine, He meant He is the TRUE vine, the one authentic source of life, and Jesus is so life-changing, that when He works through us, we are life-changing too.

We have a deep desire to be significant, and God is looking for us to be productive for Him. He wants us to do something so He prunes us, removing things from our lives that are interfering with our ability to be productive for Him. However the fruit we produce must be the result of His work through us, so we need to abandon to Him, surrender and let Him do what He will in and through us. It’s all about Jesus, not us.

In closing the pastor led a prayer in which he asked the congregation to softly repeat after him. He led this prayer using words from the traditional wedding ceremony, allowing the congregation to feel the weight and importance of our relationship with Christ. It was interesting and quite effective, I thought.

Our prayer for this church:

Dear Lord, please continue to grow faith so that You would always be worshiped with absolute and complete trust as Lord. Prune us all that we might grow in You. Amen.