- If we are soldiers of God, are we willing to fight? (In truth, most of us would rather not if we can get out of it.)
- Are we willing to take orders…willing to obey? (Again, most would prefer not to.)
- Are we willing to exercise our faith? (Depends…how tough will things get?
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Today we worshiped at White Lily Baptist Church, 3621 Chartiers Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204-1245, 412.771.2533, www.whitelilybc.org, Rev. Kelvin A. Brooks, Pastor.
Sometimes I am a little apprehensive when we get a re-direct on the way to church, but then I remember how well God orchestrates our lives and rewards our faith for following. Christ used the Pastor for a message we all needed to hear.
The Chancel is in the form of the bow of a boat with a masted sailing vessel portrayed on the rear Chancel wall and the pews are in a V shape oriented to the ship. I appreciated the adequate spacing when people needed to get past.
The choir and the Pastor were way louder than my hearing can handle, but both were worth the discomfort. Not only did the choir sing with passion, but they smiled and sang with attitude as they worshiped God.
We were recognized as visitors during the service and warmly welcomed as brother and sister in Christ. The prayers were offered with passion and truth, as if they were conversations with God.
The Choir’s rendition of “Holy, Holy, Holy” rivaled what I have heard by the Malawian choirs, and was much appreciated and enjoyed, along with the instrumentals.
The congregation was presented with the option to “bank” their money towards a future dinner to honor their Pastor.
Though I was somewhat confused as to which offering benefitted what, I liked the readings and coming forward to present the tithe.
The Scripture reading was from Ephesians 6 on the Armor of God. The three points, Are you willing to fight to reap the benefits? Are you willing to take orders, will you obey? and Are you willing to exercise your faith? If you will be strong in and for the Lord, He will give you power.
Again I was presented with another similarity between Christians and Marines…I have waited for this one. When Marines hear gunfire we run towards the fight, the full armor of God does not cover your back. Go forward in Christ.
Today began with a simple plan to worship at a particular church, but as has happened several times lately, we encountered a detour (that congregation was worshiping at a different location during August), so we drove around a bit, came across this church, and decided to worship there today.
I noticed the huge anchor outside in front of the building, and the helm on the wall when we first entered, but I couldn’t possibly miss the Chancel. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere with the bow of a boat in place of a pulpit and on the rear wall was a floor-to-ceiling mural of a large ship on choppy-looking water. The only musical instruments I noticed were an electronic organ and drums. The choir was gifted and energetic.
This service was just different enough from a Presbyterian service that there were a few things I was unsure about; however I’m fairly certain that the ushers were women and they were dressed alike in white suits, hats, and gloves. I thought they made a classy presentation.
The building was modest, but plenty large enough. There were speakers built into the front walls, so there was more than sufficient volume.
There was an enthusiastic announcement regarding the upcoming celebration of the Pastor’s 30 year anniversary in the ministry.
At one point visitors were asked to stand and introduce themselves. We didn’t realize we could have declined, so we stood and said a few words, after which everyone greeted each other (the Passing of the Peace”). I think we were hugged by 1/3 of the people there…I felt very, very welcome!
The collection of the offering differed from the Presbyterian tradition…I should say, the American Presbyterian tradition, because it was similar to the Malawian Presbyterian format in that everyone stood and walked to the front to deposit their offering/gift. It brought back great memories from my trips to Malawi.
I enjoyed hearing everyone who spoke began by saying, “Good morning, Church!” What a great reminder.
The passionately-preached sermon was based on Ephesians 6:10-17 about the Full Armor of God. I cannot recall the last time I heard a sermon that even mentioned spiritual warfare and our role in the invisible battle that rages between good and evil, so I hung on every word of this message. The Pastor started out by asking three inspired questions:
Several of his superb points included that sooner or later in life we must know Jesus for ourselves, we must have a one-on-one personal relationship with Him; other Christians (I would add, of any denomination) are not the enemy…Satan is the enemy of all Christians; and a dark kingdom DOES exist.
When he spoke of verse 17, and “taking the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God,” he declared that “A soldier can’t be effective if he can’t fire his weapon!” YES! What a great analogy!
He made many more excellent points, but suffice it to say that this energetic, enthusiastic, Biblical sermon got my spiritual juices flowing and was precisely what I needed this morning. Praise God for directing us exactly where we needed to be.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Today we worshiped at Pine Creek Presbyterian Church, 21 Oak Knoll Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15238, 412.963.7868, www.thepinecreekchurch.org, Rev. Diana Harbison, Pastor.
This church was like many small, country churches that lack signage…if you don’t see it on this floor it must be on the other. A simple color scheme of blue walls and white ceiling left the real focus for me on the large wooden cross.
This would seem to be an internal church and I did not see evidence of mission, but I did sense a strong prayer ministry. This is a small church but it is family. We were greeted and warmly welcomed. People were pressed into service as needed: the young lady who took up the offering had great expressions, and she and a set of twins came forward to sing. I wish we could have heard them better, but appreciated their willingness to serve.
The Sermon wove around the tests that we take, and making choices. The Pastor asked for questions/comments after the Sermon.
We were privileged to visit a while after the service for a social time and came away feeling very connected to these people. I have added some names to my personal prayer list, and was pleased to lift this Pastor and church in prayer.
This is a pretty little country church with a strong family atmosphere. The time for Joys and Concerns was more like a conversation, and by the time the service ended I felt as if I had worshiped at someone’s home.
Not surprisingly there was no signage, but really not much need either. The facility is modest; I enjoyed the lace curtains in the Sanctuary. The arrangement of the pews was unique: toward the front there were four rows of pews facing each other on either side of the center aisle, then further back three rows of pews were angled just a bit on each side of the aisle.
The congregation was very friendly…nearly everyone introduced themselves and greeted us.
Following the expressions of Joy and Concern, everyone stood and held hands in a Prayer Circle for the intercessory prayer followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
The Sermon, “Putting Up With Tests,” was based on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 and Matthew 22:34-46. The Pastor spoke of the various types of tests (school, SAT, essay, beta test for computers, purity tests for gold/diamonds, strength/endurance, having your mettle tested [as did Abraham], tests of faithfulness [as with Noah and Abraham]). She stated that God doesn’t allow us to be tested for the purpose of making us feel like failures…that we are tested by our own choices. I interpreted this to refer to how we choose to deal with the trials and tests in our lives – whether we opt to withdraw from God in the midst of our tests or we allow our tests to draw us closer to Him. At the end of the Sermon the Pastor then asked for thoughts or questions on the topic.
We were invited to participate in a time of fellowship following worship, and it was a blessing to have an opportunity to get to know some of the people.
Monday, August 15, 2011
When we were regularly attending a church I was often presented with the opportunity to pray with someone in need outside of the Sanctuary, and there was always a sense that it was where God put me at that moment. Today was one of those, a weekend when our whole family got together and a time on Sunday for some necessary talk.
This weekend we were in northern Virginia visiting family and today, following some additional visiting time, we traveled home. We were enormously blessed and grateful to have some precious time with our children and grandchildren.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Today we worshiped at Hanover Presbyterian Church, 2462 State Route 18, Clinton, PA 15026, 724.899.2911, www.hanoverchurch.net, Rev. Jefferson Ellis, Pastor.
We entered today through a rather elongated “L” to the Sanctuary. I wondered if it was a series of additions but found no one to ask. Didn’t notice signage but did find restrooms.
I found the Sanctuary interesting: white walls, ceiling, and beams with the natural wood of the pews and chancel wall.
We chose a rather Presbyterian pew toward the back near an oscillating fan. Unfortunately the fan was repositioned and I had trouble breathing through the service.
The sermon, “A Soldier’s Pack,” was about enthusiasm for the grace God gives to us, and something at the end about putting it in a pack.
I thought the person presenting the sermon did a good job of incorporating the prayer requests.
We were welcomed by a few people.
I noticed nothing about mission and felt this was an internal church. Maybe God will lead us back and we can meet the pastor.
We had a nice summer’s morning drive in this rural area, although we only saw one horse.
The gentleman operating the audio/visual system greeted us, and a few others gave brief hellos. I noticed a sign listing points of interest with directional arrows.
There appears to be some mission involvement as I caught a letter from Kenya posted on a bulletin board.
The pastor was on vacation so a woman preached; I would guess she was a member of the church but there was nothing in the bulletin about her except her name.
The Sanctuary was attractive: white walls, ceiling, and pews with dark wood accents on the pews and the Chancel area. There were white beams across the ceiling with decorative white trim across the top of each…it was surprisingly striking.
The prelude music was especially uplifting, but I appreciated all the music.
I didn’t understand why they chose to forego the Children’s Sermon. There were a handful of children near us, and I think the mom in front of us was waiting for it because when it was announced that they would skip it she immediately took her children to another room.
The Sermon, “A Soldier’s Pack,” was centered on Matthew 14:22-33, II Thessalonians 3:6-13, and Galatians 6:1-10. There were many points, but some included: during our lifetime each of us has things we must do for ourselves that no one else can do for us; don’t compare ourselves with others, only with ourselves; once you become a Christian, everything else is on the other side; and take hold of what God has given.
She likened our walk through this world with a battle (hence the sermon title) which I found ironic because I referred to it in similar terms in my devotions this morning, so I couldn’t agree more.