Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christian Assembly

Today we worshiped at Christian Assembly, 8th Avenue & 9th Street, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.3751, Pastor Dale Russo.

 
Scripture – Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We were glad to be led back to this church, even more so to be there for the sermon.

We were early and got to sit in the back, which made it a lot easier to hear. As the service started there was a cross projected on the screen, but I did not see any others. My hip gave out long before the singing ended. There was a great solo of “In Christ Alone” with no one talking over it.

The healing ministry seems to have grown to the point where they could support a separate healing service.

I’m glad we stayed for the sermon in which he talked about trusting a voice you hear because it is known to you. I thought about how often in the military one’s life depends on voice recognition. I also remembered the recent news item: someone set up a 24/7 webcam so people can watch for Christ’s return. So much for knowing His voice, let alone Scripture.

The main message was the redemptive faithfulness of God, and ended with giving when in the midst of need. God has led me through this so many times it was hard to choose which story to tell.

A simple example that was oft-repeated: I would find we were short on wild bird seed at the same time that we faced overwhelming bills. Every time I gave in and fed His birds, the resources were there to satisfy our other obligations.

I guess my favorite example would be when someone in debt would ask for guidance I always recommended they tithe. No one has ever come back to complain about my advice. He is faithful.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

Two weeks ago we had to leave this church part way through the service, but this week we were blessed to be able to stay for the sermon.

We were welcomed even more warmly than at our previous visit, and appreciated an opportunity to look around the premises. I took note of the chair lift into the sanctuary; I had noticed it previously but failed to mention it.

The opening music was enthusiastic with much clapping and hand-raising.

Following the intercessory prayer a woman spoke in tongues. I was hoping someone would interpret her speech but if anyone did I was not aware they were doing so.

The message began with an updated Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme after which the congregation was asked if they might have placed their trust in a person or entity that turned out to have been as broken as they were.

Several points from this message:

  • When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water toward them and were afraid, Jesus did not identify Himself by name. The disciples had spent enough time with Him to be able to recognize His voice in the dark. The question is, do we spend enough time with Him to do the same when we are in dark places?
  • It is okay to ask God for the faith to believe…God answers honest prayers.
  • If we refuse to ask God for the impossible it’s because we are too concerned about what others think. We should ask, even knowing that others will remain in their fear.
  • God’s redemptive faithfulness will save us from others’ evil intentions for us, from our own sin, or even from circumstances of our own making. We can cast ourselves on Christ’s faithfulness, trusting in His ability and willingness to save us and supply all our needs.
  • As believers, others are watching to see how we handle the disappointments and heartaches that come in life. Do we give sacrificially even in the midst of our own great need? Do we live with joy in the midst of pain and suffering? Do we trust and follow Christ even when we’re in the dark?
I found this message to be an encouraging reminder of each of the above points: that even when it’s dark all around me, Jesus is there and to Him it’s perfectly light; that even when I doubt, I can ask God to fill me with faith and He will give abundantly and not begrudgingly; that I can pray honestly and trust Him to answer with grace and generosity; He will protect me even from myself.

 
Our prayer for this church:
We pray, Lord, that everyone in this church has their faith tested, that they might give while in need and learn the overwhelming blessings You hold for them. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christ Church at Grove Farm

Today we worshiped at Christ Church at Grove Farm, 249 Duff Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, 412.741.4900, www.ccgf.org, Pastor Jon Panner, Rector/Senior Pastor.

 
Scripture – 2 Timothy 2:1-7
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”

 
Bob’s thoughts:

Today we worshiped in the contemporary service. There is a great wooden cross suspended above the stage which would normally put me in tune for a good worship service. When the praise music started, for me it was loud enough to overpower my earplugs and brought on a headache. It caused me to wonder what the people who worshiped with the music felt when they were in a traditional service with the old hymns. My ears can no longer handle loud music, and there is a lot of repetition in contemporary songs. We may never enjoy each style of music equally, but we must never doubt that God can use any style of music to His glory.

The sermon was part of a series and dealt with Paul’s direction to Timothy, telling Timothy to be strong in grace, to proclaim Christ, and that things will get tough.

When Jesus claimed me I lost all my former friends. Most disowned me as our lifestyles conflicted. Two died, but both let me talk about Christ and the changes in my life and both professed faith in Jesus before they died. I have witnessed to other friends and relatives who accepted Christ before death and it has been a humbling privilege.

We were invited to a Christian Education class where we were presented the opportunity to share with a woman who suffered a tragic loss. I hope that our words helped in some way and am sorry, with my poor hearing, that I didn’t realize enough of the situation to take the occasion to pray with her.

From the class, a great line for us all from a missionary: “I can’t, but He can,” and on His gift of grace: “a gift that was irresistibly given.” When Christ took me, I never had a conscious thought about accepting Him…just a wonderful, overwhelming, irresistible movement to Jesus.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

We returned to visit the contemporary service, and although we know several people here, we were greeted by several whom we did not know.

The music was well done and although we sat near the back, for me the volume still required earplugs.

Following the music we were treated to a video about a woman who shared Christ with a friend who shared Him with a co-worker, who became a public speaker and shared Him with many groups of people, and on and on, a clear reminder that others have had a hand in our being saved and of the strong likelihood that we have helped others whom we have never met come to know Christ.

The message was the first in a series entitled “Who’s Got Next?” It contained several good reminders:

1 – Advice comes through the strength of relationship…without a strong relationship, our advice falls on deaf ears.

2 – Grace is found in the Person of Christ, not in ritual.

3 – God’s message works because God is in it.

4 – Hardship is the plan of the Gospel…those who have spread God’s Word have always encountered rejection.

5 – People watch us when we struggle to see if our faith is real.

Following worship we stayed for an adult Sunday school class. I enjoyed it, but I appreciated the conversation afterward even more.

As we headed for the exit we encountered one of our friends who enthusiastically told us about his new job and about learning that for a believer one’s primary vocation is that of minister. Whatever we are employed to do is in addition to spreading the Gospel by our words, actions, and attitudes, and God places us where He wants us for this purpose. This declaration was an answer to prayer for me and literally brought tears to my eyes.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Our Father, we pray all are drawn to You and encouraged by whatever style music they hear. We pray that this church will be strong in grace and boldly proclaim the Gospel to all, knowing that when the troubles come You will meet them there to give them strength and encourage their witness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christian Assembly

Today we worshiped at Christian Assembly, 8th Avenue and 9th Street, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.3751, Pastor Dale Russo.

 
Scripture – Matthew 14:22:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We went from not being able to go to church last week to sort-of going to church.

Our children planned to take us to lunch in celebration of our 34th anniversary and we were to meet at 11. The service was at the greeting time right before 11, so we excused ourselves with plans for a return visit.

I wondered if the projection screen in the chancel alcove concealed a cross. The man who led the singing was very passionate, but his shadow sometimes blocked the words on the screen.

We usually sit in the back so I don’t know if this was a first for me, for someone to first kneel and then prostrate herself before the Lord.

There were a lot of Amens to what the pastor said but often it was a steady mumble making his words hard for me to hear.

I have no doubt God called us to this church. There was a time of anointing and prayers and encouragement to use Christ’s power to heal, which I am particularly interested in. God has at times used me as an instrument to bring miraculous healing to His children, but my healing ministry has been sputtering.

We look forward to visiting and worshiping with this congregation.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

I wished we could stay for the entire service, but we did not realize it would be so long. Since our daughter and son-in-law were taking everyone out to lunch to celebrate our anniversary (34 years!), we plan to return to this church.

When we entered the building the singing had already begun, but we were still greeted warmly. It was led by one gentleman with a great deal of enthusiasm and minimal instrumental back-up. After the singing there was what appeared to be an altar call for prayer and anointing with oil.

After the hands-on prayer, the pastor voiced the prayer needs for several members and recounted the story of the lame man whose friends dug through the roof of a house in order to get their friend in front of Jesus for healing. He then commented that it was “time to dig out the roof of Heaven for these people,” a comment I found intriguing. The pastor prayed an intercessory prayer, and immediately a woman in the congregation began speaking without obvious prompting. For a couple of minutes she said things like, “Take the authority I’ve given you, stand firm in your faith, take command as I’ve given you faith, speak out in faith.” That was when I knew why God had led us to this church.

For the last couple of weeks every time I turn around I have heard/read messages encouraging me to speak. I don’t know yet where I’m supposed to speak or about what, but it sure is making me wonder.

We did not hear the sermon today, but we plan to return when we are without time constraints. I’m certain it will be worth it.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we lift this church to You, praying You continue to bless and guide them in service that You may be glorified. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Home

Today we opted not to share our cough and cold with any church today, and stayed home and listened to sermons online.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

It caused me to reflect on the spiritual moments I’ve had outside of the church. Certainly some of the most powerful prayer times have been in least church-like settings: praying at a death bed in a home or nursing facility or in a parking lot, praying because He led me to right there and then.

I think of how many souls may never have the church connection and yet be secure in Christ’s hands. Maybe more of our ministry time needs to be spent praying for those not in the church. We need to be willing to serve when and wherever God calls us, knowing that where two or more are gathered in His name, Christ is there.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

With Bob just beginning to get over a cold and mine just starting, it seemed a better choice to keep them to ourselves.

I always miss when we don’t attend a church, but I appreciate the chance to listen to sermons online from pastors we seldom have an opportunity to hear.

 
Our prayer:
Dear Lord, we pray for those who don’t yet know You. We pray You will lead us to make the introduction and that You will be glorified. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.