Sunday, January 27, 2013

Church in the Round

Today we worshiped at Church in the Round, 784 Griffith Street, Aliquippa, PA 15101, 724.375.5528, www.bishopclark.com, Bishop Melvin E. Clark, Pastor.

 
Scripture (King James Version):
Jeremiah 1:4-12 –
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.

Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

2 Timothy 3:3-12 –
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

2 Timothy 1:1-5
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;

Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We had looked forward to visiting a Pentecostal church and after a late night (for us) the night before, the later service made sense.

We were welcomed as we got out of the truck and likewise inside. I thought we were being genuinely welcomed, but most of those that greeted us didn’t want to hear anything we had to say and a few tried to rush us to seats without regard to our hearing issues. We had to move a few times to find an area that wasn’t too close to the speakers and even then we still had to use our earplugs throughout the service. It was a big relief to get away from the bass speaker.

Some of the windows are geometric bright colored panels that were beautiful with the sun behind them. There are plenty of comfortable, auditorium-style seats with ample legroom.

I didn’t understand that all the balloons and decorations were for the Bishop’s birthday celebration, which is all the service was about while we were there. The only cross I could find was etched in the glass of what looked like a communion table, stored in the back. I wondered if the man who was escorted in for a short while might have been Bishop Clark, but the photo on the program didn’t fit.

There was great enthusiasm shown by all, but I wondered if it was for the video they were recording. I don’t believe any of the “greatest man of God,” “holy woman,” etc. was meant the way they came out, but I didn’t understand, as a first-time visitor, how much of what we experienced was normal.

There was Scripture read and an offering taken, but don’t know about a sermon or message. There was little way for a visitor to know what was being sung, and no idea of an order of worship to know what would follow.

In my foggy memory, I have worshiped somewhere in a church with similar architecture on a larger scale that was referred to as the Church in the Round or something similar.

On our one visit there were many things left to the imagination…probably much the same as for other first-time visitors. I hope that God will lead us back to a Pentecostal worship service that we might experience Christ’s presence there.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

I was looking forward to our first visit to a Pentecostal church. How strange that our visit fell on the day the congregation was celebrating the birthday of their pastor. There were purple and gold balloons everywhere and a purple and white mock cake probably 5’ tall in the narthex along with signs on the walls. It was a sight to behold.

Upon arrival we noticed the restrooms were well marked but the rooms were closed due to frozen pipes, so one of the girls escorted me to the ladies room and Bob was given directions to the men’s room.

As we entered the sanctuary a woman was conducting what looked like a Sunday school class. I was impressed to hear her teach that if a believer had a problem with someone, we should pray for them, and I couldn’t agree more.

The biggest thing for us, as is so often the case, was the volume. We switched seats twice in search of a place that was out of the direct range of the huge speakers, but to no avail. We finally gave in and used our earplugs and were able to hear everything much better.

The happy birthday portion of the service involved singing the song of course, along with testimony as to the pastor’s influence on those whose lives he had touched. Several young ladies, the Kingdom Dancers, presented a liturgical dance.

Next time I hope to be able to stay for the message, but my blood sugar was giving me problems and we had to leave after a little more than an hour.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray you will direct the enthusiasm, that this church might have a powerful worship experience and that they will be drawn to go into the community to serve with that same passion. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Concord Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Concord Presbyterian Church, 2832 Conway-Wallrose Road, Baden, PA 15005, 724.869.9135, www.concordchurch.org, Rev. Dr. John Wiebe, Pastor.

 
Scripture: Joshua 1:1-11 –
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them –to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates – all the Hittite country – to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We have been to Concord a number of times and I thought there wasn’t much more on which I could comment, but today we were here for the baptism of two of our grandchildren. After the baptism I helped get some of the children down to the nursery, and my grandchildren and I stayed.

I thought I might write about some of the different opinions on baptism that we have encountered in the churches we have visited. However, after the service, when everyone came down for refreshments, was what I needed to write about.

At one point when my grandson Parker took off running, a church member interceded and stopped him from climbing the stairs and got him headed back to the social area. This is a very family church and I thought this was a good thing that they would look after someone else’s child.

It was cause for me to pay more attention to the children there. I guess it is the same at family gatherings, but most saw the little ones and said, “How cute,” but paid no more attention to them underfoot. I didn’t realize until too late how easily they were overlooked.

Parker reached up for a cup on the edge of the table and was scalded with hot coffee. He was treated at the hospital and will be okay. Sincere thanks to the numerous folks who helped provide first aid.


Jan’s thoughts:

We returned to Concord for the baptism of our 20-month-old grandtwins. The baptism was performed by the twins’ grandfather and former pastor of this church. It was a joy to witness this special event.

The message, entitled “Fishing In The Right Place,” spoke of the shalom of the Promised Land and God’s promise of abundant life.

Following worship everyone adjoined downstairs for a time of fellowship and refreshment. During the course of all this, my just-baptized grandson found a cup of hot coffee near the edge of a table and ended up spilling it down his front. He sustained a burn on his chin but the quick application of cool compresses on the rest of him prevented any further blisters and the ER doctor confirmed he had no burns in his mouth.

I know this congregation loves my grandchildren, and every parent knows how quickly these things can happen. We’ve seen young ones at most of the churches we visit, and Sunday morning is often a time of fun and visiting and especially at close-knit, family churches, all the adults sort of keep an eye on the little ones. And sometimes it’s hard for us grandparent-types to remember how curious they can be at this age.

I hope everyone who reads this will remember to be careful about hot drinks around little ones.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Dear Father, we pray this church and all churches are aware of the little folk and others that we just don’t see. Help us to minister to all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pathway Church

Today we worshiped at Pathway Church, 239 Braun Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.843.6381, www.lifeatpathway.com, Jeff McNicol, Senior Pastor.

 
Scripture: Luke 19:28-44 –
After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

 
Bob’s thoughts:

It was good to again worship in a church that isn’t embarrassed by the cross. I was heartened to see a large one on the rear platform wall.

I guess it has been a while since we visited this church last. I don’t know if there is an entrance that doesn’t bring you to be back of the building first, but we sure could have used some signage. We followed some people around the building and the main entrance was apparent.

I noticed almost every row had someone sitting on the end and most of the center seats were empty…it looked as if everyone was saving seats for someone.

I was glad the female lead singers were also allowed to be heard, and enjoyed their voices.

This church is planting a church in Moon Township and asked for 100 volunteers to worship there to help get the church established.

The message was from Luke describing Christ’s compassionate entry into Jerusalem on what became known as Palm Sunday.

The pastor related the three entities that responded to Christ’s entrance: those exuberant at the coming of the King, those in defiant resistance who were so caught up in their religion that they thought they were pleasing God by opposing Christ. The third was the unbridled compassion of Christ, driven to tears at how Jerusalem had fallen.

Each in their own way, all in, “No Turning Back.”

The city of God was overwhelmed by the spiritually dead. Christ’s knowing what the week held for Him and how it would end reminded me of Marines running toward the gunfire, fully engaged, “no turning back.” Our Savior is like that.

He raised good questions: are we fully engaged in worship? What makes you weep? And calling us to be fools for Christ.

I was once referred to as one of those Jesus jerks, the highest praise I have received.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

We visited this church twice before when it was called Chippewa Evangelical Free Church. It has recently changed its name to Pathway Church, so we thought we’d see what else might have changed. As it turns out, not much, which is just fine.

In March they plan to launch a new campus in Moon Township and today presented the pastor they have identified to lead this new campus. What impressed me most were the details of how God prepared this pastor for this position of leadership: first he spent a fair amount of time learning and serving this church in various capacities, until the time was right and God indicated to those involved and who knew him that he was His choice for this position.

The praise band had a great sound, and the volume was good even for us.

At very large churches with 2 (or more) services like this one, visitors are anonymous unless they identify themselves. Since we arrived a few minutes late, there was no time to do that, and we ended up approaching no one and no one approached us. I miss the personal contact and conversation when this happens, but it was not unexpected.

The message was the first in the series “No Turning Back” and was entitled “All In.” It was introduced through a brief video of Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile parachute jump from the edge of space in October 2012…a pretty terrific depiction of “no turning back” I thought.

The pastor taught that three groups responded to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The first group was comprised of His disciples and those who believed in Him, who responded with exuberant praise. They were as fully engaged as Jesus, and some may have even recognized Jesus riding the colt as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. Throwing their cloaks, a cherished staple of their wardrobe, was the equivalent of an ancient red carpet, and their praise was loud and sincere.

The second group consisted of the Pharisees who responded with defiant resistance. The pastor likened their telling Jesus to rebuke His disciples to the Browns coach telling Coach Mike Tomlin to quiet down his fans in the heat of a football game…a ridiculous request. Strangely enough, the Pharisees’ request was based on their commitment to please God. We may be committed, but are we submitted? Are we committed to our practice or religion, or are we submitted to God?

The third “all in” response came from only Jesus, Who responded with unbridled compassion. He was heartbroken because He knew the people were spiritually dead, and He did not just weep…the Greek word indicates intense sobbing. The peoples’ rejection of Jesus left them spiritually vulnerable, and He was well aware of their need and despair as well as what the future held.

The pastor boldly pointed out that “If you only spend one hour per week with God, you are part of modern-day Jerusalem.”

“All in” is indeed a choice.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Holy Lord, we pray we don’t wait for the very stones to cry out in praise, that we come to worship and glorify You with no turning back. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Life Church Pittsburgh

Today we worshiped at Life Church Pittsburgh, 2350 Noblestown Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, 412.595.7496, www.LifeChurchPgh.org, Travis, Lead Pastor.

 
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:1-31 –
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-their Lord and ours:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

 
Bob’s thoughts:

This was one of the most welcoming churches. We were early and appreciated the time for longer conversations.

There were a few Christmas trees, but I couldn’t find a cross anywhere. I thought it was smart to bring my earplugs, but the acoustic ceiling kept the music from being too loud.

Looking around I noticed that I was again the old man in worship; this happens often. Most of the praise songs were ones I had no memory of hearing before, but with a lot of repetition.

The message was on 1 Corinthians 1, and I thought it was an insightful look at this passage of Scripture. The pastor explained a lot of what was going on in modern terms to which the congregation could relate.

The Greeks were known to themselves as thinkers and were trying to intellectualize their way to Christ. I have known many “thinkers” who struggle with this.

I did get to pray for the church during a few songs following the sermon. I had hoped to lay hands and pray for the pastor but the opportunity slipped away.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

Today’s visit was déjà vu for me, as this was the very location of my first job. Back then it was a business office, so of course it looks very different than I remember it, and I like it much better. It’s been transformed into a beautiful worship space, including thoughtfully designed classrooms for the children’s ministry.

From the moment we walked in we were greeted by one person after another, (the first of whom pointed out the restrooms before we asked); we were engaged in conversation, and made to feel cordially welcome.

After looking around, I was offered a cup of coffee and we found seats in the sanctuary. The comfortable chairs were spaced to provide ample legroom, and the volume of the music was just fine.

The praise band consisted of a drummer, two vocalists, three guitarists (one guitarist provided the lead vocals), and all were joined later by a violist.

The practice here is for the pastor to teach through books of the Bible, and today was week one with 1 Corinthians. He pointed out that Paul wrote this letter 3-5 years after planting the church at Corinth, the members of this faith community had been influenced by the prevailing culture and now believed themselves wise and spiritual, but in fact had moved far from the faith in Christ they had been taught and were actually ungodly. Since love does not ignore sin, Paul responded to their issues and questions via this letter.

The Corinthians had come to think too highly of themselves and too little of God…to them, pride was a virtue and self-esteem was a right. (By this time a loud bell was ringing for me…it sounds just like our current culture.)

The pastor reminded that all we are and all we have is because of Jesus; we are redeemed and rescued by, in, and through Him; we are broken sinners, and if we derive our identity from anyone or anything besides Jesus, it is idolatry. It is all about Him. He rescued people with issues.

And thank God, He still does.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Holy Lord, help us remember that no one is great…whatever we are or become is due to Your grace. We give You thanks for the blessings You have heaped upon us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.