Monday, July 29, 2013

Fellowship Bible Church

Yesterday we worshiped at Fellowship Bible Church, 3217 Middle Road, Winchester, VA 22602, 540.662.7743, www.fbcva.org, Mark Carey, Senior Pastor.

Scripture

Luke 17:28-37
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

“Where, Lord?” they asked.

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Bob’s thoughts:

It always makes me smile when I start to relate to someone how we got to worship at a particular church. Yesterday as we were traveling toward home we chose this church, but as I review the messages we received from God, there is no doubt Who led us here.

We could have used signage to find our way in. We were welcomed at the door and again soon after by a man who showed great interest in our blog then showed us around and introduced us to others. In a church with three services it is unusual to be recognized as visitors.

It is a larger campus and we didn’t get to see most of it so I don’t know what signage there may be elsewhere. The restrooms were right inside what we took to be the main doors and the areas we saw were identified and staffed.

Worship is held in a large auditorium-style room which has basketball hoops drawn up to the ceiling and side nets. I liked the sidelines done in inset white carpet strips. The acoustic tile panels and heavy drapes over the windows made for great sound and the interesting set of sheer curtains draped down to the stage that made it seem less like a stage. I appreciated the large wooden cross on the wall near the front.

The service began with a large group of children singing songs they had learned in Vacation Bible School. The songs reflected good theological messages, likewise the rest of the music.

The speaker was projected on the two large screens and the pastor who delivered the message was identified on screen.

The sermon, delivered by the Pastor of Biblical Education, was on the end times. The message made some excellent points and some that I will need to reflect on. It was educational and seemed theologically sound. It was good to hear a sermon that made me think.

The admonishment that when you are called to go, it is with no looking back or second thought brought back a memory for me. When our family was young I still expected from them the response I got from my Marines – instant action. It took a long time for me to accept that children don’t come wired that way. (An inside tip…wives don’t either.) They didn’t understand how I could get so upset just crossing the street with them.

I was glad there was reference to God’s chosen people – Israel – still being chosen.

It was good to worship without needing earplugs, and even though it wasn’t exceptionally warm out, the A/C was appreciated. We were involved in conversation after the service so I didn’t get to see whether people went forward for prayer after worship, but when we spoke with the pastor he was quick to offer much appreciated prayer for us.

Jan’s thoughts:

We stopped at this church while on the way home from visiting family in northern Virginia. It’s a huge campus; we were grateful for the visitor parking and that it served to indicate the best entrance.

Signage was good inside, but as we stood looking around a gentleman greeted us and struck up a conversation. With three services, I was surprised to be recognized as a visitor. He showed us around some, including an impressive-sized map detailing the locations of missions this church supports, and introduced us to one of the pastors. In the course of conversation we mentioned our blog and he indicated the church was in the midst of plans to start a blog of their own.

Several people, when they learned we were first-time visitors, made sure we knew to pick up a gift bag at the back of the worship area. Those serving at that location were helpful and welcoming, and the baked rolls included in the bag were delicious!

As we entered the worship area, it was only when I noticed the basketball hoops up and out of the way and the indoor/outdoor carpeting on the floor that I realized this room also serves as a gym. However with heavy drapes over the windows on one side, numerous acoustic panels on the walls, and lightweight material draped in the stage area, I noticed no sound issues at all.

The praise band had an exceptional sound, and the vocalists were incredible.

Just before worship began a gathering of children sang some of the songs they learned here at VBS last week. I was grateful the lyrics were projected on the screen because I found the theology thoroughly impressive, especially for children. I wish I could recall at least some of them, but I was not taking notes at that point. The monies collected during VBS week were announced along with the number of children who had professed faith in Christ (26).

The message was preached by Don DenHartog, the Pastor of Biblical Education. This was the final part of his series on eschatology and was entitled “The Provision For Escape.” I can say with certainty, it was the deepest sermon I’ve heard in quite some time. I am not well versed on this topic, but he spoke with great authority and urgency about the meanings of some of the symbols in the Tribulation literature of Daniel and Revelation especially, but also other books of Scripture. I have subscribed to the church’s podcast and look forward to hearing the other messages in this series.

Although I am unfamiliar with the details of what he was teaching, I do know there is great dissention among believers when it comes to timing and the exact order of events in this area; therefore I won’t try to delineate the points of the message as this is not the place for disagreements and I am not educated enough to defend any particular position. Suffice to say, I am content to leave it in God’s hands.

The part of the message that spoke to me did so for purely personal reasons: I am writing this on July 29, the anniversary of our son’s death. It was in that shadow that I heard this message emphasizing God’s majestic power and glory, His perfect timing, His intricate planning, and His merciful allowance for escape. This message reminded me how truly awesome God is, that His plan and timing are indeed perfect, His power is overwhelming, and His provision breathtaking in its depth and detail.

This weekend especially, these were gracious and welcome reminders of God’s unfailing love.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we lift this church to You and pray their hearts are open to Your word as it is preached. We ask that You continue to bless and encourage the pastors as well as the numerous mission efforts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

iChurch

Today we worshiped at iChurch, PO Box 372, Mars, PA 16046, meets at Pine-Richland Youth Center, 5554 Community Center Drive, Gibsonia, PA 15044, 724.473.3106, www.iChurchOnline.com, Ben Rath, Pastor.

Scripture

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Psalm 63:1
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Joshua 24:15
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Bob’s thoughts:

On a pleasant redirect, we ended up at iChurch for worship. This church had been worshiping in a high school auditorium, but while the school has been closed for the summer they found space in a gym at Pine-Richland Youth Center.

The acoustics of a gym are such that the echo makes it hard to understand the speaker. A member joked if you didn’t catch the sermon the first time, you could hear it on the echo. I had my ear plugs and noticed that the church also provided some…for me the bass was overwhelming.

The service had just started but we were warmly greeted at the door. I did not see a cross anywhere but that may be due to the temporary space. The guitar playing during the prayers made it difficult to hear/understand.

The sermon, “God Bless This Home,” was the final part of a series and dealt with what we are really asking with that request for God’s blessing. I appreciated the development and delivery of the message and the Scripture he interspersed. It was refreshing to hear a message that was not watered down.

I liked at one point reference was made to the fullness of God in response to dieting downfalls.

The pastor’s passion was apparent in the sermon and in our talk after the service. I was interested to hear how his timing and God’s timing were reconciled and enjoyed hearing his testimony of God’s orchestration and timing in his life.

Jan’s thoughts:

We arrived at the church we were headed for only to find I had not noted the summer hours on their website. Since we had already missed the sermon, we decided to check out another worship opportunity for which we saw a sign on the main road…along with signs pointing the way all the way to the entrance, which we couldn’t help but appreciate.

The facility is a community youth center and worship takes place in the gymnasium. Though we arrived a bit into the service, we were warmly greeted by a woman standing near the door who introduced herself, made sure we had a bulletin, and invited us to come in and sit.

Acoustically there is only so much that can be done to tone down the echo in a gymnasium, and I thought it hospitable that ear plugs were offered on a table toward the back along with pens, and note-taking paper/connection cards. I can’t imagine the amount of effort it takes to set up and tear down everything used here each week.

The message was part 4 of a series called “The Blessed Life” and this final installment, “God Bless This Home,” centered on family relationships. After readily acknowledging the numerous challenges in homes nowadays, the pastor set out to light the path toward understanding God’s precepts for a happy and successful family life. After acknowledging there is no such thing as a perfect family, he asked the question for the day: “What do you hunger for?”

In the context of our spiritual diet, I loved his story about tacos. He told of his…I’d say love, but passion is a better word…for the dish, and how he needed to remove them from his diet for health reasons. He started out with no appreciation for his new dishes, and gradually, after time, he saw change and improvement and eventually came to enjoy the new foods he was eating. He declared it’s the same thing when we remove less desirable influences from our life and focus on God, when we ‘give Jesus the wheel’ and allow Him to change us for the better.

He spoke of what does not work: legalistic Christianity (rules without relationship end in rebellion) and lukewarm Christianity (what our culture has now).

God has instructed us to pursue, hunger, and thirst after righteousness and to do that we must see God as loving, approachable, and involved. Three ways he advised that work toward that end are (1) involve God in daily conversations, (2) make church together as a family non-negotiable (attendance and serving), and (3) show how seeking and serving is fun. After all, life really is more caught than taught.

One of his final points was, “If you pursue God, you will have all God wants you to have.” That is God’s promise both in Matthew 5:6 and 6:33. My only question is, how different would our lives be if we took that to heart and believed it?

Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray You continue to encourage this church to seek You. We also lift up the pastor and ask that You support him as he speaks Your Word in truth and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Life Christian Ministries

Today we worshiped at New Life Christian Ministries, 139 Knoch Road, Saxonburg, PA 16056, 724.524.1547, 724.256.0851, www.newlifexn.org, Dr. Chris Marshall, Lead Pastor.

Scripture
James 3:13-18
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were privileged to witness some of the excitement of a church worshiping in their new building as this was their second week in this new space. Had there not been good signage out front we would have followed our GPS a mile or so down the road to the school where they had been located. The space is so new that there is minimal signage; I think the paint was still drying on the walls. I hope the lack of a cross is one of those things they just haven’t gotten to yet.

I believe this is the first church that has provided ear plugs. They were much appreciated and necessary for us. I had trouble understanding some of the lyrics so the words projected on the screen was a plus.

We were welcomed at the door by the Lead Pastor, and later when I peeked into the kitchen a woman spoke with us, and a third person gave us a tour of the child care area after the children had left.

We witnessed a couple dedicating their children to God. Having one of our children now with God, this was very powerful.

The sermon was part of a series and I was pleased to find a hard copy of the message. At times I sense a call to pray for the pastor or church and with this I did not miss anything from the sermon.

The pastor told how early in seminary an instructor directed him to adopt a pompous speaking voice for the pulpit, advice that he thankfully rejected. I was reminded of a pastor I knew who had a perfectly normal voice on the street but who was horrid to hear preach.

Jan’s thoughts:

Today is the second Sunday this church has worshiped in their new space, so the excitement was palpable, as well it should be. This was a huge undertaking on the part of this congregation and they had worked hard to bring it to fruition.

The newness of the facility was obvious, but the ever-helpful restroom signs were up and many hospitable touches were apparent such as a table of information about the church, cards with their contact information, pens, a large-print edition of the message, and even earplugs. First-time guests were also given a copy of the Lead Pastor’s book, “Life Cycle of a Christian.”

Several people took time to welcome us and chat, and with all the excitement and the fact that they have three services, I was surprised anyone noticed visitors. I observed many animated, friendly conversations and it looked like things operated smoothly.

As the Lead Pastor welcomed the congregation he detailed some tweaks that had been made since last Sunday and listed others still to come. From the perspective of this first-time visitor, and recognizing that this is a work in progress, I thought all the hard work was apparent.

The current message series, which is based on the book of James, is titled “Faith Works.” He reiterated last week’s take-home point: “Our words either build up or tear down.”

In this message full of teaching he stated that wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge, that honor and humility are seldom taught in the world but that Jesus’ ways are not the world’s ways. This week’s take-home point is: “Worldly wisdom leaves us dead; godly wisdom leads to life!”

James tells us God expects us to be pure, peace-loving, gentle, yielding to others, merciful, full of good deeds, showing no favoritism, and sincere. Most of us would say that’s impossible for us, and we would be right. But God’s Holy Spirit within us gives us the ability to do what He would have us do and be the people He created us to be.

We must remember to ask daily to be refilled with God’s Spirit to enable us to become more and more like the One in Whose image we are created. After all, as the pastor pointed out, we can’t live it if we don’t have it.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, thank You for blessing this congregation with this new space. Guide them to use it to Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Home

Today we worshiped at Home.

 
Scripture:

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We seem to spend more time at hospitals now which is expected as we age, but it seems most of the visits are for our children. We sat and listened to some sermons online.

The premise of a good sermon (or any message) often seems to be to repeat the main thought a few times to get it to sink in, but I have noticed how much harder it is to follow the repeats when the core message is a good one. Maybe I take it to heart more quickly and it loses power in retelling.

I wonder how the Abe Lincoln/Gettysburg Address approach would work with a power sermon, one shorter message followed, for example, by an extended personal prayer time or small group discussion time among members of the congregation.

It was great to have time to reflect and pray about the message we just heard and look to Christ as to how to apply it in our lives.

We are greeted at times by someone who is very knowledgeable about their church. They often go into lengthy discourse on their history and that of the church, and most times this is very interesting and helpful. However if the visitor has a question or needs to find the restroom, the history lesson can be lost. It is good to identify yourself as knowledgeable on the church (“I’ve been a member for X number of years.”) but you need to discern if the visitor is looking for that much information. If you can get the guest to talk about themselves, you can connect them to people with similar interests. They may talk shop, but it gets them talking and provides a connection to the church.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

After spending most of this weekend at the hospital with our daughter, we listened to sermons online today.

In spite of being exhausted, I missed being part of a worship service. It’s odd to think that this is how my life was before I returned to church: Sunday mornings unconcerned about the time or what I would wear or any responsibilities I might have before, during, or after the hour. Having virtually all of Sunday free.

But then Jesus called and my life has not been the same since, thank God. It was when I was deep in despair that He came for me. He rescued me, pulled me out of the pit and changed my life. He transformed me into a completely new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). He saved me.

I hope with all my heart that you know Him too, because He knows you and loves you.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray that as You speak to us in the messages we hear we will take Your word to heart and apply Your truths in our lives and our service to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.