Sunday, September 29, 2013

Valencia Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Valencia Presbyterian Church, 80 Sterrett Street, Valencia, PA 16059, 724.625.2002, www.valenciapresbyterian.com, Rev. James W. Kirk, Pastor.

 
Scripture

Genesis 3:1-19
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I told you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

1 Peter 2:9-12
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

1 Kings 12:1-19
Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:

“What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!”

So the Israelites went home. But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.

King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We were early for church and looked for a way in that wouldn’t disrupt a Sunday School class. We entered through what turned out to be a fellowship hall and found our way to the sanctuary with some difficulty. There is some great signage in some areas but one dark stairwell was a question. Once we got to the sanctuary we were welcomed by a number of people, and had a nice conversation with a woman in the pew.

The sanctuary is pleasant with a large cross and comfortable pews.

The sermon, “Choices,” was delivered by the Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Gary Weston, with the strong point being that we choose our choices but not the consequences.


Jan’s thoughts:

We last visited here in March of 2010, and since that time this congregation has experienced a turnover of pastoral leadership. The ironic thing is that the now-installed pastor was away this week on Study Leave, so the previous pastor, who is now Honorably Retired, filled the pulpit.

We arrived with time to look around, but there were Sunday School classes and other things going on everywhere so we didn’t get to see a lot of the building. There was some directional signage.

We were greeted and welcomed often, and some kindly took time for conversation and to invite us to stay for the luncheon following worship.

The bulletin is well done and user-friendly and contained a greeting from the pastor introducing the Pastor Emeritus, who was preaching today. Nice touch.

The message was entitled “Choices” and in it he focused on some poor choices made by Bible characters and real people. The gist is that one bad choice can change the course of our future and even of history. There are always consequences to our choices, but he declared that his choice for Jesus has made all the difference in his life. He closed by urging anyone who had not accepted Christ as their Savior to do so today.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You will lead this church to good choices that are in accordance with Your will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

CrossWay Church

Today we worshiped at CrossWay Church, 109 Davis Road, Valencia, PA 16059, 724.898.4600, www.crosswaychurch.org, Chris Gibbs, Lead Pastor.

Scripture

Genesis 12:1-9
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

Genesis 11:30
Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.

Genesis 21:1-5
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Genesis 22:1-3
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

Genesis 22:6-8
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

Genesis 22:11-14
But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:15-18
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Bob’s thoughts:

We were greeted and welcomed by a number of people and as we looked at the mission display table someone stepped up to explain the material. There was a special focus on mission and foreign flags were paraded in by people in native dress, with the national ensign carried by a man in military fatigues.

The great wooden cross I noticed at our last visit was still there and we were given a pocket cross in the narthex.

There is a healthy age mix to the enthusiastic congregation, and a passionate pastor. One of the opening songs was “Awesome God,” a favorite I hadn’t heard in some time. I particularly liked the horn that seemed to echo the words.

During the announcements the pastor mentioned “See You at the Pole,” where school youth meet and pray for the country’s leaders. They were offering a get-together at the church where people could gather and pray for the teachers. I thought it a great plan, and it brought bittersweet memories.

My late son’s junior year we had a call from the principal: “Your son is standing out at the flagpole by himself and we don’t know why.” Senior year, different school, same phone call. Our son was never ashamed of Jesus Christ, and we were always proud of him for his conviction.

The sermon was part of a series, “Let the Ruins Come to Life,” and dealt with Abraham living his faith.

I thought the message was developed well, guiding us to know God’s leading and trust His timing, even when we have unfulfilled dreams. The trials He leads us through strengthen our faith.

Jan’s thoughts:

We worshiped here a year ago Father’s Day, but Bob was busy with little ones who were with us, so we returned so he could hear the pastor preach.

This well kept facility sits on top of a hill, providing a beautiful view in almost any direction.

We were warmly greeted and treated with hospitality from the time we stepped inside.

Our attention was immediately caught by the missions display which boasted tons of information about all the missionaries this church supports.

The building is well cared for, and although there is some directional signage, it became evident as we looked around that visitors could benefit from additional indicators.

Announcements were made before beginning worship, including that this Wednesday is “See You at the Pole” Day. This day is a special reminder to us of our late son because it was on that day when he was a junior in high school that he was the only one who went to pray at the flagpole at his school. Somehow the administrators missed hearing about this event, so they called me at home to ask why our son was sitting alone outside at the flagpole, refusing to come inside. This church is holding their own event concurrently called “See You at the Altar” where members join in the sanctuary for prayer at the same time students are praying at the flagpole of their school. What an inspired plan!

The music was exceptional: the voices sounded incredible together as they led the fervent singing.

The message was part of a series, “Let the Ruins Come to Life” and was called “Restoring Broken Dreams.” I was glad this pastor was as good a preacher as I remembered.

He used the story of Abraham and Sarah and God’s gift of Isaac to speak to the topic of broken dreams, the scars that result when they are cut from our lives, and how God can and does heal the brokenness, pain, loss, and lack of trust that result from these struggles. He outlined five Scripture-based steps:

1 – Know God’s Destiny. If your dream is not bigger than you, it’s not God’s destiny for you; God-given dreams are for God’s glory.

2 – Trust God’s Process. It can hurt us, challenge us, and expose us, but He uses it to prepare us for what He has purposed for our lives; when God speaks, trust Him. Know that the Enemy knows, too, and that God leads us through the desert times.

3 – Follow God’s Design. When you follow God’s design and things start looking up, keep looking up; even when it seems like God is taking away all He has given, don’t let emotions lead; trust Him.

4 – Believe God Provides. Trust Him through the waiting period; our dreams rest in our surrender to God, and obedience unlocks God’s provision.

5 – See God Restore Dreams. At this point a couple from the congregation, along with their 5-week-old daughter, joined the pastor and gave their testimony about their path to becoming parents of this baby. Their witness to God’s perfect timing and His faithfulness in the midst of the difficult path they walked left few dry eyes.

I will keep my notes from this message as reminders of exactly those points. I am so grateful to have heard this message today.

Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray that You open the hearts of this congregation to the dreams You have for them, that they will trust and obey, stepping out in faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Oak Hill Alliance Church

Today we worshiped at Oak Hill Alliance Church, 2782 Rochester Road, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 724.776.4350, www.oakhillcma.org, Pastor Dan Aluise.

Scripture – Romans 1:16-20

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were welcomed from the moment we walked in the door and a number of people took time to go beyond hello and ask questions.

The facility is modern with a lower ceiling, ceiling fans, and air conditioning. The cross is to one side and the screen toward the middle.

There seemed to be a healthy age mix present.

The right side windows showed the driveway and I noticed the ushers were quick to respond to late arrivals. I also appreciated their quick response to temperature adjustments.

A most impressive time was devoted to prayer requests. As people requested prayers a member volunteered to pray for them. I wish more people felt comfortable to do so.

The sermon, “Here I Stand,” dealt with our reluctance to share Jesus Christ. I have often wondered about why we don’t feel compelled to share the greatest thing that ever happened to us. The crux of the message was that we are embarrassed to witness for Christ. We are called to get the truth out but are not responsible for the consequences.

I fear sometimes that it is more of a selfish situation where we have this very good thing and are not comfortable sharing. Are we somehow afraid we will have less of Christ?

I have seen how we treat new believers: when they express their excitement we wait for them to settle down and be “normal” instead of jealously trying to regain our own passion for Christ.


Jan’s thoughts:

We worshiped at this church once some time ago before we began the blog, so my memory may not be completely accurate, but the members seemed much friendlier than at our previous visit. We were handed bulletins as we entered the door and greeted warmly by nearly everyone we encountered.

This charming church sits in a quiet, lovely area only about five minutes from busy Cranberry. The sanctuary includes a low ceiling, carpet, and comfortable, padded chairs.

A spirit of hospitality was shown in more than a few ways, but one that touched me was a packet of tissues tucked into the back of the chair in front. Such a small thing has the potential to mean so much.

I was heartened to witness the worship leaders join in a circle of prayer before beginning the service.

The pastor asked for prayer requests and as they were voiced another member of the congregation was asked to speak a prayer for that request. Then as the pastor led the prayer time, the designated members prayed aloud for each request. What a splendid way to orchestrate this part of the service and allow the congregation to both participate and minister to each other.

The message was part 3 of a series entitled “Here I Stand” and began with the statement that “Christians are hoarding the Gospel.” Of course that’s not how we think of it, and our current culture has us always asking “Who are we to judge?” But he pointed out that truth gives a response, and if what we have were the cure for cancer, the solution for Syria, a safe diet pill, or how to get out of debt, we wouldn’t hesitate to spread the news.

He declared the truth is that apart from Christ, one is headed to hell, lost, desperate, and bankrupt no matter how much money they have. Every human being is sick and in need of a Savior, and the only one capable is Jesus Christ. No one else can do it for us, and we cannot be good enough.

He said we are responsible for taking action and communicating the truth; we are not to worry about how it’s received. Someone must break the silence…we must share the truth!

I was refreshed and encouraged by the blunt honesty of his words. I wish I was capable of living up to this vision on my own, but I know better. Instead I pray for a fresh refilling of the Holy Spirit in order to live them out.

Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray this church is an inspiration for Jesus Christ, the Lord. May they continue to be a welcoming presence and boldly witness for Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Steffin Hill Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Steffin Hill Presbyterian Church, 2000 Darlington Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.6711, www.steffinhill.org, Rev. Dr. Judy Angleberger, Pastor.

Scripture

Jeremiah 18:1-11
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

“Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.””

 Luke 14:25-33
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

Bob’s thoughts:

Again the church where we planned to worship looked like it was closed for the season. We drove around and checked a few churches but missed the early start time we were planning on.

The church has a comfy feel, I think due to the size and the configuration of the pews. There seems to be a real camaraderie among the members.

The cross over the stained glass is beautiful and the chancel sort of tucked in an alcove adds to the homey feel.

We were early and were invited down to the social area for coffee. They had reorganized their library and we accepted the offer of free books.

The highlight of this visit was hearing of Steffin Hill’s visit to Geneva College with cookies and brownies, accompanied by offers of prayer for the students. You may draw them to you with snacks but you’ll win them with prayers.

There were some members of the choir who smiled a lot and it was great to see their joy. I was glad we could be there for Sunday School Recognition and to partake of Communion, offered silently.

The sermon, “In the Potter’s Hand,” dealt with how God is with us, how He may build us up or take us down in accord with His plan for us. The talk of the potter remaking some pots that did not go as planned made me think of most of us as cracked pots that God finds a way to use us even with all our faults. What does God require of you? When we come together in Communion is a good time to ask.

Jan’s thoughts:

Our last visit here was just shy of two years ago. We were greeted before we even entered the building and many folks stopped to welcome us throughout our visit. We were invited for coffee and sweets and to take what we wanted from a table of books the church had purged from their library.

The pretty sanctuary was fresh and clean, just like the atmosphere. Today was Rally Day of course, so many programs that had been on hiatus for the summer were starting up again and there was much excitement in the air.

We were thrilled to hear about some of the mission activities including Steffin Hill’s participation at Geneva College’s Christian College Fair where they joined numerous other area churches and passed out brownies and prayed with 40 Geneva students. There was also communication from missionaries in Cairo, Egypt.

The choir was small in number but had great harmony and volume.

As Bibles were presented to some of the youngsters I appreciated the pastor’s comment that “Everything we do is Christian education.” How true.

The message, entitled “In the Potter’s Hand,” focused on the difference between being a follower of Jesus and a disciple…the difference being the latter pays a price. She made a point I had never heard or considered before: there was a cost for Jesus to be a disciple of His Father. The cost was in the form of having to give up His heavenly glory for a time, being tempted, being an outcast among His own people, trying to teach the religious leaders, suffering physical and emotional exhaustion, being homeless, heartbroken, mocked, scorned, whipped, and crucified. She then declared that this should be the cost for us too and that many people of God are saved and that’s about it. Broken people are willing to pay the price and are used by God.

So the bottom-line question seems to be, will we confess (i.e., agree with God about) our brokenness and allow ourselves to be used by Him? Are we willing to pay the price of discipleship in order for Him to fulfill His plan for our lives?

For the most part we are so intent on avoiding pain in our lives that we give fear more power than we should. Our fear causes us to run from anything that appears painful. Only when we reach the point of being broken and finally turning to God…when we finally give up trying to keep everything under control and simply run to Jesus…only then can we finally see God’s plan for our life.

God never said it would be easy. He only said it would be worth it.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You continue to encourage this church’s ministry to Geneva students and all of their needy neighbors. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Calvin Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Calvin Presbyterian Church, 415 E. Grandview Avenue, Zelienople, PA 16063, 724.452.7560, www.calvinchurchzelie.org, Rev. Dr. N. Graham Standish, Senior Pastor.

Scripture – Jeremiah 2:4-13

Hear the word of the Lord, you descendants of Jacob, all you clans of Israel.

This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’

I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.

“Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this:

Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.

Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Bob’s thoughts:

We were roadblocked a number of times before we realized that this was where God was leading us today.

I liked the large wooden cross and was impressed with the screen placement, off to one side but visible to all. These were two things that impressed me when we last visited here 4+ years ago.

Something that surprised me when I re-read the blog of our visit in 2009 was that we were warmly greeted by numerous people and today only the pastors said hello.

I was glad to read that the prayer ministry continues. I remember also wearing a stole to identify myself for prayers; it was a most rewarding ministry.

This is an aesthetically pleasing facility, conducive to worship. The music included drums and piano by accomplished musicians.

We were blessed to be present for an elder ordination with the symbolic laying on of hands from the pews.

The Associate Pastor delivered the message on God’s lament from Jeremiah. She talked about our “yeah, buts”…wherever God is calling us to obey we always have “yeah, buts” and with this selfish need for control we are jilting God. She spoke of creating a thankfulness montage and I thought of so many ways that God has blessed me, cared for me, and rescued me. We can rely on God’s well of living water or the world’s cracked cistern that just doesn’t hold water.

I met three Marines or family members of Marines and had a chance to speak to the pastors after the service. I notice there are two worship times listed and perhaps we were not greeted thinking we were from the other service.

Jan’s thoughts:

We arrived 15 minutes early at the church we planned to attend today and found the building closed up and absolutely no one around; we figured out right away that God wanted us elsewhere. After investigating several other churches in the area, we decided to drive until it was time to stop, and this was where it was time to stop.

As we entered we recalled our previous visit here (May 2009), but it was long enough ago that I, at least, recalled no details from that visit.

We found seats in the sanctuary; both pastors stopped by to welcome the two new faces, but no one else recognized us as visitors among this multi-service congregation.

I had to laugh when an announcement came on the screen about the Adult Education class for September called “Learn How to Listen to God.” After this morning I thought perhaps we should consider attending…

The bulletin was wonderfully user-friendly: one folded 11x17 sheet with all announcements on two 8½ x11 inserts.

The passion from the Director of Music on the piano and one man on drums set the tone for the music in the service. I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice as he encouraged the congregation to sing and then led with a strong but not overpowering voice.

There seem to be numerous small group and mission volunteer opportunities, and the prayer ministers, identifiable by their white stoles, are available to offer prayer.

The message, “God’s Well or Our Well?” was presented by the Associate Pastor of Program, Rev. Connie Frierson. She referred to the passage of Scripture as God’s lament, the voice of a lover asking, “What went wrong in our relationship?” and asking, “Do you remember?” She declared that we have jilted God by pushing Him out of our lives, preferring to find our own way instead of depending on Him and being open to His gracious plans for us.

She reminded the congregation of her love for movies, and mentioned the significance of a montage, that it is designed to communicate a character’s thoughts and feelings. She stated that we all have montages that revolve around our relationship with God. These montages consist of memories that remind us of times when we felt especially close to God or particularly blessed. She suggested that we develop “thankfulness montages” to help us recall those blessed times and renew our relationship with God.

She asserted that we all create cisterns where we develop our own plans for life and push God away. But God wants something better for us; He wants us to let go of our cisterns and move forward in His Living Water.

I found this message refreshing because she used examples from her own life experiences. And I love the idea of a “thankfulness montage” to remind me of God’s generous, amazing blessings in my life. I’m working on mine and I hope you have many memories to put in yours.

One more note, regarding the offertory…I would bet this is the first time “Playing Right Field” was presented in this context. The pastor mentioned that this church enjoys worship, and I do believe that is what we witnessed.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray that as this church is a praying and worshiping congregation, that they are also welcoming and outgoing to their community. We pray You continue to guide and bless their efforts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.