Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christ Bible Church

Today we worshiped at Christ Bible Church, 2721 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.2780, www.cbcofcranberry.org, Jimmy Caraway, Pastor-Teacher.

 
Scripture – Matthew 10:37-42
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We were warmly welcomed right at the door and in the pew. A large wooden cross is situated over a curtained area; the air currents occasionally move the curtain making it appear to be an open window. The sanctuary was pleasant with great aisle space and comfortable temperatures in spite of the 20 degrees outside.

I appreciated the female vocalist who, although I couldn’t hear her well at first, turned out to have a beautiful voice for leading the praise worship. Also we were entertained by, presumably, her grandson.

My pen started to skip badly during the sermon and my back-up pen was worse, but a phrase I can mostly discern: “God doesn’t send you to where His word didn’t lead you.” The sermon dealt with what Christ calls us to be and do and if we are not willing to put Jesus first, we are not worthy of Him.

I was blessed to watch some beautiful children running around the sanctuary after the service and to talk with some other veterans.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

A gentleman opened the door for us as we entered and welcomed us with a handshake, a bulletin, and an introduction.

This building is attractive with lots of glass in the entry area and a beautifully decorated worship area. The signage was good, but was a little confusing finding the men’s room as it looked like the arrow was pointing up the steps but instead indicated a slightly different direction on the same floor.

The downstairs pre-school area is colorfully and imaginatively decorated with animals painted on the walls by someone with real talent.

We were warmly greeted and engaged in conversation by most everyone sitting nearby.

The worship area is beautiful with well-coordinated colors, the chairs are comfortable and comfortably spaced.

Kudos to whoever is responsible for the timing of the words on the screen. It was very well done.

I appreciated the passion with which the untitled message was delivered. It focused on what it means to be a true follower of Christ: obedience is required, along with speaking up and continually dying to self. He acknowledged that a true disciple will make enemies because peace with God means we are at war with those who are opposed to Him. He declared that it is our ambitions, desires, and pursuits that keep us from fully following Christ and stated that “taking up our cross is a one-way trip.”

Perhaps I misunderstood his statement that “There is no still, small voice,” but if I did not misunderstand then I must disagree. According to 1 Kings 19:12, that is exactly how God spoke to Elijah, not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire, but in a still, small voice. Personally I find that comforting.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray we all have the courage to truly put You first and live our lives for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Home

Today we worshiped at Home

 
Bob’s thoughts:

Identifying Visitors

We were both recovering from recent illnesses so we stayed home and listened to a message online. It was a great message that caused us both to think. It became a rainy gray day with a lot of good reasons to stay home, but I still missed being in corporate worship.

One benefit of not worshiping at a particular church is that we can blog without risking offending a church.

Because we are constant visitors we think we are easy to spot, but maybe we don’t stand out as much as we think we do. Here are some tips on recognizing visitors:

Some churches have designated parking spaces for visitors – an easy visitor ID. Have someone monitor who parks there.

Visitors will come in the “wrong” door, look at bulletin boards to see what is going on, perhaps wander around the church or look through printed materials. We look at things that members no longer notice: we admire the banners, stained glass, and woodwork. You may find us looking for restrooms or the nursery

We try to be unobtrusive but sometimes accidentally walk in on a Sunday School class or a meeting. If you see someone you don’t recognize walking through an area where you do not usually see strangers, a visitor is probably lost. An offer to escort them to the area they seek is a courtesy that speaks volumes about your church.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

Due to illnesses we did not want to share, today we listened to a sermon online. Although I always miss corporate worship on days like this, the upside is that we get to hear a message from some time ago at a service we missed, and we always get something from it.

Today I’m still thinking about what we watched on TV last night, as it affected me deeply. Therefore I want to share my written devotion from this morning. I hope you get a blessing from it.

November 17, 2013

Dear God,

Last week we had a coupon for Family Christian Store so we bought the miniseries “The Bible;” and even as we did we wondered when we would find time to watch it. But within the week Bob had a bad cold and I had a cough, so we watched the first 3 hours last night.

It was great! And I was reminded of the importance of reminders. Not only because I was being reminded of Your greatness, Your omniscience, Your grace, mercy, power, and beauty, but as I watched I saw these giants of the faith as they found themselves in situations where they had no answers or solutions, and again and again they reminded themselves and their people of how You had provided and guided in the past: Moses in his confrontations with Pharaoh and again when they were up against the Red Sea; Joshua at Jericho; Abraham prior to Sodom and Gomorrah and at the near-sacrifice of Isaac; Samson at the scene of his demise. They all reminded themselves and others of Your love, faithfulness, and power. Also of their faith in Your goodness.

We need to do this. Too often we fret and pray “Please don’t let this happen; please do this.” How often do we speak like Abraham: “You are a good God… You have always provided… surely You will provide now.”

We need to remember MORE, remind ourselves and others of Your promises and constant faithfulness and unfailing love.

We need to speak well of You instead of the faithless words we tend to use. No wonder our words have so little power – there is so little faith behind them. The words of these biblical giants carried weight and great things happened as a result because their words and hearts were filled with faith in You.

Please continue to help us remember when we lose sight of You Who You are and Whose we are. We belong to the God Who created the universe, Who numbers the hairs of our heads, and Who has good plans for us that cannot be thwarted. May we speak and act like it.

“So he did not do many miracles there because they had no faith.” ~Matthew 13:58

 
Our prayer for the churches:
Dear Lord, We pray the churches recognize their visitors and welcome them as they would You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cranberry Community United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Cranberry Community United Presbyterian Church, 2662 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.5310, www.ccupc.org, Pastor James M. Moran and Pastor Nadine L. Roy.

 
Scripture

Mark 10:46-52 –
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Luke 8:40-56 -
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We were greeted warmly by the pastor, who was part of the reason for our visit. This delightful young woman went to Grove City with one of our daughters and it has been a joy to note her growth as a pastor.

The people manning the doors all spoke to us and during the passing of Christ’s Peace nearby people greeted us. Actually this is a church I like to visit…I like the wide pew spacing and the lower peaked ceiling focuses to the atrium-like chancel area.

I remember this pastor’s comfort in offertory prayers and that is evident now in the sermon and rest of the service.

The sermon asked, how is God calling us to step out in faith? We should also consider how our stepping out in faith might inspire others in their walk.

The music this morning was inspired, showing how just a few can be enough. The drums at the end were particularly enjoyable.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

It has been about three years since we last visited this church and it is just as well kept and modern-looking as I recalled. One big difference today, though, was that the Welcome Area was occupied by tables full of international hand-made crafts and other products from SERRV. In case this organization is new to you, check out their website at www.serrv.org.

We opted for the 8:45 service for this visit and had a little time to look around. I did not remember seeing the children’s area before: it was colorful and bright and very attractive.

The pastor has been a friend of our daughter’s since they attended Grove City College together, and it was a blessing, as always, to see her. We encountered some friendly people before and after worship, and many greetings were exchanged during the Passing of the Peace.

The sermon was entitled “Interrupted” and spoke to an interesting connection among the stories in these two passages of Scripture.

This sermon referred to the persistence, faith, and desperation of Bartimaeus, Jairus, and the woman with the issue of blood, and how Jesus honored the faith of all three. He responded with grace and compassion, showing each that although society considered them outcasts, they were worthy of His time and attention.

She pointed out that these three stories clearly indicate that some of the greatest results come from unplanned opportunities. Oftentimes the interruptions in our lives are God’s attempt to interrupt our expectations so He can give us more than we even think to ask. Her suggestion was that we work to show the same grace and compassion when our lives are interrupted. Sometimes great blessings come when we let go of what we know and expect.

One statement that caught my ear had to do with the Great Commission as given in Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” She declared that the word “go” is more accurately translated “as you are going.” So although “going” as we have is a fine thing to do, it seems it is also quite acceptable to make disciples “as we are going” through life. And how might our perspective change if we choose to view the incidents we see as interruptions as God-ordained appointments instead.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray this church continues to step out in faith to take Christ to the community and the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Faith Full Gospel Church

Today we worshiped at Faith Full Gospel Church, 319 E. New Castle Street, Zelienople, PA 16063, 724.452.5864, www.ffgchurch.com, Pastor Gail R. Davis.

 
Scripture – 1 John 5:1-5 (NKJV)
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We were early and were greeted by the pastor who told us of his mission trips and a little about the church.

A large wooden cross adorns the rear chancel wall and some banners/paintings created by a member hang on the side walls.

I sensed more passion in the singing of the contemporary worship songs by these few worshipers in this chapel-like church than any number of large congregations.

A collection was taken for “City Rescue” in New Castle, a good mission.

The sermon, “Knowing God Intimately,” quoted a lot of Scripture to reinforce the message that “God loves me” and that “when you love yourself, you can love others.” Something I hadn’t heard before was that we are also triune, “soul, mind, and spirit.” It is easy for us to claim Christ as GPS, God, Personal Savior, but harder to accept Him as our Lord.

Communion was offered silently in a small circle in the front of the sanctuary. I don’t recall hearing anything about confessing our sins, but a lot of other topics.

Prayers were offered up for local churches, and parishioners responded well when asked to offer some of the other prayers.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

We arrived early, giving us lots of time to visit with the pastor and then others as they arrived. Nearly everyone greeted us and introduced themselves. We started the service with a total of eight people in the sanctuary and, as is customary with contemporary services, others arrived during the musical worship.

At least one member of this congregation is very artistic: in lieu of banners on the walls hung large canvas paintings interpreting their core beliefs and Scripture. I also noticed the directional signage decoratively painted on a piece of shale. It was imaginative and beautiful. On the rear chancel wall was a large wooden cross with uprights flanked by geographic shapes of the continents of the world.

I enjoyed singing some music that I’ve not heard for a while, including “My Savior, My God” by Aaron Shust.

What a blessing to be present as the pastor prayed an impromptu prayer for neighboring churches, specifically naming each one.

The message centered on having and maintaining a relationship with God. The pastor reassured the congregation that God loves each one personally and completely, that God wants us to want to know Him intimately and not just seek His blessings…head knowledge versus heart knowledge. We need to believe God when He says He loves us…we can’t give what we don’t have. He has promised that we will find Him when we get serious about finding Him. He wants to be our Lord as well as our Savior.

The service was closed with Communion as everyone stood in a circle at the front of the sanctuary. The entire service seemed intimate.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church comes to You as Lord of their lives, knowing how much You love Your children and learning to love ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.