Sunday, October 26, 2014
Today we worshiped at Faith Community Christian Church, Blueberry Hill Park, 1604 Blaines Way, Sewickley, PA 15143, 412.459.0033, www.faithc3.org, Tom Bracken, Jr., Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Again we worshiped at a church that meets in a park, but this time our directions were clear and we correctly assumed there would be no directional signage.
We were warmly welcomed by most of the congregation and invited to coffee and snacks. I enjoyed the cross on the Communion table and projected on the screen. The volume was terrific and I did not need ear plugs.
The time for prayers was impressive. Prayers were offered by people scattered around the room holding signs designating particular issues. I was fascinated with how many were willing to offer prayer, but also that most of the congregation got up to seek someone to pray for them.
The sermon was well-developed and reinforced by Scripture throughout. We were encouraged to break ourselves from our discontent.
I genuinely enjoyed worshiping and was grateful for the pastor’s prayers.
For the second straight week we worshiped at a church that met in the community center of a park.
It was a joy to arrive early enough to have time to talk with some people. One gentleman greeted us in the parking lot, and once inside most of the rest of the congregation stopped by with a quick “Hi!” or “Welcome!” Most introduced themselves, many joked with us in this very warm, casual, welcoming atmosphere.
I was struck again by the amount of effort it takes, week after week, to set up, tear down, and clean the space in which worship is held, which is why I was not surprised to find this church, too, had bought a building of their own and will be moving there in two weeks.
During the announcements the pastor spoke of a course called “Grief Beyond Ministry” which he will conduct starting next month.
This church has a fascinating prayer ministry that takes place during worship. About 10 trained elders called Prayer Partners each hold a sign with a one-word need, such as Healing, Salvation, Peace of Mind, and others. They station themselves around the room and anyone present with such needs is welcome to approach the elder for prayer. During this time the Praise Team sang just loudly enough to prevent overhearing the conversations, keeping them private. The conversations and prayers continued for about 15 minutes, then everyone retook their seats. It was quite powerful.
The message was part of a series called “Defeating Your Giants” and this week’s “giant” was discontentment. The pastor told the story of a man on a plane who tried to engage his seatmate in conversation only to be ignored. Finally the man complained to the flight attendant that he was just not happy with his seat and requested his seat be moved. The flight attendant informed the man that the plane was full and that was his assigned seat, so he would have to sit there for the duration of the flight. Of course, many of us have asked God for the same thing: to have our seats changed, but God often gives the same answer: that is your assigned seat so sit there.
He referred to a complaint from which many of us suffer: Contentment Deficit Disorder. This disease has been known to cause all sorts of issues in lives because it changes how we see life. It causes us to be convinced that “If I can just have (whatever), I will be happy.” He pointed out that Paul did not say he “fell into” happiness, but that he “learned” to be happy.
Then the pastor outlined the path to happiness.
1 – Accept the seat assigned to you by God…where you are is not a mistake.
2 – Learn to get along with the troublemaker(s) in your life. Follow Jesus’ example and run toward those who make us want to run the other way…loving them is a much better choice. Besides, if we run away, we’ll always be running away. Love them instead.
3 – Changing seats does not solve the problem. Happiness is never external, it’s always inside.
4 – Play the cards you’re dealt. Life is not fair, but every Christian gets a winning hand in the end. Just keep playing and quit whining.
5 – Choose to be happy. Make the decision to be happy where you are.
This morning I walked through the doors of this place with a sense of restlessness, full of questions about my life and whether I’m doing what God would have me do. Consciously “just not happy,” but realized I was regretting the past and fretting about the future. God put me in that chair this morning because I needed to hear that message, and I am so very grateful He did.
We shared encouraging conversations with more than a few who took time to talk following worship and sincerely appreciated the pastor’s laying on hands and praying for Bob’s shoulder surgery this Tuesday.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your blessing upon this church as they move to their own building. We ask You to help them remember that they are Your church and their new building is just that. Amen.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Today we worshiped at Hampton Bible Chapel / Crosspointe Church, P.O. Box 1405, Gibsonia, PA 15044, 412.517.8618, www.hamptonbiblechapel.com, Mike Brownfield, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Philippians 2:12-18 (ESV)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
If you know God, how can you not enjoy Him and everything about Him?
We used printed Google search directions to the church as well as my GPS which led us to a wooded area, so we reverted back to the printed directions and found they were trying to take us to the same woodlands. Jan searched on her phone and found the church was in the middle of Hampton Park.
We were lamenting the lack of any signage when we saw one building with a number of cars around it, so we parked and went in. We walked through the building and found rest rooms and nearby a banner indicating the worship area…the first indication that we might be in the right place.
We were disgruntled and dismayed at the lack of directional signage and I was at the point of thinking this was the most inwardly-focused church we had ever visited, that they were so unfriendly they didn’t want to be found. But I heard a woman greet Jan as I was going into the rest room. When I came out and was waiting for Jan the woman called me by name, introduced herself and led me to where Jan was seated.
The devil had us so turned around that we almost sought somewhere else to worship. The church was not allowed to use signs and has to pack up and completely clear the space following worship each week.
We spent so much time finding the church that there was next to no time for greetings.
We both enjoyed the obvious first grandchild in the row in front of us. When I mentioned that I had hoped to talk to them after the service, Grandma commented that Grandpa had control (as it should be…) and I thought just the opposite, it seemed like Grandpa was constantly being corrected or the baby adjusted. Grandpas never have enough baby time.
I wish worship leaders would not feel obligated to play music when someone is speaking or praying; it makes it very hard for some like me, to hear what is said.
The sermon was part of a series and dealt with working out our salvation. I thought it was a catchy title and heard Bible-based preaching: your salvation is in you, you have to work to bring it out…we all need to stop complaining and just do it.
The pastor spoke of needing to conduct a funeral service for a family he didn’t know and understood that they didn’t know Christ. We were blessed with the privilege to pray for him while he did the service, as we are well aware that only Christ’s words can help; there is nothing a mortal can say.
There was a luncheon after the service and a man from across the room came and invited us to share their table; we again felt it was God’s orchestration we shared some common ministry. There were also some who thanked me for my service.
I look forward to the progress at this church.
Today’s visit was an adventure. We started out just a bit early with our printed directions to the meeting place indicated on the website. The GPS took us on a slightly different route, which was okay, but when the GPS announced that we had arrived at our destination, all we saw were trees.
Suffice to say it took an extra 15 minutes and Google maps on my phone to point out that the church was located in the middle of a community park. Although it seemed odd we had nothing to lose, so we headed in that direction and discovered the church met in the community park building.
As we walked across the parking lot, I confessed to Bob my irritation at the fact that there were no signs anywhere, even right outside the building, much less back on the roads where they could have done us some good.
Following the service, in conversation with the very friendly people of this church, we learned that signage is not permitted because worship takes place on community property. However we also learned this church is on the verge of purchasing space elsewhere and hopes to move within 6 months. They have also changed their name, which cleared up my confusion when I received a bulletin bearing the name Crosspointe Church but still indicating the web address for Hampton Bible Chapel. In the end it all made sense.
The bulletin contained a list of items to be considered in preparation for ministry in their new location; several of these items spoke to reaching out into the community as well as greeting and including visitors. This sort of purposeful planning makes it clear this church is willing to hear and do what is necessary to invite those outside their doors to join them in the Name of Christ.
As I said, this turned out to be quite a friendly church: we were greeted intentionally by a number of folks, invited to stay for a luncheon following worship and then to sit with a couple with whom we had much in common, it turned out.
Being a community center, it takes a huge amount of work to set up the space for worship, but it was comfortable and we were able to find our way around with no problem. The worship area was large enough to accommodate a good number of worshipers of all ages and physical limitations.
The message was part of a series called “Learning to be Content” and today’s entry was entitled “Working Out Our Salvation.” The pastor taught directly from the text, explaining the meanings of words and phrases and emphasizing that God’s instructions to His people include doing whatever God asks of us without complaining, mumbling, or questioning. He testified that if we are willing to work at being the people God calls us to be, God will do it for us in addition to giving us the gift of wanting to do what He asks.
In other words, if we will turn to God in trust, God will give us the desire, the tools, and the victory all of which benefits us, the culture, and other Christians around us.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will bless this church; help them to work out their salvation so they are a beacon to all. Amen.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Today we worshiped at Mosaic Community Church, 2801 North Charles Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, www.mosaicpittsburgh.com, Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Pastor.
Scripture – Acts 2:42-47
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved."
We made arrangements to worship at Mosaic so we could meet up with a friend we hadn’t seen for quite a while. We were greeted warmly by a man at the door and a few others.
We were pleased that Saleem was preaching but with my head cold I could understand very little. The worship leader gave announcements and an impassioned prayer but I couldn’t understand a word of it. I was blaming my ears and the acoustics of this old Catholic church building until a few folks read Scripture from the pews and every word was clear. Maybe they just had the wrong mike on the chancel.
The architecture of the building seemed like it would benefit from a large cross somewhere, but that is something to which I’m partial.
I did gain some insight on the sermon at lunch and came away with a strong point of “we worship what we value most.”
I did not realize it had been 3 years since our last visit here, but we had the joy of worshiping with a dear friend and of hearing Saleem Ghubril preach.
As we walked into the spacious sanctuary we were greeted by a kind gentleman and directed to the tables bearing coffee, fruit, cereal, and other goodies.
There was plenty of time to talk before worship started, and we spent it enjoying our coffee and catching up with our friend and meeting some new friends.
For the message, the same Scripture was used and read aloud by the congregation over the course of this series as Saleem delved deeply into the meaning of various parts of this passage. He spoke of worship in heaven being totally different, indeed being more than any worship experience we have ever had here on earth. He mentioned how everyone worships something: whatever is of greatest value to them.
He explained that just as we are instructed to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, worship requires 3 parts: emotion, intellect, and will.
He taught that if you have heard God’s voice calling you, do not turn away; the consequence of rejection and rebellion is restlessness.
I appreciated the format of this message, preaching interspersed with songs followed by readings from Psalm 95 by members of the congregation. It was a breath of fresh air.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You continue to bless and use this congregation/church. Guide them as they bring seekers to You. Amen.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Today we worshiped at New Life Christian Ministries, God’s Mission Outpost, 139 Knoch Road, Saxonburg, PA 16056, 724.524.1547, www.NewLifeXn.org, Dr. Chris Marshall, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – James 2:14-17 NLT
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
We were just late enough to miss the greeting time so I can’t speak to any welcome, but the only one to speak to us was a pastor after the service while we were sitting in the narthex.
I am always happy to worship at a church that isn’t embarrassed to have a cross prominently displayed and the spotlight that framed the cross in light was especially powerful.
I did need my earplugs but was amazed that some of the female lead singer’s voice came through.
Communion was served, albeit silently, with the Words of Institution and prayer spoken easily. It is always great to celebrate together on World Communion Sunday. There was an explanation of what I call “Christ by osmosis”…when you bring seekers into the company of Christians there are some who will come to believe by our witness of how we act.
It was easy to hear Christ speaking through the pastor. If you want people to hear the Good News, caring for them opens the ears and hearts to Christ. We can witness how Jesus has changed our lives, but we win more by our behavior. Our redemption by Christ is the greatest thing ever in our lives. How can we not want to share it?
I made one wrong turn and that was all it took for us to find ourselves 10 minutes late. However one advantage of a contemporary service is that being a little late is not usually an issue.
Our first visit to this church just over a year ago turned out to be this congregation’s first Sunday in their brand new space, so it was nice to see it again since they’ve settled in. It is colorful and nicely laid out and decorated.
The large worship space, although a bit chilly, was filled with plenty of comfortable seating and almost filled to capacity. We were told that, unlike countless churches, this church has many more worshipers than members.
Bob will probably comment, but I want to add my two cents about how much I appreciated the large cross on the wall. The room was darkened when we sang and the simple design of this cross was transformed as a rectangular light created a frame around the cross…the unpretentious use of light used to stunning effect.
I was grateful World Communion Sunday was being observed and that it held a place of such significance that the pastor taught some of its history, including that its institution dates only to around the time of World War II…this was news to me. I thought the servers were efficient, and as the cup was shared the pastor asked participants to copy something he learned in Cuba: prior to drinking, he asked everyone to trade cups with a neighbor. The background music during the sacrament was lovely.
The message was the last in a series about belonging and was subtitled, “Caring as an Invitation to Know Jesus.” The Take Home Point was, “If we want people to hear the Good News, we must care for their daily needs!” The emphasis was on caring in practical ways, actually taking action to help others in the name of Jesus so that those who are helped can and are willing to hear about why we care. I liked the quote: “Hungry stomachs have no ears.” It’s about getting involved and doing something.
Some folks smiled at us but no one spoke until, following the service, as we sat in the fellowship area, an Associate Pastor introduced herself. In the course of a friendly conversation we learned we had much in common and we deeply appreciated her gracious prayer and her kindness.
Our prayer for this church:
Dear Lord, open our hearts to sharing our faith by our service to those in need. Amen.