Sunday, November 30, 2014
Today we worshiped at Grace Church of Harmony, 538 Main Street, Harmony, PA 16037, 724.452.7270, www.gcoh.org, Peter Everett, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!
“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.
“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."
We were turned around in our efforts to get to where we thought God was directing us to worship, and when we gave in to God’s leading we ended up at Grace.
An usher asked if we were there for a family’s child dedication and we responded that we were just visiting; our only other conversation was with a woman who introduced herself after the service although I couldn’t help but smile at the friendly gestures from some babies I interacted with. My memory from our last visit was of a much friendlier, albeit early, service.
The youth pastor gave the announcements and asked visitors to fill in the pew card so they could pray for them during the week.
The music today was great, especially the violin.
The sermon started with a story of missionary efforts being redirected by God, which made me think of how many times – like today – when we have been redirected. We need to follow GPS: God’s Promises in Scripture.
We visited the early service at this church just over a year ago and today we participated in the later service. Apparently today we were far from the only visitors due to a child dedication during the service. Once inside we were looking around and one gentleman paused on his way through the lobby area to offer directions to the facilities.
As we found seats I wondered how long it had been since I sat in a regular pew. Somehow it felt right to be in such traditional surroundings on this First Sunday of Advent.
The uplifting music was superb, helped along by the violin, two guitars, and another instrument just out of my line of sight. The special music for the offering was one that was new to me called “How Many Kings,” a moving song that I highly recommend.
I appreciated the sermon outline provided in the Order of Worship since this message, “Future Restoration,” was part of a series based on the deeply theological book of Romans. The future restoration referred to is of Israel, as he reminded that “God has everything in human history and in your life planned out to the last detail,” that “His promise to Abraham is irrevocable…when God says He will do something, it will happen for certain.” Final points included the strong reminder that “No unbeliever is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.”
At times we wonder what is taking God so long, what is the purpose behind the “delay” in whatever it is we anticipate, be it the resolution of some issue in our life or the return of Jesus Christ. If we keep in mind that, as the pastor pointed out, our salvation is by God’s mercy alone, perhaps we can learn to wait patiently in faith and gratitude, knowing that He is allowing what is best for us as well as for the rest of the world. Although we do not understand it, happily, this is easy for the God Who created the universe. “You will never regret living like you believed God.”
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray Your church recognizes Your redirection and that they continue to follow You. Amen.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Today we worshiped at Bridgeway / Allison Park Church, 424 Duss Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003.
Scripture – Acts 11:25-26
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
It was interesting to get back to Bridgeway/Allison Park Church; the affiliation is very recent.
Through most of the service I lamented the lack of a cross. After the service, as we talked with the pastor, he pointed out the large wooden cross that had been hidden from our view.
We were warmly greeted when we came in, and we found the welcome desk had ear plugs. I saw the lead singer put hers in and did likewise, but it turned out I didn’t need them.
I made several vain attempts to get a question in at the welcome desk.
I wish the video screens were higher since both were obscured for me by taller people.
A few women greeted us after the service and wished us well.
The sermon was projected from Allison Park Church and presented by Jeff Leake. I thought he delivered a passionate message that was well supported scripturally.
I felt blessed to be able to pray for this congregation as they go through this transition.
We opted for a nearby church as we get back into visitation mode.
The people were just as friendly as the last visit, several greeting us almost right away when we entered.
One of the personable greeters turned out to be the pastor’s wife; she informed us that the church was transitioning to become a satellite of Allison Park Church. Indeed, the printed material we saw and received all indicated this to be the case, and the website is on its way to reflecting this reality.
Prior to the message we watched a video showing 5-10 second clips of missionaries around the world thanking APC for their generous support in places like Kenya, China, Nicaragua, India, Indonesia, Utah, Tanzania, Thailand, and Pittsburgh. This was well done and would be a terrific type of reminder in any church of the good accomplished by their mission support.
“Faith Promises” (aka financial pledges made based on faith in God’s ability to provide) were presented to the church today following a message from Pastor Jeff Leake from APC. The message taught that God blesses His children not just so they can life a better life but so they can bless others, bring Him glory, and so He can use them to bless His hurting, needy world.
I‘m afraid it is far too easy to forget sometimes that we are blessed to be a blessing. This Thursday, as we thank God for all the ways in which He has blessed us, hopefully we will remember to thank Him for all the ways He provides for us to bless others.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray for Your continued Presence with this congregation as they complete this transition. Encourage them and bind them together as they grow in Christ. Amen.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Today we worshiped at home.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all who prayed for me over my shoulder surgery. Everything went very well and I will see my very competent surgeon next week. My arm will remain in a sling for the rest of November followed by many weeks of physical therapy.
I thank God for letting me have this experience. I thank my wonderful bride for putting up with me and taking such great care of me. I’m sure she is looking forward to going back to work and getting a rest. We both look forward to resuming our church visits.
I too believe Bob is doing exceptionally well and am grateful for our surgeon. If I took good care of him, it is just me returning the favor. I do have a newfound respect for professional caregivers, though.
We give You thanks Lord, for the trials You let us experience and the lessons we learn through them. Amen.