Sunday, April 26, 2015
Today we worshiped at Genesis Church, (mailing address) P.O. Box 1010, Moon Township, PA 15108, (meets in the DoubleTree Hotel, 8402 University Boulevard, Moon Township, PA 15108), 412.264.8665, www.genesischurchlife.com, Wayne Jackson, Pastor.
Scripture – ESV
Proverbs 12:18 –
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
Today was an interesting day in worship. This church meets in a hotel, so is not encumbered with all the trappings of “our church building.” I think the strongest ministry took place before and after the service, and the service was good.
I was so pleased to find a cross on the chancel; when it is absent I really miss it.
Signage was not an issue since the building is a hotel, but I was confused by the flyer near the entry with start times that did not match what was advertised on the website: we expected: a 10 a.m. from the website and handout, but worship got underway at 10:30. I was glad we were early though as we had some delightful conversations with the minister, congregants, and a pleasant girl and her toy penguin with a broken wing. I’m sure God used these encounters to His glory as we lifted each other up.
A man offered a refreshingly natural and unscripted prayer that sounded like a conversation with God.
I enjoyed the praise team, especially the woman providing the echo.
The pastor brought up an interesting point in his sermon that it is not necessary to take notes as you can listen to the sermon online later and get Scripture references.
I think the mic might have been a little too far from the pastor.
I seldom comment in depth on sermons because when I take too many notes I lose too much of the message. God usually speaks to me on one or two points and today it was “be good at listening first.” I and many others are often waiting to jump in with our comments or opinions instead of really listening. We get caught up in believing there is a word problem when it is really a heart problem. Can we just relax and share God’s love? Can I learn to always speak from my heart?
The City Reach church organization is everywhere, it seems, and this church turned out to be another City Reach plant. They gather in a meeting room of the DoubleTree Hotel where they set up their equipment just like any other church sanctuary except they are not saddled with caring for a building. I know this sort of arrangement is not for everyone, but there are definite advantages.
We arrived early and were greeted warmly by two tween-aged girls and several adults as they set up coffee/tea/water, and then engaged in conversation by some other adults as worshipers began arriving. We hit it off with one member and began a conversation before worship and continued the conversation afterward.
The sound of the praise band was pleasant and the volume was perfect. I had a little difficulty reading the white words on the spring green background, but they were certainly sized well.
A young woman who we later learned was the pastor’s daughter spoke about making a mission trip to Louisiana. Upon learning her seatmate on the flight was traveling home due to the death of her father, the young woman asked her seatmate to relay her favorite memories of her father, and I couldn’t help but appreciate the wisdom and compassion she demonstrated in following the urging of the Holy Spirit.
The untitled message centered on the heart problem that exists when our speech is less than gracious and kind. God cares how we speak, and we are known by the fruit of our words. Our words can be nourishing, healing, and saving, and if our words can have that much of an effect, imagine what God’s words can do.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this congregation will continue to share Your love with each other and those You guide to their door. Amen.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Today we worshiped at Unionville United Methodist Church, 1297 Route 68, (New Sewickley Twp.), Rochester, PA 15074, 724.843.0862, www.unionvilleumc.org, Rev. Douglas B. Myers, Jr., Pastor.
Scripture – Jude 1:17-25 NIV
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
I sensed an unusual attraction as I drove past this church last week, strong enough that I doubled back to get the name and worship time. During worship it became clear God had me there so we could pray for the pastor. Not sure what all the illness involved but I am as positive about this as anything, that was the reason God sent us.
We were standing in the hall outside the sanctuary looking over the mission bulletin board when a woman passing by asked if she could help us. It always makes me smile when members catch sight of visitors and take the time to talk.
It is a pleasant sanctuary with wood paneled ceiling, there was more than one cross, and good pew spacing. The projection screens are up high and easy to see.
The visiting pastor gave the children’s message and the children stole the show. It was a worthy message for all and enjoyable.
I thought the sermon developed well. We doubtfully open the gift of Christ, sure that we must buy our way into the Presence of God. The Jewish law teaches you that you need to be saved, and Christ cleanses you to where you might come into God’s Presence. Thought he brought a fine message tied well to the children’s sermon.
I enjoyed the duo on the piano during the offering time. Beyond the opportunity to pray for the pastor, the highlight included the smiles from the children, especially the little guy who gave me a great wave while on his way out with mom. I always feel welcomed by the children.
After reading a couple of articles on the merger of a church with City Reach Church, it was a joy to hear Rev. Bobby Wilson speak of a City Reach Church set to start up in Baden. I look forward to visiting them.
Bob unexpectedly found this church during the week, so we visited today. As we pulled into the parking lot I immediately loved the sign on the marquee: “There is a stone for every Goliath.”
We only looked around briefly but the building is well kept. The bulletin boards were visually interesting and a woman offered to help us find something as we were examining the one containing mission information.
The sanctuary was lovely padded pews were spaced to provide excellent legroom and the bright colors of the stained glass windows made striking accents for the matching wood throughout.
Many young ones went forward for the Children’s Time, and once it was underway I wished we had sat further forward. His message for the kids was a lesson in stepping forward in faith to accept an offer without knowing exactly what they would receive. He encouraged them to “come and get it” and finally one girl in a pretty purple dress did so. It was the best kind of children’s message: one that spoke loud and clear to adults also.
Rev. Bobby Wilson spoke during the Mission Moment about a new City Reach Church which will open in Baden. The City Reach Network has planted churches and started compassionate ministries from Maine to Ohio, and according to their website (cityreachnetwork.com) the vision is to plant 50 churches in the next 10 years. This organization is also responsible for the Convoy of Hope, which I recall hearing about last year. There is a great deal more information on their website, and if you are moved to contribute financially, there are links on the site. Prayer was requested most passionately, and I hope you will join us in prayer for the success of this church plant.
The message, entitled “Good Enough,” was presented by the visiting Rev. Bertram Domineck. He began with a story of a woman who was serving in the mission field and who, at Christmastime, gave the women of her Bible study a beautifully wrapped handmade gift. Months later she visited the home of one of the women and noticed the still-wrapped gift displayed prominently on a shelf. She asked her friend why she had not opened the gift and received the response that the woman thought the wrapped item was the gift…she did not realize there was more to it than what she could see.
I couldn’t help but wonder how often God might have given me a gift that I placed unopened on a shelf, perhaps because it seemed “too good to be true” or I just didn’t realize there was more to it.
The final exhortation summed it up: “No one is good enough, so come and get it.” After the children’s message, I hope to be like the girl in the purple dress and have the courage to step forward and take hold of the gift.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we were glad to hear how this church has opened itself to feed the hungry. As bodies are fed, we pray their hearts are open to share Your love. Amen.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Today we worshiped at Laketon Heights United Methodist Church, 9601 Frankstown Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235, 412.241.9170, Rev. Judy Winston-Thomas, Pastor.
Scripture – ESV
Job 1:1-12 –
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”
Job 2:9 –
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”
We planned to attend a 9 a.m. worship service only an hour away, the same place we considered a few weeks ago but then we had opted to worship elsewhere. Last night and this morning I felt some apprehension about worshiping there and thought it might be the devil trying to dissuade us, but we set out anyway to see where God would lead us. I knew if that was not where God was to meet with us, we would be led elsewhere.
The first mix-up was when we got off the Turnpike 10 miles early due to misleading directions and questioning the GPS. Still curious, we got turned in the right direction and found the nice modern church building…with nobody home.
After checking our phones for nearby churches we opted for one we had heard of and which had been on our list for a long time. Jan’s aunt and grandmother had worshiped here years ago. It was surprising to me the church secretary still remembered both of them, and got to share some with Jan.
We were warmly welcomed by a minister and some lay people. The building is older and still looks like a church with a cross on the Communion table and some distinctive-looking banners.
I enjoyed the passion of the choir; they understood that their singing was worship.
The sermon, “Double For Your Trouble,” preached from the beginning of Job, was delivered well to the congregation. While I differed somewhat from the presentation, it was what the congregation could wrap their hearts around. We were admonished to wait upon the Lord…excellent and necessary advice. The comment that God would raise the obedient to the next level of awareness was meaningful to me. The congregation being told to stay focused on Jesus brought back a memory of when I was referred to as a “Jesus Jerk”…some of the highest praise I have ever received.
A major highlight was during the joys and concerns (of which there were only joys), a man who lives across the street told how he went out to get a drink and afterward the Lord led him here. He was led by the Spirit, and will be back.
Between the history behind our visit and the adventure getting there, this has been an amazing, divinely-guided day.
We started out headed for another church, but when we arrived, no one was home and the doors were closed and locked. So we stopped at a Sheetz and got some coffee while we used our phones to search for another church in the area. When we discovered we were only about 15 minutes away from Laketon Heights, we decided to head there.
Now for the history: my Aunt Peg lived with us while I was growing up. She was a wonderful lady, in many ways a mentor and a mother to me in the faith. Prior to moving in with us, Peg and her mother, my maternal grandmother, attended Laketon Heights and I knew it always held a special place in Peg’s heart.
We arrived plenty early and took some time to look around the building. As we entered we were greeted by the only two people present and enjoyed a conversation with a knowledgeable elder who took some time to tell us much about the church’s history. As people gradually trickled in many greeted us with a smile, some introduced themselves, and one, though a complete stranger, gave me a warm hug.
Last week being Resurrection Sunday, still present on the chancel was an enchanting wooden cross decorated with flowers and butterflies, my favorites.
The music was presented by a small but enthusiastic choir.
I had an uplifting conversation with the church secretary who relayed the story of meeting my Aunt Peg on her family’s initial visit there. When they arrived Peg was the first person to greet them and then took their 2- and 4-year-old daughters to Sunday school. Of course the daughters are long since grown, but she remembered my aunt well, along with my grandmother, of whom I have very few memories.
Since the pastor was away on vacation, the sermon, “Double For Your Trouble,” was presented by Rev. Patricia Lee, a daughter of this church. This message spoke loud and clear to me with the reminder that God is in the details of His children’s lives and that we are called to servanthood even when we cannot see the purpose behind it. We need to praise God while we wait for Him to make His purposes clear…persevere and wait.
She did NOT say it would be easy, only that it would be worth it.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You continue to bless this church with visitors that they both might experience Your love. Amen.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.com, John Nuzzo, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Luke 7:36-48 (NIV)
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
We attended worship with our daughter and two grandchildren, and the house was packed, as expected. Hospitality was extended in the form of free coffee and tea and welcoming smiles and handshakes.
Hanging from the ceiling in the common area were a number of large cardboard frames with the word “forgiven” across the bottom of the frame. They were created for photo opportunities, and numerous people took advantage, including all of us. They also tied in perfectly with the sermon of the same title.
I loved the video shown during one of the songs; it depicted various sins being nailed to the cross.
The message was aimed at anyone whose past was getting in the way of their future…who had trouble believing God had forgiven them and therefore had trouble forgiving themselves. In other words, pretty much everyone.
He made several points that resonated with me:
1 – The struggle is not in God’s willingness to forgive but in our ability to receive God’s forgiveness.
2 – A resurrected Christ you don’t believe is dead to you.
3 – People who don’t forgive themselves live in a self-imposed prison.
4 – You will never live beyond your past until you forgive yourself.
5 – When you forgive others, two prisoners are set free.
I enjoy sermons here and especially appreciated this one.
Praying everyone’s Easter was a meaningful reminder of God’s mercy, grace, and love. Hallelujah! He is risen!
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray Your blessing on Your churches with all their varieties of worship. Amen.