Sunday, June 28, 2015
Today we worshiped at West Ridge Christian Community Church, 100 Gorwood Drive, Coraopolis, PA 15108, 724.695.7500, www.westridge.cc, Pastor John Goebbel.
James 5:7-12 – NKJV
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.
Matthew 9:11-13 NKJV
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 MSG
Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.
Sometimes the more convoluted our trip to church becomes, the more it confirms that is where God wants to meet with us.
We were welcomed by a number of people and enjoyed an interesting décor and lighting. My only disappointment was the lack of a cross.
The sermon dealt with the Supreme Court legislation on gay marriage rights and the Biblical church’s response. It was stressed that any response should be Christian. We must show Jesus’ love to all as we are all hopeless sinners without His sacrifice.
He brought up a point later in the message that often what we feel so important comes to mean nothing. Before coming to Christ, tools were my god. I had to have the new, shiny, far-beyond-my-needs tools. The tool man smiled as he backed into my drive. But when Christ claimed me, the luster faded. The devil still dangles that lust before me sometimes, but he’s no match for Christ, Who continues to rescue me.
After an emotional week, I prayed God would lead us to a place where I could truly worship Him, and after a bit of wandering, He answered my prayer.
Unfortunately we arrived late and the music was well underway. The usher kindly led us to seats toward the front, but we had to decline and asked to sit farther back. A gentleman sitting nearby overheard the situation and thoughtfully gave us his seat in the back so we could sit together.
This contemporary service is set in a lovely worship space boasting numerous design elements I’ve seen nowhere else. I’m hoping to return to see it again. The ceiling is open with joists showing and beige material covering (presumably) ductwork all the way across then draped to the floor on both sides. The same material was beautifully arranged on the back wall of the stage but with an opening showing the drummer and the acrylic barrier in front of him. It was the most attractive arrangement I’ve seen. On the side walls at intervals a few feet apart were strips of colored lights that added just enough light to see. The lobby area was attractive and led directly into a café and fellowship space. The children’s rooms were each a different bright color with a large white animal silhouetted on one wall.
A member of the church shared his amazing testimony of God’s provision and grace in his life. His story spoke to me and I was grateful to have heard him speak.
The message was part of a series called “Basic Elements” and spoke to the issues of character and integrity.
The pastor began by addressing this week’s Supreme Court ruling, reiterating to the membership this church’s stance and beliefs. He urged everyone to use this opportunity to point to Christ, and stressed care in what is said, done, and posted on social media. He reminded that Jesus is the only judge and the best example and no Christian should be hurting or condemning anyone. Instead, grace and truth should be the watchwords in dealing with people.
I cannot help but think that every word he spoke was just as applicable before last Friday as it is now.
After the service the pastor was kind enough to take time for conversation and prayer with us, which I greatly appreciated.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, may You continue to bless this pastor and church and may Your Word remain fresh in their minds. Amen.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church Cranberry, 707 Thomson Park Drive, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, www.crossroadsumc.org, Mike Arnold, Campus Pastor.
Scripture – Revelation 3:14-22
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
We went to Church in the Park to celebrate Father’s Day with our daughter and her family as well as to celebrate her youngest girl’s 2nd birthday. It was an interesting endeavor, sort of like the old revival meetings outdoors. Everyone seemed to have a great time, especially the children.
The sermon was based on the portion of Revelation dealing with lukewarm faith. This is an area we all probably struggle with more than we are willing to admit. It is much easier to feel good with the elation of worship than loving those He calls us to care for.
Our grandchildren invited us to attend their church today for Church in the Park and the picnic afterward, so of course we accepted.
We arrived a bit late. Additional directional signage would have been helpful as the only sign we saw for the service was immediately outside the pavilion.
All in all, it was a pleasant day for an outdoor service, there was plenty of seating, the music was easy to hear and good volume, and obviously numerous people had put in many hours to make this happen.
The message was part 3 of a series on the book of Revelation. Although I was unable to take many notes, there were two statements that caught my ear that I did write down:
1 – Self-sufficiency shuts out Jesus, and
2 – A quote from Tim Keller: We are more sinful and more loved than we can imagine.
An appropriate and comforting thought for Father’s Day.
The picnic began immediately, and a fun time was had by all. Thanks to this church for their hospitality.
Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray You open our eyes to those You call us to serve and may we serve with exhilaration. Amen.
Sunday, June 14, 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.
James 4:5 NKJV
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
Psalm 139:17-18 NLT
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
James 4:4 NLT
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Exodus 34:14 NKJV
(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
1 John 2:15-16 NKJV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
Matthew 5:27-28 MSG
“You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
Colossians 3:1-2 NKJV
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Romans 8:5-7 NKJV
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
James 4:4-5, 8 NLT
“You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”
1 John 5:21 NLT
“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”
1 Corinthians 10:22-23 NLT
“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”
Hebrews 12:14 NKJV
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
I ended up in the worship space for only the part I am the least comfortable with: music and lights while in the tiers. When that part was over, my four-year-old grandchildren were done. They led me to a play area they knew well, right past the counter where I could have bought a coffee. Watching their interaction with the other children was inspirational…lots of smiles all around. Maybe that’s just the part of my heart that needed warmed.
We decided to worship with our daughter and grandtwins in order to spend some time with them prior to the one’s surgery this week. We have visited this church numerous times so Bob knows the way around well.
Saturday night and Sunday morning John Bevere took over the preaching duties. I am somewhat familiar with his books but this is the first time I’ve seen or heard him. He was terrific: passionate, relaxed, friendly, open, direct, and forthcoming.
The Saturday and Sunday messages were different but both based on his book “Good or God.” Though not set to be released until August, he sold (and gave) copies of this book, which I can’t wait to read.
“Good or God” argues against the assumption “if it is good, it must be from God” and he made a case for warning in addition to teaching.
He asked the question, “If you were forced to make a choice, would you choose friendship with God or a ‘good life’ distant from God?” He made a Scriptural case for God’s intense, consistent longing for us, reminding that God is the passionate and jealous Lover of our souls.
He declared that the world is constantly seeking us out, and as believers it is possible for us to have an adulterous relationship with the world…the key is where our mind is set, whether it is set on God and the things of God or on the world and things of the world. The mind goes to where it is set.
He illustrated his point with vivid stories about how he had fallen in this regard in case there was any question whether he knew whereof he spoke. He knew, and he preached fearlessly from personal experience.
After hearing this message I want to pray the prayer he suggested, asking God to purify my heart of all that is not His best for me. I suppose that is what a great sermon is about: change.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, a church this size and this active takes many “Marthas.” We pray they all have their “Mary” moments. Amen.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Today we worshiped at Allison Park Church Ambridge, 424 Duss Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003, 412.487.7220, www.allisonparkchurch.com, Eddie Galindo, Pastor.
Scripture – Ephesians 4:26-27
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
After attempts to worship where we chose, God redirected us to where He would meet with us in worship.
I meant to ask what this building was; they have adapted well to church service. I like the large wooden cross off to the side in the shadows. At first I thought it might be better with a small spotlight but after some reflection I think it is just right as it is…a reminder that Christ is always there in the Spirit.
We were warmly welcomed and a number of folks remembered us from our previous visit last November.
We were honored to be able to include our prayers for a stroke victim from the church.
The sermon was about anger, how anger itself is not wrong but unresolved anger is the problem. A great line: “If you don’t let go of anger, it won’t let go of you.” The pastor detailed a plan for dealing with anger and offered an altar call at the end of the service, giving an opportunity for those who were struggling with releasing their anger to come forward for prayer.
I could not think of any unresolved anger in my life now. I had my share when I was younger, but somewhere along the way God convinced me to leave the retribution in His hands. It was hard to accept, but once I obeyed I was overwhelmed.
Every time I think WE decide where we’ll attend church, I hear the sermon/message and leave knowing God meant for us to be there.
This church is one of the newer branches of Allison Park Church. About five people greeted us before we found seats, and several spoke with us before and after the service.
Music leadership consisted of the pastor’s wife on keyboard and singing lead, a second vocalist whose voice blended quite well, a guitar, and drums. The sound and the volume were excellent.
The message was presented on the very large screen by Pastor Jeff Leake from APC campus in Hampton. In part 4 of his series How to Survive in a Dysfunctional Family, the topic was overcoming anger.
He began with the observation that dysfunction within a family is normal, which I found comforting. The problem is when anger is unresolved, gains a foothold, and consumes a person. This is one of Satan’s tools: he will mess with our relational world until it feels like everything is messed up and nothing is right.
He pointed out that if you don’t let go of your anger, your anger won’t let go of you, then stated that anger results from a blocked goal…something we think we should have but do not…and listed five steps for resolving anger.
1 – Identify what it is you lack, why you don’t have it, and who is to blame, who it is you are angry with (James 4:1-2).
2 – Grieve it. Talk to God about it and make a willful choice to give Him the pain.
3 – Release it. Forgive the offender and let it go. “Pain is cholesterol to spiritual veins.”
4 – Process it. Talk to the offender using “I” statements. Not talking to them about it puts up an unspoken wall.
5 – Plan it. Plan for how to deal with the pain if/when the situation arises again. Engage the help of a coach if necessary, but fight the feeling of powerlessness because that is the origin of the pain.
I found this message incredibly helpful and I plan to use these strategies in some relationships where I have felt stymied. This gives me hope, and I’m so grateful.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church will remember to release their anger quickly and live in the light of Your grace. Amen.