Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On the Road

We have visited churches while we travelled in the past and were looking forward to finding one on our drive up Route 81 to Winchester, but just couldn’t make the connection. Most of the churches Jan located either had no website or their service times were difficult to locate on the phone when time was of the essence. I wonder how many churches, with this information out there, might have visitors, even people living near the church.

A good way to gauge how well you are promoting your worship might be to ask someone who doesn’t attend your church what they know about it.

On the way home we also noticed many churches with no signage indicating the name or denomination, making it a real challenge for travelers or neighbors to guess about attending there. Sometimes our visits require a combination of GPS and dead reckoning, but it shouldn’t always be that trying.

Our prayer:

Lord, we pray for the churches that get lost in the dust of the back country roads. Amen.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Saint John the Baptist Church

Today we worshiped at Saint John the Baptist Church, 377 Linmore Street, Baden, PA 15005, 724.869.2280, Rev. Joseph A. Carr, MDiv, Pastor.

Scripture – NIV

Jeremiah 23:1-6
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.”

Ephesians 2:13-18
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Mark 6:30-34
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Bob’s thoughts:

As we were driving up Route 65 Saturday and talking about where we could go to church today, we stopped at a light and the driver behind us came up to talk. He had noticed our bumper sticker: “Jesus lives so our son lives! Praise God!.” This was the first time in almost nine years anyone commented on it. With our brief exchange as the light changed we learned he was the priest at St. John the Baptist Church in Baden.

I knew if we worshiped there the crosses would be in evidence, which always helps my focus. The sanctuary has a high arched ceiling and great stained glass. The center of each window has a Christian scene depicted and around them the random color blocks of modern windows, a good marriage. The sanctuary quickly filled to a hundred or more worshipers, with a few cute children to entertain me.

There was an opportunity to silently greet those nearby.

The message developed around the understandable examples given by Christ, especially the shepherd. He relayed the likelihood that it would not be a sought-after job, as it is hard enough to pastor a congregation, shepherding would be demanding.

We each shepherd in our own way. People watch and learn from what we do and less from what we say.

An anecdote about a reminder from a child about saying grace brought my grandchildren to mind. They argue about who gets to say grace, and even when it is just my wife and me eating, they are happy to say grace for us. I am always impressed with their prayer and the insight they include on some current need.

The pastor concluded his message by relating the message from our bumper sticker and explaining the Gold Star Flag.

Jan’s thoughts:

We arrived a little early and wandered briefly before heading for the sanctuary. As we reached the top of the stairs we encountered a lovely corner area decorated as a space to kneel and pray facing what was designed to look like Jesus’ tomb. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.

The sanctuary boasts colorful stained glass with stories illustrated on each window along with descriptive plaques on the walls nearby.

The music seemed to come from the balcony, so it felt like it was floating down over the worshipers.

It took a little time, but I discerned that the booklet in the pew contained the order of worship. This is a different system than we’ve seen anywhere else, but it seemed to work well.

The message was a strong reminder that we all are shepherds, no matter our age or place in the world. People draw conclusions about Jesus by watching His followers, so those who claim to obey Him must set a good example and this must be done out of love. He ended with a question: “We all lead every day, the question is, where are we leading?” Definite food for thought.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray the church shepherds intentionally, keeping their hearts open always to Your message that Christ lives so they can live forever. Amen.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mars Alliance Church

Today we worshiped at Mars Alliance Church, 997 Route 228, Mars, PA 16046, 724.776.9400,, Rev. Joseph Toomey, Lead Pastor.

Scripture – Matthew 7:7-23 NIV

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Bob’s thoughts:

Although we arrived just as the service was starting, we were greeted during the welcome time and I got to greet a Marine who serves as an associate pastor…that always makes me feel welcome.

I meant to get a closer look at the screens but the support system made them look like they belonged there, and the placement was excellent. I could only find small crosses like the ceiling fixtures but there is a striking stained glass cross window at the rear of the chancel behind some drapes. I thought it would be great to uncover it for parts of the service. A scenic vista was projected lightly on the side walls during the message.

We “gray hairs” seemed to outnumber the youth…a bit unusual for contemporary worship. The lead singer was hard to understand when she spoke, I don’t know if the problem was fixed later or it was just that the words were on the screen.

A courageous witness came from a young woman we assumed to be a member till we spoke with her later. She had suffered with sexual identity issues till surrendering her problem to Christ. What He did is not a surprise but the strength He gave to her to relate her story was overwhelming / impressive / inspiring. I understand she suffered rejection and abuse from those who should have been supportive.

I heard Christ speaking through the message to come to the Lord with asking, seeking, and knocking. We are all guilty in our walk. I find I am always reluctant when it involves me. To come to Christ asking for healing for others is natural every day, but I seem to need to be hit upside the head with a few bricks before I ask for myself, even with a history of not being forsaken in those prayers.

The pastor did an excellent job of making the Scriptures relevant to the congregation, and used modern imagery to help explain the analogy of the HOV lane for the narrow way. I thought he could have included that you can’t get in on your own…you need someone with you – Jesus Christ.

Jan’s thoughts:

It has been 3 years and a new pastor since we last visited this church. The modern, sprawling facility is clean and well kept with pleasing aesthetics. Since we arrived about 5 minutes late to this contemporary service, we missed some of the music.

I was pleased to witness the commissioning of a group of young people for a mission trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The leader who spoke stated they are trusting God for their safety and the good He will bring from their efforts.

The praise band lead singer had a strong, lovely voice and I enjoyed hearing her lead her original composition.

Prior to introducing a speaker, the pastor asked that all children under the age of 10 step outside in the hallway with the pastor’s wife to play a few games for 10 minutes. The visiting speaker, Amy, proceeded to give her brave personal testimony that centered on her struggle with same-sex attraction. This message was exceedingly well presented with no hint of excuses or self-pity, just her personal story of her efforts to “work harder” to remove this from her mind and life. Her story concluded with her ultimate success which came only as a result of finally surrendering to Jesus Christ. Her concluding reminders were that “strongholds grow in the dark” and we each need to know who we are and who God made us to be.

Amy’s testimony was followed by a call for those desiring prayer.

The message was untitled as far as I could tell, but covered a lot of ground with some great points and terrific graphics that were on point.

For the familiar ask, seek, knock passage, he said the first step was to just ask; the second step is to seek, which is asking + action; and the third step is to knock, which is asking + action + attitude.

I appreciated this encouraging message and the passion with which it was delivered.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray that those who needed to hear the witness take it to heart and that we all strive for the straight and narrow way. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


We were unable to attend church Sunday due to an early morning trip to the emergency room. All is well now though, and we look forward to next Sunday's visit.