Sunday, October 25, 2015
Today we worshiped at Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church, 1828 Roosevelt Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, 412.741.6880, www.mtnebopc.org, Rev. Douglas Dorsey, Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Psalm 34:1-8 –
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Mark 10:46-52 –
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I am amazed when we are redirected on our way to church so God can deliver a personal message and always wonder if there was someone going to our original destination to receive a personal message too. I hope when Christ speaks through a pastor’s message, that pastor is warmed by the Spirit moving through them.
I find it comforting when worshiping in a mainline church, I know I will find a cross.
There was some encouraging discussion on benevolent mission from the congregation.
The message moving “Forward in Faith” was an encouragement for me that when we feel as if we are headed to an inevitable train wreck, there is always hope.
Christ brought hope to Bartimaeus as he was presented with opportunity. I felt God was speaking through the pastor regarding an opportunity He had presented to me.
The horn playing during the offering was a truly enjoyable presentation.
We got to watch two fun children a few rows in front of us and as entertaining as they were, and the smiles I enticed from them, the most impressive thing to me was that mom smiled back at them, a lot. Where a mom could have corrected or tried to quiet her child, she smiled. I could not have been more delighted to witness this love.
Now we know with certainty that one missed turn is all it takes to redirect us. Still, it had been 5½ years since we last visited Mt. Nebo, so it seemed good to us.
We arrived with a little time to spare but went directly to the sanctuary where we were greeted by the greeter and the usher as we entered. As we sat awaiting the start of the service, I was interested to watch all the members sitting in small groups chatting together.
The Director of Music was sick today, so we were treated to a member who is part of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra substituting with his saxophone. Needless to say, it was a joy.
The Greeting time was our opportunity to shake hands with many of the members as it looked like everyone made their way completely around the sanctuary greeting each other.
The message, “Forward in Faith,” compared the responses to Jesus of blind Bartimaeus and the rich young ruler. Bartimaeus capitalized on the opportunity presented by his proximity to Jesus to ask – and keep asking – for Jesus’ favor where the rich young ruler refused Jesus’ offer/instructions on how to gain eternal life.
I loved the statement that “opportunity only becomes an opportunity when it is seized and accepted.”
The heart of taking advantage of an opportunity God presents is ignoring negative peer pressure, not trying to please the critics, and moving forward in faith.
I was thrilled that we sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” I love the words to this powerful Reformation hymn.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You ignite the passion in this church to serve You. Give them the “clear vision” to go in Your name. Amen.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Today we worshiped at Champion Life Church, mailing address is P.O. Box 1713 but meets at Blackhawk High School, 500 Blackhawk Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.473.2213, www.mychampionlife.com, Larry & Kim Bettencourt, Lead Pastors.
Scripture – NIV
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
1 John 4:10
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
We were warmly welcomed coming in the door and it continued until we found our seats. The only way I could have felt more welcome would have been to find a cross on display.
The church meets in a school auditorium and I was really impressed with how many directional flags we saw at the street corners leading us in. A lot of work and time goes into preparing this space for worship.
I was proud of myself for remembering my ear plugs and pleasantly surprised not to need them. I wish I could have heard more of the vocals from the praise team, especially the females; I was pleased to see them smile.
One of the female singers spoke and I could understand every word but I experienced some difficulty understanding everyone else.
The message was part of a series on hashtags, admittedly something I know little about, but he was talking about the labels we wear, willingly or not. One of the best lines from the message: “Your value doesn’t go down based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” We have high value in Christ and the devil tries to make us believe that we are worth much less. We were instructed to find freedom and purpose and reminded that God believes in us, a personal message from God for me. The message was developed well and the congregation seemed receptive.
We enjoyed friendly conversations with the pastor, his wife, church administrator, and others after the service.
A number of people thanked me for my service, which I always appreciate, especially from young people.
I was unsure for a while about visiting this church, but I’m glad we did. There was no one in the parking lot when we arrived, but it turned out we were just that early. The leaders were finishing their considerable work setting everything up.
A joyful gentleman opened the door for us as we approached the building and greeted us warmly, as did several others. We were invited to join the pre-service prayer with the staff and volunteers after which I enjoyed a cup of coffee while we wandered around.
The signage was excellent, and all the room signs hanging from the hallway ceilings, all the classrooms converted into Sunday School rooms, and many other accessories and trimmings were all the work of the volunteers.
As we entered the auditorium we were given small cups resembling the single serving creamers found in restaurants but which instead contained a small amount of juice covered with a peel-away lid and on top of that was a small wafer covered with another lid. These were individual servings for Communion.
We found seats toward the back in anticipation of a volume issue, but there was no issue…the volume was perfect.
The message series was entitled “Hashtags: they can’t define us…” and he began with a video clip of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon using hashtags, including the gesture, in a conversation. He pointed out that hashtags are labels, and in that sense we use hashtags to define ourselves when we tell ourselves we are not liked, not needed, and the like. He said several things I thought noteworthy:
- Life gives us labels but God gives us identity.
- Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.
- God chose our times and He picks us for a purpose and assignment.
- Getting a new picture of who we are in Christ will change the way we see the world.
- We must encourage ourselves in the Lord and speak what God says about us (positive self-talk).
- We must try something new or take a next step…it’s important to move forward.
- Especially we must remember that God believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves.
We all need encouragement…we all get off the track and beaten up by the world…life has never been easy nor will it ever be. I am grateful for today’s reminder of God’s love and for the opportunity to participate in Communion.
We appreciated an extended conversation with staff members following worship.
Our prayer for this church:
God, we pray this congregation believes the most important hashtag on them: Redeemed in Christ. Amen.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Today we worshiped at The United Presbyterian Church of Ambridge, 823 Maplewood Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003, 724.266.1900.
Scripture – Mark 12:41-44 NIV
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
This church had been on my list to visit since shortly after we moved to Economy. I was looking for the “Center for Hope” to see if I could donate produce and I stopped to ask a man cleaning his car. He gave me directions “to where the milk plant used to be,” which I had no clue about. I took advantage of his knowledge of local places and asked if he could tell me where The Ladle was. He had an odd look on his face when he told me to turn around, as it was behind me.
The Ladle has a weekly meal for those in need and I thought it might be an outlet for the produce I was growing.
The sanctuary features a large domed ceiling, rich stained glass, and a large cross mounted over the organ pipes.
We were greeted warmly by a number of people and engaged in conversation before and after the service. This seems to be a larger facility but didn’t see any signage.
The long-time minister had recently retired and the visiting minister was the Ministry Director for The Uncommon Grounds, a local mission. One of our daughters volunteered there some years ago and I still remember how good the coffee was.
The pastor mentioned one of his daughters had visited Zambia and it brought to mind Jan’s mission trips to Malawi and stories I had heard about eating the chicken served by the host family while hungry family members looked in the window.
Pittsburgh Presbytery developed a partnership with Malawi and participated in the reciprocal visits. As Americans we gave money freely from our abundance, but the partnership was unbalanced in that the Malawians gave what was most valuable, they shared Jesus Christ. Those who were some of the poorest people of Africa were the real missionaries in bringing Christ here.
The pastor developed the message well with good Scriptural references and it was a joy to talk with him and some of his family after the service.
The Ladle is an area soup kitchen we have heard about for some time but all we really knew was that it was held at this church. We have learned it is actually a non-profit corporation that is a vital source of assistance for many in Ambridge. I hope you will click HERE to learn more about The Ladle and the valuable work they do.
Someone came out to greet us even though we arrived in the midst of adult Sunday School in the sanctuary, and we were warmly welcomed by many before and after worship.
The sanctuary architecture included a central dome surrounded by arches and pews arranged in a semi-circle.
The long-time pastor retired last month so the church is in the process of identifying an interim. One thing we have noticed about many churches in Beaver Butler Presbytery are the long pastorates, though I can’t say we have any theories about why that is the case.
The church welcomed Pastor Herb Bailey to the pulpit this morning. Pastor Bailey is the Ministry Director at the Uncommon Grounds Café in Aliquippa, a “café, venue, and ministry” that is well known and respected in this area. (Please click HERE to visit the Uncommon Grounds’ website and learn about their unique ministry.)
Pastor Bailey’s message entitled “It’s the Little Things” spoke of giving our best, that we should give even when we don’t have it and avoid clinging to things with no lasting significance. He pointed out that we should also be sharing our testimony of what God has done in our lives, and reminded that we are all only stewards of what actually belongs to God.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we lift up this congregation to You as they do the work of finding the pastor you are calling for them. We pray for their time in prayer, that they will discover Your call for this church. Amen.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Today we worshiped at Shannopin United Methodist Church, Jordan Street, South Heights, PA 15081, 724.375.2239, www.shannopinumc.org, Rev. Dennis L. Bouch, Pastor.
Scripture – Mark 10:2-16 NIV
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
After being redirected, we were led to worship at a church we had been hoping to visit. There is not a lot to the building but visitors could benefit from directional signage for restrooms.
The large cross and pastel stained glass windows made the sanctuary seem inviting and gave it the feel of a family church, which it certainly is. We were welcomed by several members and the pastor came down from the chancel to greet us by name. We had met him where he served previously and I appreciated encountering another Marine.
The sermon on divorce brought an interesting statistic that nearly 52% of marriages in the US end in divorce. The message developed well with support of personal testimony and Scripture. It also brought back some memories.
Growing up I knew of one woman who was said to be divorced and had she not been an attractive redhead, I probably wouldn’t have taken such notice. She lived in a house we passed walking to school. I knew something about the residents of every house on the way to school, their name, profession, something. But this knowledge was given second-hand because it was something that just was not talked about. This was the only divorce I knew about through high school.
We were fortunate to live in a nicer neighborhood when we raised our children and sometime after they graduated high school the topic of divorce came up one day. That was when I learned our children were in college before they had a single friend’s family where the birth mother and father were still married.
In the course of one generation there had been a complete turnaround on divorce. One of my brothers divorced twice, went back to the same place he met his first wife to meet his second. Many others dear to me have ended their marriages in divorce, and I can no longer believe that God would have wanted them to continue in the bitterness and pain.
I was thankful to be able to partake of Communion and grateful that the words were spoken in offering the elements.
We were originally headed for a different, multi-site church, but it turned out they were enjoying a single service Sunday at the main site. This sort of thing happens when there is no advance notice on the website but God is never surprised, so we followed Him and found this church.
The church is located in a semi-residential area with plenty of street parking available. Once inside several people introduced themselves and welcomed us and after a quick trip downstairs to the restrooms we found seats. As we were getting situated, the pastor headed our way and welcomed us warmly then took us quite by surprise by recalling a visit we made to his former church 3½ years ago (obviously he possesses an enviable memory). He reminded us that he is also a Marine.
The sanctuary is adorned with some lovely wall hangings and beautiful stained glass.
When the service began, the pastor greeted everyone present with, “Good morning sinners!” and the first thought that crossed my mind was that this church has its head screwed on straight.
One announcement had to do with a collection to help provide mosquito nets for people in parts of Africa.
The sharing of joys and concerns was almost more like family time around the dinner table discussing the topics of note. It felt sweet.
The music was provided by the organist and two vocalists whose combined voices sounded marvelous together.
Because the liturgical calendar so stated, the message centered on the sensitive topic of divorce and was entitled, “Divorce or not to divorce?” I had to give the pastor credit for full disclosure as he stated he is divorced, and I believe someone with first-hand experience can speak on an issue from a place unimaginable to someone without that experience. Consequently I tried to listen carefully to what he said.
With a current divorce rate of 52%, he referred to divorce as a plague on society. He said it was painful whether one stayed in a dead marriage or ended the union, and that Scripture was never intended to be used as a weapon against those who divorce.
In Biblical times, to marry was to acquire property because that is how women were viewed. Jesus flipped that concept on its head when He moved divorce from being viewed as a cold, legal question to a relational one, and women went from being viewed as property to being seen as human.
He declared that God hates divorce because it hurts His children, but rule-following won’t bring about healing. The healing comes as a gift from God when we move toward real concern for the vulnerable and powerless.
I was blessed to be able to participate in World Communion Sunday.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will continue to bless this church and encourage them to bring their lost neighbors to You. Amen.