Sunday, December 27, 2015
Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.org, John Nuzzo, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – ESV
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Knowing that two of our 4-year-old grandchildren would be entertaining me outside of the sanctuary, I did not expect to have much to add to our blog, but there are some things I want to share.
I was exclaiming to my grandson how the huge Christmas tree in the lobby reached clear up to the ceiling. His response: it reaches clear up to Jesus and (my son) Uncle Dan. Dan was killed before Parker was born but he has a special relationship with and resemblance to Dan.
I enjoyed a conversation and witness with a young mom and was glad to lift this young family in prayer. I love how God orchestrates interactions in our lives.
Also I marvel at how often we have a discussion during the week that is addressed in the sermon on Sunday. We had discussed comments from others that their life as it is is better than being dead. The message taught what we should believe as Christians in this regard, that we should have no fear of death.
On Christmas Eve we worshiped with another daughter and her family at Crossroads Church and had an uplifting worship experience celebrating the Birth of Christ.
A great point raised in that message was, “Christmas means a way out of the dark places.” It was a special treat to see some of our grandchildren perform in song and the addition of a saxophone to the talented praise band was phenomenal.
After a conversation with the pastor of the church we visited last Sunday we recognized that our words had the potential to do more harm than good. Therefore we removed that blog post and you are invited to join us in praying for that young church.
Greetings here usually consist of a smile and a nod, and today’s involved conversation in addition.
Nearly every time we’ve been here there has been an eye-catching display of some sort in the atrium, and today we were treated to a huge Christmas tree surrounded by boxes hand inscribed with the things for which people were most thankful. This church has enough members to make this a large display.
We were grateful for the free coffee this rainy morning.
The message was given by youth and young adult pastor Zack Blair and based to a large extent on his own experiences, it seems. Entitled “Sons and Daughters,” he spoke about the path to overcoming what he termed “spiritual orphanhood.”
This path involves, first, facing the past and the labels we have put on ourselves, whether on our own or via others; second, recognizing that trust is an essential part of fulfilling our need for connection with others; and third, embracing the knowledge that our Heavenly Father loves us, that He has searched us out and adopted us as His own. We are His sons and daughters and because He loves us perfectly, we need not fear life or death or anything else. His perfect love casts out fear, so there is always always hope.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, Your hand is evident in this church and pray for Your continued guidance and blessing on the leaders and members alike. Amen.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Yesterday we worshiped at Grace Community Church, 9160 Marshall Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.779.7997, www.mygcc.org, Matt Kaltenberger, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
With some obligations on Sunday, we looked to worship on Friday night or Saturday and remembered this church. We were invited to visit last year by a recovery room nurse whom we saw too often as patients.
We were greeted at the entry door, by the doorkeeper who let us into the sanctuary, and during the service by a woman we knew from another church. We had a delightful conversation with a pastor after the service.
I found a cross on the logo projected on the screen, but that was the only one I could find.
There was an occasional spotlight that panned over the crowd that was so blinding I had to sit down, but seeing the two female leads in the praise band projected onto the screen made me feel much more connected.
The message on loneliness was well delivered and meticulously supported by Scripture. Loneliness was the first thing in God’s creation that wasn’t good. We get so busy with our lives then find ourselves in a crowd of “strangers we happen to be related to.”
The take-away from the sermon: “Jesus left His home in heaven so we don’t have to be alone.”
The pastor seemed to relate well with the congregation by putting a lot of himself into the message.
I appreciated the rack of picture cards of the staff in the lobby. So often we are stuck trying to put a name with a face we remember.
It would be helpful if there was signage to the church that shows up in the dark from Route 19.
With a commitment to spend Sunday afternoon at a funeral home, we chose to worship Saturday night.
The interior of this building is appealing, with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the entryway and a contained waterfall against the wall straight ahead. We got a cup of coffee (appreciating the decaf being available) and found seats, at which point I noticed something I think was new…cup holders! And from the number of folks with cups, I think it was a great idea.
Announcements were pre-recorded and delivered on the screens for the most part, but the campus pastor, Bob Zonts, made some comments also. They have a class of 60 people joining soon.
Apparently the lead pastor, who preached, was just returning after four weeks away, which had given him time to ponder many things. Thus he urged everyone to make it a point to return in January for the series he will present called “Roadwork” based on the premise that the Christian life is a journey. I suspect it will be pretty good, and I plan to download Grace’s app so I can listen to some messages on my commute. I guess I’ll also do some “roadwork…”
His message surprised me with its gravity, as he spoke of loneliness. He stated that loneliness is the first thing God saw in creation that He said was not good, and pointed out that Jesus left His home in heaven so we would not have to be alone.
He outlined the steps to overcoming loneliness:
1 – Invite Jesus into our lives and then actually let the walls down and let Him in;
2 – Live in relationship with Jesus;
3 – Learn to live in community with others.
He told the story of something I’ve done also, trying to navigate an unfamiliar room in the dark, and compared it to our attempts to navigate the darkness of life without the Light of the World, a superb analogy I thought. And he asked where we turn when the world caves in on us, as it surely does for most at some point. The only answers, of course: God, Jesus, and each other.
I loved the passion in his presentation; he was real and honest and open, which made me believe he knows whereof he spoke.
I appreciated the time the campus pastor took to talk with us after worship.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You continue to send people here who need to connect in worship until we are all connected with You. Amen.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Today we worshiped at Glenwillard United Methodist Church, 1328 Main Street, Crescent Township, PA 15046, 724.457.62325, www.glenwillardumc.org, Dennis L. Bouch, Pastor.
Scripture – Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’’
Today God led us to worship at a sister church of one we had visited recently.
The rear chancel wall has two larger crosses on the wing walls made with holes drilled in the knotty pine panels. When I first looked, they blended with the paneling. After the service we went forward to look more closely at an excellent nativity scene and got a close up glimpse at the crosses. I thought maybe there was a light behind the holes, but a member told us her relative had drilled the holes for ventilation when the wall was paneled.
I had been looking forward to visiting this church because we were told a number of Marines worshiped there, and they were quick to welcome me/us. The pastor is also a Marine and I love his welcome to the worshipers: “Good morning, sinners.”
He told us of his week deer hunting, how when it rained on Wednesday it was very clear but each time the rain quit, everything was obscured by fog. We think of the sun coming out and burning off the fog, but for him the clarity came with the rain.
Hunting is a lot of sitting still and he put that time to good use praying for his congregations.
They got a lot of anthem out of a small choir. I like when the pastor offered prayer over the ushers when they brought the offering forward.
A highlight for me was a young blond boy who crawled under the pews and made multiple trips to the chancel, especially chasing up the aisle after a cute young girl who was also traveling. This brought such pleasant memories of our late son in church, and pointedly the following after a cute girl.
In the message the pastor explained that John the Baptist’s call in Luke 3:1-6 would have been a common call of preparation for kings, with John’s clarification to Christ added.
We tend to think of Caesar as being a named person, not a title, like Christ. Like Easter, we should be preparing for Christmas by repenting.
What spoke to me the clearest was, “don’t look at what you don’t have but thank God for answered prayers.”
This week we were blessed to be able to visit Treasure House Fashions, a women’s clothing ministry on McKnight Road. Much like the Center for Hope in Ambridge, I look forward to visiting to see how God has blessed them. They tell me of needs and plans, hopes and expectations, and I get to rejoice how God continues to bless them beyond any needs or requests.
Communion was offered verbally by the pastor and we had the joy of presenting the elements to him. This was something God knows was special to me and I really miss, and I thank God for that opportunity today.
This is a family of worshipers, much like the Marines, a strong brotherhood in Christ.
This church is yoked with Shannopin Methodist Church nearby, and when we visited Shannopin, we were invited to visit Glenwillard.
We entered on the lower level and did not even need to look for signage to locate the rest room as we walked right past it on our way toward the steps. The usher greeted us warmly as we reached the sanctuary at the top of the steps. We had been sitting for less than a minute when the several Marine members came by to greet Bob with a hearty “Semper Fi, Brother!”
The pastor entered from the rear of the sanctuary and as he made his way to the front he greeted and shook the hand of everyone present. Then as the service got underway, he opened with, “Good morning, sinners.” I found that so touching.
The atmosphere in this church is relaxed, sincere, and very much like a family that enjoys being together and truly knows and cares for each other.
The joys and concerns took some time, but everyone who had something to say was given time to speak and individual affirmation was generously given to many by pastor and members alike.
The message, entitled “Thanks be to God,” was summed up by the one question: when will we quit whining and start saying thank You? We are so richly blessed and we take much for granted. We should be expressing overflowing gratitude to God instead of complaining.
I have been working on remembering to thank God for the challenges in life and not just the blessings. It’s not always easy to remember, but it surely gives me a different perspective when I do.
Communion was served by intinction, and I was delighted to participate. When Bob asked the usher nearby if someone serves the pastor and was told no, we arranged to be last in the line and after the pastor served us, we were humbled to serve him. Years ago I served Communion almost weekly but I cannot recall the last time I did, so this was incredibly meaningful for me.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray for Your continued strength and guidance for this congregation as they prepare to welcome the King. Amen.