Sunday, March 27, 2016
Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church, 707 Thomson Park Drive, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 412.494.9999, www.crossroadsumc.org, Pastor Mike Arnold.
Scripture – NIV
John 20:11-16 –
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).”
Luke 24:31 –
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Philippians 3:7-11 –
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
After a meaningful worship service at Crossroads on Good Friday, we returned to celebrate Easter here. Most of our family was able to join us, which eased the pain of missing those who couldn’t be with us. I find it interesting to see how our family interacts with the people around them.
I was unprepared for the unusually loud (for here) volume at the beginning of the service, and even after finding ear plugs, the headache lasted.
They shared a clip of people who were colorblind seeing color for the first time with the help of special glasses. I often wondered how you describe color to someone who can’t see it. It must be a lot like knowing Christ before someone shares Him with you. The academics get you partway as you read and study but I don’t think you come to really know Christ until someone shares their story. Then you can see Christ in all his glorious color.
The pastor told of a member stricken with cancer who was thanking God in prayer for reorganizing his life’s priorities.
It has been quite some time most of our family worshiped together, but today we did, and it was a joy. Some family belong to this church while some of us have visited several times; I have been grateful for the warm welcome and the friendliness of the people.
The message was entitled Living in Color, and started out with a video about several people who are colorblind who were given an opportunity to see color using some specially made glasses. It was deeply touching to watch the wonder and awe on their faces when seeing colors for the first time, especially a father who was able to see pictures colored by his son, and a man who saw a sunset for the first time. As someone who loves colors, I cannot imagine being unable to see them, but as someone living mostly without a sense of smell, I can identify in a way.
After the video, the pastor equated the dullness of life without color to life without Jesus. He stated that meeting the risen Jesus opens our eyes to new priorities, a new assurance, and a new hope.
The ushers distributed glow sticks to everyone present and, following an invitation and prayer for anyone who had not yet accepted Christ to do so, first those who prayed the prayer and then everyone else was permitted to break their glow stick so there was color everywhere. It was a great illustration and I know our grandchildren loved this part.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray that we remember to come to You in gratitude for reorganizing our life. And we pray the glow sticks passed out today remind us to look for Your full and glorious color. Amen.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.com, John & Michelle Nuzzo, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
“Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”
When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”
Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”
Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”
Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”
Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ ”
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.
Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”
As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”
And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”
So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.
The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord said to Moses, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
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.
I was wondering where we would worship after we were led past the first five of our choices. When it was too late to look further, we ended at Victory.
We had a worthwhile time of ministry in the hall and got to hear the message on the monitors.
Israel had become an insolent group rebelling against Moses and God, much like us. God sent a plague that would have killed many of them, but Moses sent Aaron running into their midst with a censer and incense to redeem them. Aaron took his position between those who had already died from the plague and those still living.
Another point I had not considered was the tremendous amount of faith it must take to look at the splendor of the night sky and not believe in God. The stars are just one of the many things I can’t begin to comprehend without God.
Several possibilities fell through this morning, and not until arriving here did we learn this was where God wanted us today as someone for whom we care a great deal needed us.
After picking up a cup of coffee, we all sat outside the worship area where we could talk occasionally. The great thing was, we could listen to the message from where we were.
At times I have thought of the book of Numbers as boring, but it actually contains some breathtaking stories from which we can learn a great deal about God.
This story about one of the rebellions against Moses was the basis for several thought-provoking and inspiring points by the pastor:
1 – It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God without a Redeemer;
2 – Aaron ran toward the plague and stood between the living and the dead;
3 – This is what we are called to do in our generation: stand between the living and the dead, being willing to give the Good News of the Redeemer Who saves.
He then told the story of Christopher Alam, a former Muslim who was introduced to Jesus Christ, accepted Him as his Lord and Savior, and has since brought 4-5 million people to the Cross, all because one person had the courage to speak to him and tell him about Jesus.
The pastor affirmed that Easter Sunday is the easiest day to invite people to church and urged everyone listening to extend invitations to people who do not know Jesus…to stand in the gap between the living and the dead.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray we are all willing to take up our cross and stand between the living and the dead. Amen.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Today we worshiped at Church at the Heights, 500 Salem Lane, Gibsonia, PA 15044, 724.935.1329, www.churchattheheights.org, Ralph and Cindy Vogel, Senior Pastors.
Genesis 8:22 NKJV –
“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”
Luke 6:38 NLT –
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ”
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NLT –
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
Galatians 6:7-10 NLT –
Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
I couldn’t begin to count how many people welcomed us…not just hello but sat down and introduced themselves and made a point of connecting us with other members passing by. Not often do people take that kind of time to visit and point the way to the sanctuary and restrooms. We were welcomed to coffee and donuts and felt like we were with friends.
I could only find some small crosses on a banner, but was captivated by a faux swirled drape over what looked like indirect light boxes running down either side of the sanctuary. There were many interesting posters and art work in the small portion of the facility we saw.
I was most impressed with the prayer time: people prayed as I believe they should, with the authority and power of Christ Jesus.
The pastor’s message was the last of a series on the core values of Heights Church enumerated by each letter of their name, Heights. Today’s sermon was on sowing and giving. I thought the message developed well with good Scriptural support, and shorter verses that were right to the point. He used a helpful analogy to farming experiences that were an understandable way of adapting to our thinking.
It stood out to me that the congregation was really on board and paying attention. Also, the pastor’s passion was evident. I sometimes complain that when we have less to say we talk louder, but when we are preaching Jesus Christ and not ourselves, we cannot go quietly. Salvation is the greatest thing that has, or will ever happen to us, and we cannot be quiet about Jesus.
Something else I noted today: the praise worship team can have a “look at me” posture or a “look at Christ” manner. I was glad they were the latter today. The smiles and enthusiasm for Jesus shows where their heart is.
As we have noted in the past, when a church has more than one service, the members often keep their distance from people they do not recognize because they don’t want to risk offending a member, so they choose to forego welcoming someone who may be a visitor. But almost from the moment we walked into this church, people extended a warm, genuine welcome and took time for conversation and to tell us about the church.
The entry was lovely, set up with a welcoming living-room-type area on one side and tables and chairs on the other. There were plenty of coffee and donuts during this between-the-services fellowship time.
The sanctuary was down a long hallway that had small tables set up on the way, along with charming wall hangings, and still somehow when I saw the sanctuary it took my breath away. The lighting, the color, the decoration, it was all just amazing.
On top of all that, the music was marvelous. This is the one aspect of worship that will bring me to tears, and today “Forever Reign” did that. It was perfect, and immediately following that song the pastor/worship leader asked anyone who needed prayer to raise their hands and other members laid hands on them and prayed for them. It was a powerful time.
Today’s was the final message in the current series, “Anchored” and focused on the spiritual laws of “sowing and giving.” He spoke of the “lost concepts of planting and harvesting” and stated that what is planted WILL come to fruition…we are “always sowing something and always reaping something.”
He declared that we are not giving to God if all we are doing is tithing, that giving to the Kingdom means above the tithe. In other words, the tithe should be the minimum starting point. This is something that is not taught nearly enough, I think. We should give to God first and we cannot out-give God, though He does not always repay us in kind.
He taught that most of what God gives us is meant to go back out to bless others; it is not meant for our consumption.
We must sow seeds for the Kingdom. We cannot evade God’s law of sowing and reaping any more than we can plant one seed and reasonably expect something different to grow. We will only harvest what we plant, so we should make sure what we are planting is what we want to harvest.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church continues to increase their giving in every way as You pour out Your blessings upon them. Amen.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Today we worshiped at Fountain Park Church, 8533 Peters Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.3779.2003, www.fountainparkchurch.com, R. Mark Plumb, Pastor.
John 19:28-29 (NCV) –
After this, Jesus knew that everything had been done. So that the Scripture would come true, he said, “I am thirsty.” There was a jar full of vinegar there, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a branch of a hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth.
Philippians 2:7-8 (NCV) –
But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant. And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross.
John 19:28 (NIV) –
So that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
Psalm 69:21b (TEV) –
When I was thirsty they offered me vinegar.
Exodus 12:22 (NCV) –
Take a branch of the hyssop plant, dip it into the bowl filled with blood, and then wipe the blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes. No one may leave that house until morning.
Romans 5:8 (ESV) –
God demonstrated his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Amos 8:11-13 (NLT) –
“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. Beautiful girls and strong young men will grow faint in that day, thirsting for the Lord’s word.”
Matthew 25:37-40 (NLT) –
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”
Matthew 10:42 (NLT) –
If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.
Proverbs 25:21 (NLT) –
If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
Psalm 63:1 (TEV) –
O God, you are my God, and I long for you. My whole being desires you like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land, my soul is thirsty for you.
Matthew 5:6 (NIV) –
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NCV) –
But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering and thought God was punishing him. But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him, and we are healed because of his wounds.
Hebrews 4:15 (NLT) –
Our High Priest understand our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.
Jeremiah 2:13 (NCV) –
My people have done two evils. They have turned away from me, the spring of living water and they have dug their own wells, which are broken wells that cannot hold water.
John 7:37-38 (NLT) –
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
John 4:13-14 (NLT) –
Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
We had heard this church was on the verge of closing and were grieving the loss of a good Christian church where we could be enriched by God’s word. The church is closing but I am proud of their faithfulness to Christ.
I have always appreciated the wooden cross to one side of the chancel and today the drapes on the rear wall were open, which I do not remember seeing on prior visits. The view is only a few pine trees but it was a spiritual connection for me.
The message was part five of the series “Love Like Jesus” and dealt with the powerful symbolism of Christ’s words from the cross, “I am thirsty.” These words have probably been undervalued by most of us yet are very powerful when read in the context of the Old Testament prophesies. I came away with a greater understanding of the “God-shaped hole in my life.”
I recently overheard my 4-year-old granddaughter from the back seat of my truck complaining about something she thought was all wrong, then her twin brother asked, “Is there something I can do to help?” This is a question maybe we all need to ask more. In our service to others maybe we will experience the privilege of serving Christ a drink.
I have some who think they are my enemy; I’ve asked Christ to show me how I can serve them. We have all thirsted and not been satisfied with what we drank. Only Christ can quench that thirst.
After hearing this week that Fountain Park would be closing its doors the week after Easter, we wanted to say goodbye to the church and our friends who were still here.
I had the sense the congregation was drinking deeply of their time together even in the midst of dismantling the trappings of ownership, and I felt privileged to be among them today.
The praise band, the projectionists, and all those who served in other vital functions were there and performing all their usual duties. The voices of the three female lead singers blended perfectly and the acoustic guitar and bongo drums were excellent accompaniments.
As is so often the case, the children’s message spoke to adults as much if not more so. Today’s lesson was about discernment in advertising and contained a humorous reminder that the ads for soft drinks, for example, are often cheesy and don’t come through with their promises (“My neighbor’s name is on my Coke bottle but I still don’t want to love him”), but that God’s promises are real and He is in all that is part of Communion. It was a terrific message.
The pastor’s message was part five of a series entitled “Love Like Jesus” and today’s part focused on Jesus’ humanity as expressed in one of His final cries from the cross: “I am thirsty.” The pastor examined through Scripture The Thirst of Jesus, The Thirst of Others, and our own thirst.
He presented how Jesus’ thirst showed He was truly human (Philippians 2:7-8), that He was the promised Savior (John 19:28; Psalm 69:21b; Exodus 12:22), and how much He loved each person (Romans 5:8).
He focused on the thirst of others by reflecting on the world’s thirst for what most cannot even put into words. He said we serve Jesus by serving others (Matthew 25:37-40), that Jesus notices even the smallest service (Matthew 10:42), and the most Christ-like service is to our enemies (Proverbs 25:21).
In addressing the question of how we get our own thirst satisfied, he pointed out we need to realize what we’re really thirsty for (Psalm 63:1; Matthew 5:6), that Jesus feels our pain (Isaiah 53:4-5; Hebrews 4:15), and we must stop looking for fulfillment elsewhere and turn to Jesus (Jeremiah 2:13; John 7:37-38; John 4:13-14).
He said we must stop digging our own wells, i.e., trying to fulfill needs that God alone can satisfy. If we are feeling unfulfilled, bored, frustrated, buried over our heads, like there is more to life than this and we are ready to throw in the towel, we need only turn toward Jesus to find the Source of fulfillment of all our needs.
It was a joy to participate in Communion, served verbally by intinction. I was truly blessed to be there today.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, as You send this congregation out into the world, we pray they go empowered by Christ to share confidently what they have learned here. May they celebrate the chance to serve You and may You be glorified. Amen.