Sunday, April 24, 2016
Today we worshiped at Impact Christian Church - Beaver Valley, meeting at the Monaca Cinemark, 99 Wagner Road, Monaca, PA 15061, 412.329.7128, www.impactpittsburgh.com Steve Hammer, Lead Pastor; Bill Harris, Beaver Valley Campus Pastor.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (Contemporary English) –
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do. The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.
Mark 1:32-35 (New Century) –
That evening, after the sun went down, the people brought to Jesus all who were sick and had demons in them. The whole town gathered at the door. Jesus healed many who had different kinds of sicknesses, and he forced many demons to leave people. But he would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who he was. Early the next morning, while it was still dark, Jesus woke and left the house. He went to a lonely place, where he prayed.
Philippians 3:13-14 (Contemporary English) –
My friends, I don't feel I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.
Romans 12:1 (Today’s English) –
So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.
What a great welcome…from the moment we came in the door we were warmly greeted, information was shared about the church and facilities, and we were given a tour of the nursery/child care areas. I was wondering how the children could be accommodated in a theater environment, and I think they did admirably.
The praise worship team sounded delightful together; I thought the women were particularly harmonious. With the attention to acoustics in the theater, the volume was just right.
We were given cards for a free coffee and encouraged to bring our drinks in with us. I could not find a cross but when you have to bring everything in and out again maybe it’s one thing too many. It is a blessing to be a church and not a church building. I thought the announcements should be on the screen as Previews of Coming Attractions, then maybe a cross could be projected also.
With the theater venue, it would probably be hard to offer the Communion elements verbally.
There must be a way of letting visitors know they are welcome to contribute an offering without making them feel obligated to do so. Visitors should not be dissuaded from the blessing of giving. I don’t know the answer, but non-members need to know they are welcome to give their offering to God.
The lead pastor was here to preach on part of a series about being different. The message developed well with scriptural support, and best of all it spoke to me personally. I love coming away from a message with something to think about that helps me focus and refine my personal ministry. God gives me a host of people to minister to; sometimes I think I seek them out but I know Who orchestrates the meetings and the venues.
I wondered if his analogy about soaking up Christ’s knowledge like a sponge with water and then giving it back out explains why some churches are still on mother’s milk sermons.
It is always a joy to hear Christ’s message through a pastor.
It’s been quite a while since I felt directed to a particular church a day in advance, but that’s what happened this week. So, that’s where we went.
The gentleman who opened the door as we approached did not recognize us and cordially welcomed us then passed us along to someone else to show us around. The greetings were warm and genuine.
This is only our second time worshiping in a movie theater, and a great deal of work was obviously put into making this as comfortable a space as possible with backdrops, carpets, stretchy table covers, and tables with information all down the hallway. It looked transformed, and I almost forgot we were in a cinema.
Some of those who greeted us kindly took the time to show us the children’s areas, which were thoughtfully transformed and lovingly staffed.
We found seats toward the back, thinking the praise team might be at high volume, but the acoustics were made for volume so it was fine. The team had terrific harmony and the voices blended impeccably.
A first for me was hearing applause upon the announcement of the offering, and I interpreted it as gratitude for the opportunity to give.
Communion was slightly different, lacking the usual words of institution and with something like a prayer of confession but without actually mentioning confession of sin.
The message was part 3 of a 4-part series called “Be Different!” This installment, entitled “A Different Satisfaction!” explained why church participation can be frustrating at times and what can be done about it.
He began by reminding all present that God made every person deliberately and equipped each to do something particular and special in the world.
He listed Why Many Christ Followers Have Stopped Serving Jesus: the consumer mentality, the clergy system, the talent survey, and the never-ending commitment, and gave examples and details about each.
Next was, I Will Move From Frustration To Fulfillment By: Being Myself…i.e., knowing your personality and your spiritual gifts, and by Finding Balance: make sure you are learning enough and serving enough. He provided an excellent visual example using sponges to illustrate learning (soaking up knowledge and understanding) and serving (giving it back out again.) Too much taking in and not enough giving out leaves us saturated and unable to absorb more, whereas too much giving and not enough learning leaves us resentful of being squeezed. Balance is vital.
His final point was about Staying Focused on your one primary ministry and on your one primary audience: Jesus. True worship is serving Him.
I am grateful for God’s direction to this church today.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church continues to focus on what You are calling them to be and, like Living Water, take the knowledge they have absorbed and share it in their personal walk. Amen.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Today we worshiped at The Church of God at Connoquenessing, 1247 Evans City Road, Connoquenessing, PA 16027, 724.789.0084, www.cogatconnoq.org, K.A. Karns, Pastor.
Scripture – KJV
Jude 1-3 –
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Romans 10:13-17 –
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
1 John 5:3-4 –
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
John 17:14-16 –
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Ephesians 3:17-21 –
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
We were redirected past a church we chose, one we couldn’t find, and one that had already started, and when we pulled in this service was about to start. As we approached the door we saw three small buses leaving with children, but it turned out there were lots of children inside. We learned later the church has a program to bring inner city children here who might not otherwise know a church.
We were welcomed by a number of people, including the man at the door who pointed out the restrooms and sanctuary.
The unusual shape of the church and resulting multi-angled ceiling may have been the cause of an echo that made the speaker hard to understand, although the pastor came through clearly. The choir was strong and easy to understand, and for a relatively small choir, they sounded excellent. I enjoyed the trio of women who came forward to sing; they were great together.
The pastor did a sports analogy titled “Contending for the Faith.” He refreshingly stated that he believed all of the Bible. Too often we hear excuses or parts that are de-emphasized, although this made me question even more why I couldn’t find a cross.
I questioned if I heard one remark correctly, that you wouldn’t want one sin to keep you out of Heaven.” Only Christ went there sinless.
We were early so we had time to drive around Evans City for a bit. The second time we drove past this church, we pulled in enough to read the sign and found the service was due to start in five minutes, so we went in.
The building appears to be fairly new, decoration was tasteful and simple, and many greetings offered on an ongoing basis, including by a sweet young girl who surprised me by initiating a conversation. The gentleman who held the door introduced himself and pointed out the restrooms before we even asked.
The music was provided by two organs and 15 choir members, and the amazing harmony absolutely filled the sanctuary. This was some of the most enthusiastic singing I’ve ever heard by both choir and congregation.
With no bulletin, I was grateful the pastor announced the title of his sermon: Contending for the Faith, in which he emphatically reminded his listeners of both the importance and the value of fighting to maintain he gift of true faith in Jesus Christ.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we ask You to help this church contend against the complacency of the world and remain steady in their faith. Amen.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Today we worshiped at Word Alive Church, 124 Scenic Hill Blvd., Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.752.9575, www.wordalivechurch.info, Senior Pastor Cliff Reynolds.
Scripture – KJV
Psalm 34:11 –
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 19:23 –
The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.
After a pleasant drive through an area I haven’t been to in a few years, we arrived in good time for worship. I thought I noticed frustration from one of the parking guides whom I didn’t see till we had already pulled into a spot. With such a large area, a visitor would have to see the attendant to know where to park.
Once inside, we were greeted and the restrooms and coffee were pointed out. I did not encounter any other Marines but I was thanked for my service.
I enjoyed the praise worship, especially one woman who sang a solo intro…I liked her voice and the fact that she smiled. I found it impossible to sing along as the words on the screen were seldom what was being sung at the time.
The message was laid out in three sentences on a handout and the pastor quoted many Scripture verses to support this summary. A descriptive line I liked: “Fear is a wholesome dread of displeasing God.” And another, used in addressing a demonic presence, “The Blood of Jesus is against you.”
We appreciated the opportunity to visit with the pastor and a few others after the service.
We had the pleasure of worshiping with our son today and we were greeted almost continually from the time we stepped through the door until the time we left. One of the first ladies to greet us gave us a welcome packet and pointed out the coffee which we drank standing at the tables.
The building looks fairly new and is attractively laid out and decorated. Entering the sanctuary revealed a striking lit glass cross centered above the platform and flanked by matching pillars.
The bulletin presented numerous opportunities for worship and fellowship and an announcement indicated an active youth program.
The songs were new to me, but I enjoyed listening and the volume was perfect.
In the message, entitled “Reverence Brings Power,” the pastor taught that 1 – we must reverence God and His Word; 2 – Our nation needs to return to the fear of God; 3 – Reverence for God must include reverence for the Blood of Jesus. In other words, we are to honor God, His Word, and His Blood.
He advised that when we find ourselves in the midst of spiritual warfare, we should shout, “Satan, the Blood of Jesus is against you!”
He also quoted Billy Graham has having said that if you make much of the Blood, the Blood will make much of you.
This message will continue to be food for thought for me.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray this congregation grows in their reverence for You, a healthy fear of God, and reverence for the Blood of Christ. Amen.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
Today we worshiped at Portersville Bible Church, 156 East Portersville Road, Portersville, PA 16051, 724.368.3414, www.portersvillebible.com Michael S. Charles, Pastor.
Scripture – 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
After carefully walking my wife in across the icy parking lot, I found the other side was ice free, I assume from the morning sun, so I moved the truck.
There is a nice-sized cross on the wall with back lighting giving a hot pink glow. The pews are comfortably padded and the flat ceiling reflects the indirect side lighting.
We were directed and shown the restrooms.
I was blessed to be greeted by two Marines.
I enjoyed the harmony of the small choir and was pleased to see a smile among them. There was an enjoyable guitar solo of “Here I Am to Worship,” an old favorite. And there was something special in the young man’s voice that I liked.
Being a little slow on the uptake, I wondered where the pastor was going at the beginning of the message; it started with a description and then clarification of what he was going to talk about. I was reminded of a pastor friend who said they were taught to tell what they were going to preach, then deliver the message, and then tell the congregation what you just said. I realized he is doing his best to ready this congregation with discernment in choosing a new pastor. He stressed the importance of finding a pastor who prays, something that sadly has waned in many churches. The importance of a praying pastor and a praying congregation cannot be overstressed.
It was stressed that we should never be critical of anyone’s prayer posture; where does it say that our way is right?
A line from one of the songs today stuck with me: “And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess; The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.” A powerful lead-in to Communion. The Scripture and explanation leading up to Communion was excellent, but I was disappointed that the elements were served silently and that no one served the pastor. I appreciated that the pastor asked elders to pray over the elements.
The sanctuary is beautifully decorated facing an alcove in the chancel decorated with a painting of a brook, green meadow, and lovely hills. It was quite unique. Off to the side was a large wooden cross interestingly backlit in purple.
There was a great deal of conversation among the members and a few folks greeted us briefly.
The first song was one of my favorites, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Afterward the pastor described some of the spiritual warfare Martin Luther experienced. He explained the lyrics following some of the other hymns also, which I found informative.
The untitled message centered on pastoral requirements gleaned from 1 Timothy. This pastor is preparing to retire in several months and the church is in the process of seeking a new pastor, so this instructive sermon had purpose.
After an overview of Timothy’s background and life, he stated the three things required of a pastor: 1 – to teach sound doctrine – what we believe and why; 2 – proclaim the Gospel – every single week, because you never know if there is someone present who has head knowledge but not heart knowledge, and is in need of hearing exactly that; 3 – defend the faith – because, remember, we are in a war.
He proceeded to teach about prayer, the difference between prayers of supplication and prayers of intercession, and reminded that we should always pray with thanksgiving.
He acknowledged that prayer without raised hands is the norm for this congregation, but instructed them that raised hands during prayer is a biblically correct posture so not to overlook a pastor because he prays that way.
I did not want to participate in Communion without a time of confession, which there had not been up to this point. However, the pastor spoke to the importance of confession of sin prior to taking Communion and then led in an extended time dedicated for that purpose. The elements were passed efficiently and silently, and I was grateful to partake.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray Your continued blessings upon this congregation and the pastor as they prepare to separate and follow Your direction for this next phase of their lives. Amen.