Sunday, June 26, 2016

Crossroads Church

Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church, 707 Thomson Park Drive, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 412.494.9999,, Mike Arnold, Campus Pastor.

Scripture – NIV

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 –
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. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Matthew 28:19-20 –
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Luke 18:1 –
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Bob’s thoughts:

With most of our grandchildren participating in a presentation this morning, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to be here to enjoy them. We were doubly blessed to be here for a baptism.

The message today was about prayer. The pastor told of a little boy who had been acting up in a Southern church and as Mom was escorting him out he exclaimed loudly, “Y’all pray for me now.” I think we sometimes are like this; we have been prideful and, like a child, we did not think we needed Him. But when our world starts to collapse, we cry out for God NOW.

I was reminded of a time I was waiting for rush hour traffic to allow my entrance onto the Parkway West, I will never forget the car bearing down behind me at a high rate of speed. My mind picture of my vehicle being driven into traffic was instant as was my prayer: “Jesus!” There was not time for anything else. In the microsecond before impact, the car was moved to scrape the guardrail and pass a hair’s breadth from me. Although most of the right side of the car was attached to the guardrail, it sped into traffic without slowing down. I have not doubted the power of sincere prayer since.

The pastor mentioned someone he had been praying for for 5 years and how that prayer was suddenly answered.

My wife has told me about how one of our daughters couldn’t sleep one night because of concern for me. The two of them prayed for me to stop smoking and drinking. I think it was about 10 years later when God answered their prayer and I was completely transformed.

I am supportive of the church’s current endeavor to encourage “500 spiritual conversations and 500 radical acts of love.”

I need to relate one of my favorites: My son-in-law and I made a shopping trip to a local Giant Eagle. When we returned to my truck, there was a woman waiting for us. She said she simply had to wait and meet the person who had this decal on the dashboard. It was a bumper sticker: “Try Jesus, if you don’t like Him the devil will gladly take you back.”

She spoke of a series of ills that had befallen her family and that she needed to talk to me so much that she had sent her husband to do the shopping, and it was evident that was not too acceptable to him.

I asked if we could pray (I often wondered what my son-in-law thought of that) and she seemed calmer. I gave her the bumper sticker and was touched as I watched as her eyes tear up. It certainly seemed like enough of a God thing and done and over.

A few weeks later at the Family Christian Store I put a replacement bumper sticker on the counter, and each time I came back with other items, the decal was gone. Three decals were bought by others before I finished shopping. When I told the cashier the story behind the purchase, I couldn’t help but notice the customers waiting behind me take interest in the story. Who knows if or how God might have continued to use that simple story to His glory.

Jan’s thoughts:

Today we had the joy of watching 7 of our grandchildren take part in singing some of the KidzXP (Vacation Bible School) songs during worship. They all are an outgoing, high-energy bunch and it was a real delight to watch all the (many!) children and the adults who led them over the last week.

We were pleased to again see the brothers and sisters in Christ who are members here, as well as meet some new friends. We’ve found this to be a warm, welcoming congregation.

We had the privilege of witnessing an infant baptism, which was obviously a special day for that family and the church family.

The message was week two of a series entitled The Bless Revolution. Last week must have been an introduction, because this week’s lesson was called “Begin With Prayer.”

A little background: this church (and presumably the other campuses that comprise it) have undertaken a challenge to impact their communities with the love of Christ by “seeking 500 radical acts of love and 500 spiritual conversations.” Members complete a card with a description of these acts or conversations and they are displayed on a wall.

Hence the “Begin With Prayer” message in which he discussed: “why we pray – because we love others and because we hate the effects of sin in the lives of those we love; how we pray – persistently, regularly, and watchfully.”

“Specific things to pray for: that God will make them curious about spiritual things and that God will surround your friend with witnessing Christians. Ask that they may clearly grasp that they need God’s grace and plead for a clear understanding of Jesus as Savior and Lord.”

Then came today’s challenge to those present: we were to list 5 people we know who are far from Christ and set an alarm on our phone or whatever would work to remind us to pray for those 5 daily at a specific time.

I remain optimistic about this church. They are growing numerically, I am a first-hand witness to how they help each other and how they reach out into their community and around the world. I’m grateful my family is part of this church family and that we can visit occasionally.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray this congregation will take this golden opportunity to act for You in the community and that You bless their efforts. Amen.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Economy United Methodist Church

Today we worshiped at Economy United Methodist Church, 321 1st Street, Freedom, PA 15042, 724.869.7366, Harriet Hutton, Pastor.

Scripture – 2 Samuel 9:1-13 NASB –

Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." The king said, "Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet." So the king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar." Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, "Mephibosheth." And he said, "Here is your servant!" David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." Again he prostrated himself and said, "What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?"

Then the king called Saul's servant Ziba and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master's grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall eat at my table regularly." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table as one of the king's sons. Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who lived in the house of Ziba were servants to Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king's table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet.

Bob’s thoughts:

This was one of the churches on our list that we had saved because of their early worship time.

I appreciated the striking cross. We were warmly greeted before the service and I believe everyone there came by to say hello during the greeting time.

Two women from the congregation relayed tales of recent scam IRS phone calls and the extent of the information the scammers had on them. It reminded me of my brother’s response when they told him he owed taxes on income from 2013. He replied that all his earnings for that year were from selling illegal drugs and all the money was spent on illicit endeavors, so he had no money to send them, so they hung up. Not that I recommend that course…

The sermon wove around David as a father, something he was poor at from what we know. But from Biblical accounts, he treated Mephibosheth well as an adopted son.

This is a small congregation, so I think it was particularly helpful that the pastor came down to their level to talk, like family.

Reference was made to David not being completely at fault because Bathsheba was bathing on the roof. This sounds off to current ears; however I believe this was the custom at that time.

The question raised was, how can David be a man after God’s own heart? We men must all look inside and ask how can He use a hopeless sinner such as I. We kneel broken in awe that He can and does, praise God. We are all like David somehow, still working though some part that may have been left out, kind of like being a screw loose for Christ.

Jan’s thoughts:

The moment we walked in the door, straight ahead up the center aisle, was a lovely chancel featuring a backlit cross accented by a white cloth. I can live without seeing a cross, but the beauty of that sight took me by surprise.

A few members stopped to introduce themselves before the service, then during the formal greeting time everyone present greeted everyone else there, including us.

The message was entitled “David, man of faith, man of faults.” The pastor began by re-telling the story of David from Goliath to Bathsheba and onward. She described David in his later years as a broken man with a dysfunctional family, but pointed out that God uses broken people.

She told the story of Chuck Colson, who was sentenced to seven months in prison for masterminding the Watergate affair. In the course of that relatively brief stay, however, Colson was born again, and when he emerged he was an entirely new person. She likened it to when a man takes apart a lawn mower, and when he puts it back together he may find he is left with an extra part. She affirmed that when we are broken and God puts us back together, He will leave out some pieces, too.

Knowing we are never too broken to be used by God gives me great hope…it also reminds me that we are all a work in progress.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, dads-to-be, foster dads, and moms who do it all!

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray the eyes of this congregation are open to Your guidance and direction and that You bless and encourage them toward the vision You give. Amen.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

One-on-One Time

Today we traded the opportunity to worship for the chance to spend more time with our daughter and granddaughters from out of town. I hope we provided a good sounding board for her to talk out her concerns about a potential life change.

Although we have been praying for her to move back closer to us, we recognize God’s leading in her life. Even as we watch His orchestration and come to accept His design, we still struggle to understand His plan for our own lives. The best we seem capable of is blessed hindsight.

Lord, we pray we are obedient and trust as we go where You send us without the blessing of hindsight. Amen

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Christ Bible Church

Today we worshiped at Christ Bible Church, 2721 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.2780,, Jimmy Caraway, Pastor-Teacher.

Scripture – NASB

Acts 20:1-12 –
After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him." When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

Matthew 26:17-19 –
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?" And He said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, "My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples."'" The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

Bob’s thoughts:

Shortly after we came in we were welcomed by a gentleman who engaged us in conversation, pointed out the restrooms and worship space, and spoke with us again after we toured around the facility.

We were invited to the social room for coffee. Being the less behaved of us diabetics, I had a taste of sweet roll and to her delight, Jan found a Greek yogurt. I noticed someone cueing the pastor to the presence of visitors and, after chatting briefly with the pastor, another member came by to talk, a most welcoming presence.

The signage was good, although we missed the sign for restrooms when we came in. We noticed it when we toured the lower levels; most of the areas were identified.

Many of the hallways and rooms are decorated with paintings of animals or flowers; it must be a fun place for children…the young ones we got to interact with sure seemed happy.

The sanctuary has a large wooden cross, comfortable seating arranged well with great aisle spacing. There was an informal welcoming feel to the sanctuary that is conducive to a good worship.

I greatly enjoyed the voice of the lead singer and was particularly impressed with the harmony when the second vocalist joined in.

The message was on the passages in Matthew 26 about the Last Supper with Christ. The pastor brought to light many interesting details and nuances of the times well supported by many Scripture references. Some of the understanding of the times that you usually only hear in Messianic Jewish services were presented here and added a lot. I’m sorry that we most likely won’t be here to hear the application of a good message.

There was a time for personal confession before Communion and prayer. The elements were served silently and the pastor was served.

We enjoyed time with the pastor after the service and I appreciated his insight.

Most impressive was how many children came up to talk to the pastor after the service and how many families stayed after just to socialize with each other. There is a healthy mix of “little ones” and “gray hairs” that makes for a strong church.

Jan’s thoughts:

After driving past this church several times over the last week, we decided to visit today.

We arrived in plenty of time and were greeted and engaged by a gentleman who seemed knowledgeable and was willing to tell us some of the history of the church.

We inadvertently walked past the signs pointing toward the restrooms, but as we took a self-guided tour we noticed plenty of directional signage that was even coordinated with the colors of the walls and floors.

Once Sunday school ended, we were invited to join the coffee and fellowship time, which we did. I was tempted to enjoy one of the muffins, but since I was trying to behave, I was grateful to find Greek yogurt was an option. As we sat, the pastor and another gentleman stopped and introduced themselves and took some time for conversation. Afterward we went back down to the sanctuary/auditorium and found seats.

The music was presented by a talented team who played piano, keyboard, guitars, and drums. The voices blended seamlessly, the volume was excellent, and the timing of the slide changes on the screen was impeccable.

Although it was Acts 20:1-12 that was read at the beginning of the service, the teaching was based on Matthew 26:17-19. The pastor opened by stating that Jesus knew why He was here on earth and that He was headed for Calvary, but no external power could stop Him and He was never a victim of circumstance. Jesus looked through the suffering to see the glory, and that’s what we are called to do also.

He affirmed that it took a life to free the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, and it cost a life to free humans from the bondage of sin. The former life was that of an unblemished lamb while the latter was the Life of the One and Only Son of God. Because Christ took our place on the cross, we have been delivered once, for all, forever, at such a great cost.

The pastor included many Scripture references and taught numerous details about how Passover became Communion as well as many other aspects of Scripture.

I appreciated the opportunity to participate in Communion.

We sincerely appreciated the pastor’s time in conversation following worship.

Our prayer for this church:

Lord, there are many of Your churches looking for healing; we pray that as they search they hear and believe Your Living Word. Amen.