Sunday, July 31, 2016
Today we worshiped at Faith Journey Alliance Church, 1705 Beaver Grade Road, Moon Township, PA 15108, 412.264.1725, www.faithjourneyac.org.
Scripture – Leviticus 19:2 (NKJV)
“Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.'
We were warmly welcomed to this small, friendly church.
I meant to get a closer look at the interesting carved wooden cross up front with flowers around it and what may have been Alpha and Omega on either side.
I sensed some spiritual warfare going on and this was confirmed in talking with a member after the service. They have had their problems and are without a pastor right now but are fighting for Christ anyhow. I think there must be some committed believers here to cause the devil such concern.
The message was delivered via video and brought some good points that supported the laity’s comments earlier. The sermon was titled “Return to Sanity.”
We easily get caught up in the thought that we are good, but Christ tells us only the Father is good. When we recognize God’s perfection, we see the sin within us. We prove Christ right: He came sinless and we murdered Him.
The world is teaching that God is evolving, that His Word, the Bible, is evolving, but they won’t admit God is perfect or that they are not.
Many faithful believers profess the need for God to evolve to meet what they think would be fair and accommodating, but they are trying to placate man.
Didn’t catch all of the line toward the end, but heard “beats the bejesus out of.”
I enjoyed watching some cute children and talking with a few members.
This is a fairly small and self-confessed “tight knit” faith community that was still friendly enough for more than a few people to seek out visitors just to extend a greeting. The gentleman serving as the unofficial greeter also made sure we received invitations to next week’s picnic and knew there were coffee and donuts available. Following the service he took time for an extended conversation about the past and future plans of the church.
The chairs in the sanctuary were comfortable and I was intrigued by the tables and chairs set up on both sides of the room.
As this church is currently without pastoral leadership, the message that was presented on the screen was given by the pastor of the Allegheny Center Alliance Church, Rev. Rock Dillaman, and was called “Return to Sanity.”
He went into great depth in speaking of the “spiritual insanity” of sin and stated clearly what is meant when Scripture states that God is holy. He said sin is the result of our selfish decisions, it destroys harmony with God, and in order to regain our spiritual sanity we must confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness.
He also spoke of the sin of idolatry and how close it is to every person, urging everyone to recognize and fight these dangerous lies.
I believe these are some of the spiritual battles we all must face in this world, and they are certainly constant.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray for Your continued presence and guidance for this church as they are replenished through training. We trust You also are looking forward to the things they will accomplish for You in Your Holy Name. Amen.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Today we worshiped at Church of the Living Christ, 220 West Allegheny Road, Imperial, PA 15126, 724.695.7188, www.cotlc.com, Pastors Matt & Tami Shouse.
Scripture – NIV
Proverbs 3:5-7 –
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
Matthew 6:33 –
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Jeremiah 29:11 –
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Romans 10:17 –
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Psalm 119:33-38 –
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.
Proverbs 3:7 –
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
Proverbs 3:9 –
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
John 14:26 –
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
2 Timothy 1:14 –
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Zephaniah 3:12 –
But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord.
Zephaniah 3:17 –
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
This was a welcoming church; many of the members engaged us in conversation. The sanctuary was tastefully decorated along with the social area downstairs and the restrooms.
Crosses were projected on the screen before the service and a handsome wooden cross on the wall was revealed when the screen was raised for the sermon.
I appreciated the personal testimony early in the service.
I liked the sound of the praise band but noticed the congregation sang the loudest when there were no words projected.
I had difficulty hearing the prayer over the piano.
The sermon was about trusting in God: how much is lip service and how much is true complete trust. How quick we are to fall back to a known evil rather than step forward in complete trust.
I have always felt retrospectively that God waited a long time to claim me, maybe the first 50 years He was waiting for me to step out in faith. When He did claim me, I was completely overcome. In my life in Christ I continue to be overwhelmed every day.
There has not been a day I did not feel His love. I cannot imagine going through dark times like the loss of our son without God. He has cared for us in all life’s trials; many times I didn’t know how to pay our bills, but the money was always there when we needed it. And the more we gave away in faith, the more He entrusted to us.
It’s important to spend that time in prayer so when you feel called to step out in faith, you know Who is calling.
A young man smiled warmly as he opened the door for us when we approached the building, and about five people greeted us immediately, handing us bulletins and a welcome packet. The pastor happened to be in the vicinity and introduced himself, then escorted us downstairs to the restrooms and coffee. A number of people introduced themselves all along the way, and almost anyone who did not do so before worship, did so afterward. The welcome was genuine and hospitable.
The entire building was tastefully decorated, and one of the interesting touches I noticed both downstairs and in the sanctuary were panels of string art. It was a pretty, unique touch.
The voices of the pianist and the guitar player were the only two I could hear, but they blended well, though the instruments seemed to drown out the voices occasionally.
The pastor’s wife presented announcements with enthusiasm.
The message, “Trusting in God,” began with a terrific story about a women who dreamed she was walking with Jesus. He asked if she trusted Him, and she agreed to the trust exercise where she allows herself to fall backward and He, standing behind her, catches her. She was filled with a new sense of trust in Him, until He asked her to trust Him as He stood in front of her while she fell backward. This, of course, is the definition of faith.
The pastor pointed out that’s how most of us trust God…in some situations but not all. The focus of trust is full obedience and submission. Instead of trying to “help God out a bit,” instead of choosing a path and expecting God to approve it, we need to remember “God has already chosen a blessable path.” We need to cry out to Him, ask Him for direction, and then wait as a servant, listening to the Holy Spirit and not our deceitful hearts.
Toward the end the pastor spoke of one of Satan’s favorite tools: shame. He said we must surrender everything to God – including our shame – and rest in His love. I for one forget to do that with feelings I wish I didn’t have, but of course that’s the way through them is to talk to God about them. I appreciated the reminder.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this congregation always recognized Your voice and is prepared to follow, secure in their faith. Amen.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Today we worshiped at Dutilh Church, 1270 Dutilh Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.1094, www.dutilhumc.org, Tom Parkinson, Senior Pastor.
Luke 10:38-42 –
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Matthew 7:21-23 –
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
We were greeted by only a few people, the norm for a church with multiple services, but to me always seems backwards. I think it is a loss not to get to know members who attend at a different time than you, and maybe get to welcome a visitor.
We were treated to a good cup of coffee and a few minutes to look around. Some years ago there was an article in Guideposts magazine about this church’s resurrection after a fire and it has always had a special place in my heart.
The large cross in the sanctuary is suspended in front of colorful stained glass windows. The side stained glass looked musical to me, a term I never would have thought of. Everything about the church seemed brighter and more alive than what I remember from our last visit.
We were honored to be present for a commissioning of members for upcoming mission endeavors. I don’t remember mission being a priority the last time we visited but was thrilled to see they support Pittsburgh Project and Center for Hope, a couple of my favorites.
I was glad we got to hear the female lead sing alone as I enjoyed her voice and the harmony with the male lead singer.
The sermon, “Stepping on the Scale,” maybe should have been the balance scales, our “doing for” God and our time “being with” God. The message developed from the Scripture about Martha and Mary and the importance of serving and being.
We were long-time members of a mainline church and served in many areas including the governing body. When we left, there was a necessary time of getting back to knowing and worshiping God without the overwhelming serving.
The pastor also talked of when they served a community dinner on a regular basis and how people would get burned out and quit. The best we ever did was invite the homeless from the men’s shelter to Maundy Thursday dinner. We sent chartered buses for them and had them sit them randomly so they could interact with members of the congregation at each table. It was truly a blessed time.
I have had a vegetable and flower garden most of my life and last year felt God wanted me to give it up. Like most Christians, I prayed about what God wanted me to do instead of gardening. I was sending truckloads of produce to the local food pantry and supplying a lot of others with fresh organic food. I thought, of course I was doing what God wanted me to do, so I put in a garden.
This year I planted peas on St. Patrick’s Day and prepared for a downsized garden. I heard from God again, “I meant that about the garden.” I had toiled under the idea that this was what God wanted and never realized this was what Bob decided that God wanted.
I don’t know what He will lead me to do next, but today’s sermon reassured me that my time spent with Christ will be infinitely better than anything I do on my own.
I have a cousin who spent many years in school pursuing his doctorate before a career teaching school. He came to visit, we got a cold beverage and some cheese to snack on, and sat on our back porch watching nature. He commented that he had gone to school for a long time to learn that what I was doing was what he was seeking, that chance to relax and enjoy what was around us. I think we need to take time to know and enjoy God.
When I think of Martha and Mary, my mother Mary comes to mind. When she prepared the big family dinner, it was all one room with the dining area so even when she was busy with preparations she was still able to converse with her sisters who were visiting. I hope, by that interaction, she felt as much a part of the occasion as those of us who dined.
Back in May a member of this church invited us to re-visit after their new pastor arrived on July 1, so that’s what we did.
A trio of women greeted us warmly the moment we entered and kindly directed us toward the coffee and cookies that were set out.
The lobby area is spacious and colorfully decorated. We found plenty of directional signage as we sought the restrooms. I found the stained glass breathtaking.
I appreciated the Order of Worship along with the numerous announcements. This seems to be a very busy church and involved in a great deal of outreach. Today two mission groups were commissioned: one group will work with The Pittsburgh Project and the other will head to Costa Rica. In the course of the commissioning, the pastor made the strong point that every person who will participate in these missions is a minister, they should take that authority seriously, and remember they are representative of Jesus Christ. This is true for every Christian everywhere, even when we are not on a mission trip.
The music for this contemporary service was well presented and the voices of the two vocal leads blended flawlessly.
I can’t recall the last time I heard a Prayer for Illumination, especially just prior to reading the Scripture, but one was offered today.
The sermon (which was delivered without notes) was entitled “Stepping on the Scale” but it did not mean what I was afraid it might. It was about “being with versus doing for.” The pastor told a story about when he made Easter dinner for friends and how he was so busy with making / serving / cleaning up after dinner that he had no time to spend with the guests. He equated this story to the familiar one of Mary and Martha wherein Martha did exactly what was expected of a woman in that situation (i.e., prepared food) while Mary broke the cultural rules by sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha was busy “doing for” Jesus while Mary was “being with” Jesus, and Jesus said Mary chose the better thing.
He pointed out that when “doing for” Jesus outweighs “being with” Him, we are operating on a spiritual deficit. We must balance the scale between “doing for” and “being with” Jesus.
He also stated that although Christ knows everything about us and all that is in our heart, He gains access to our heart for purposes of transformation when we stop and simply “be with” Him. That we must open our heart to Him because He does not take what we do not give Him. But if we want Him to know us, we must allow Him access.
This was a different spin on a familiar Bible story, and I learned that I need to work on balance. I’m always asking God what He wants me to do, and the message I heard today made me think perhaps Jesus doesn’t want me to “do” something but to just “be with” Him.
I think He wants that sort of time with all His children.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church continues to serve You and the community, but even more so that they spend time just getting to know You. Amen.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Today we worshiped at Morado Faith Tabernacle, 4th Avenue & 46th Street, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, Donald W. Knapp, Pastor.
Scripture – ESV
John 10:1-4 –
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
Galatians 5:19-21 –
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We struggled for a while to grasp God’s leading to where to worship today. While driving aimlessly, we ended up at this church shortly before the start time. As we parked, we met some people outside who cautioned that they were a small church; we half dozen gathered to worship together.
I was surprised again with the choice of the hymn “It is Well With My Soul,” a song significant to us from the time of our son’s death.
The morning prayer was offered, including a time for personal confession. A perspective was expressed that Christ knows the name of every star and the hairs of our head are numbered; it is beyond our comprehension that God could care that much.
The pastor referred to an old movie, “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves” and when they came to their sanctuary space and called out “Open Sesame,” the secret doors opened much like the automatic doors on our stores now.
I was reminded of a visit to a store with my 5-year-old grandson. As we approached and the doors opened I teased him that he must be magic to open the doors. He said no, it was just God. I wish we could all learn to think like that.
We were having a difficult time determining where to worship, so we got into our vehicle and drove and we ended up here. We have been past this building before, since two of our daughters attended college down the street, and I have always wondered about this cozy-looking little place with such an unusual name.
Before we even entered the building, we encountered the pastor’s wife and daughter exiting their vehicle at the same time. After telling us a little about the church, we accompanied them inside.
We sat in the back and all four of the others present introduced themselves and we had conversation. Each person present participated in the service somehow, most through prayer, while the pastor’s wife played the organ; the singing was reserved. There was prayer for others from the congregation.
The message contained reminders of some of Jesus’ I AM statements and that Jesus Christ is the only doorway to God the Father.
In speaking of the John 10 passage, he stated there are many types of thieves, including false teachers, habits, and desires, all of which are used by Satan to steal God’s best from us. I could not agree more.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church of Yours is open to Your purpose for them and that You are glorified through them. Amen.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Today we worshiped at Christ Church at Grove Farm, 249 Duff Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, 412.741.4900, www.cgf.org, Rev. Dr. Jared Ott, Rector/Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Psalm 33:8-22 NIV
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
We usually feel that a holiday weekend provides an inaccurate picture of a church we have not been to before. The patriotic music from the traditional service caught my attention and might have negated that theory as it looked full of robust worshipers.
We were greeted at the door and during the formal greeting time but invisible the rest of the time, the downfall of multiple services. Someone did stop to shake my hand as he was entering the traditional service.
I enjoyed the large cross suspended above the stage and the stained glass window frame-type panels on the stage with different colors projected from behind. I also appreciated the presentation of a Johnny Cash song and the pastor’s patriotic stole.
There were some blue spotlights on the stage that kept hitting me in the eye when the parishioners that were blocking them moved….they made it hard to enjoy the familiar praise music. Maybe those “blockers” were also trying to shield themselves from the light.
The pastor spoke of needing to purchase sunglasses when the ones he had were hiding elsewhere. After trying on a few for fit, he found a pair that allowed the high definition he was seeking and he was able to see the undistorted scenery “like God sees it.” I pray we all have more opportunities to sit back and enjoy what He has created “as He sees it.”
The message dealt with the facts of the birth of our country and the undeniable guidance of Christ on the Founding Fathers. We have had the propaganda pushed upon us that the desire was a separation of church and state but statements made by our founders prove, and I firmly believe, just the opposite was true. They knew a country without Christ would fail. God had blessed their efforts to acquire freedom and made it to become a great nation.
We have been so caught up with the devil’s guile we push toward our own demise. This country cannot be great again until we plead for God’s forgiveness and prayerfully invite Him back. I think we all need to pray for a high definition view of what is happening to America.
It was a joy to be served Communion verbally with a time of confession that allowed a true personal communion.
Not a lot seems to have changed in the almost two years since our last visit. Being a holiday weekend, the café was closed to give those volunteers a holiday as well; however I was glad to see coffee and donuts available. After enjoying these, we found seats in the contemporary service.
As is often the case with a contemporary service, when the music began the room was sparsely occupied, and by the time the music ended it was nearly full. This never ceases to amaze me.
While the offering was being taken the praise team presented a Johnny Cash song called “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” The words were a somber reassurance of the impossibility of escaping God’s judgment.
The Rev. Dr. John Guest, in his distinctive British accent, presented the message entitled “A God Blessed Nation.”
Before getting too far into the sermon, John stated that the Billy Graham Evangelical Association plans to hold an outdoor prayer meeting in Harrisburg on September 15, and this church hopes to send a number of people to participate.
John spoke of the “current climate around our country and the disturbing emptiness and despair resulting from removing God, His Ten Commandments, and prayer from our culture.” He pointed to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, “the extraordinary price they paid,” the historical fact of their strong Christian faith and utter reliance upon God as stated over and over in numerous and varied documents…a heritage many would deny with the cry of the myth of separation of church and state.
He stated “the answer to our problems, be they national, cultural, or even personal, will only be found in Jesus Christ” and referred to 1 Corinthians 1 in which we learn “God is committed to foiling plans that are not His.”
John seemed pleased to refer to himself as an ex-Englishman and to state his calling as that of a “missionary to the United States.” On that basis he said he prays intensely for the conversion of Barack Obama, for the upcoming election, and for a moral and spiritual awakening in this country. He urged those in attendance to “get on their knees and plead to God on behalf of our country.’
I appreciated being able to partake of Communion and found it meaningful to receive the elements with the verbal reminder that Christ’s gift was for me.
We appreciated the time one of the pastors took to speak with us and pray for us following the service.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, with a recent eye injury, I can readily appreciate “open our eyes that we may see.” Give us all the high definition look we are missing. “Come, Lord Jesus, come” be the center of our lives. Amen.