Monday, November 28, 2016
Yesterday we worshiped at New Church, meeting location – Robinhood Road Family YMCA, 3474 Robinhood Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27106, 336.293.4495, www.newchurchnc.org, Pastor T.J. Ward.
Scripture – NLT
Matthew 14:22-28 –
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ”
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
John 3:17 –
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Matthew 26:36-44 –
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.
I searched Google for a church near where our daughter is living and the name New Church caught my interest. It was only a few miles away and on our route out of town going home. I admit the name made me wonder if there is an “Old Church,” but that’s the way my head is wired.
We were welcomed and shown the way to the worship area. The church is meeting in a YMCA and perhaps is not allowed a cross.
I was glad I brought earplugs and after a few songs I probably could have done without them.
The church recently purchased property and are working to pay it off while looking toward building a permanent structure.
The pastor’s brother-in-law delivered the message, the finale of a “No Fear November” series. The sermon centered on our fear of commitment and was well supported by Scripture. When he talked of Peter walking on water with Christ, it brought back a memory from my time in the Marines.
I was on the LPH Iwo Jima and we were in a typhoon, a storm so severe we needed to secure our helicopters with huge chains. Doing this with the ship bobbing severely in the rough seas with pouring rain came the reality that our aircraft would be safe but we would never be found if we were washed overboard. I have successfully taught many people to swim but still struggle with it myself. I learned to be drown-proof but in seas that rough it really wouldn’t matter. I don’t think we did our job with faith like Peter, just fear of those ordering us to the task.
We were privileged to spend a little time with the pastor after the service and hear a bit of how God is using this church.
We decided to attend worship before leaving the area following our Thanksgiving visit with our daughter and granddaughters. I believe this was our first church visit at a YMCA location, and it was obvious a great deal of effort was put into setting up everything.
We were welcomed from the moment we entered: a young man offered to show us around, pointed out the restrooms, and the direction of the worship area. While Bob used the facilities, I went to find a place to sit. The music was playing as I entered and as I looked for a seat as far back as possible a gentleman attempted to guide me. I explained we would need to sit wherever it would be least loud, and he knew just where to place us. He was gracious and kind and I appreciated his expertise.
The music was well done, but as with last week, I did not know the songs. I declined the earplugs offered by our new friend, though I literally felt the bass in my chest.
The chairs were all arranged toward the front, providing plenty of room for expansion.
We learned in conversation with the pastor afterward that this non-denominational church really is new…they began in 2011 with 12 people and have since grown to approximately 400. They support a number of local missions as well as equipping and sending people to plant churches around the world.
The church recently purchased land for a building of their own and they are close to accomplishing their goal of paying off that purchase prior to moving forward.
The pastor introduced the guest preacher, Josh Sheetz, who also happened to be his brother-in-law. Josh hails from Jacksonville, Florida, and exuded genuine praise for his brother-in-law’s leadership skills.
This message was the final part of a series entitled No Fear November and this week’s topic was the Fear of Commitment. He defined commitment as dedication to a cause or activity that requires risk and investment and provides the benefits of trust and joy.
He stated: 1 – commitment is counter-cultural…our culture applauds lack of commitment; 2 – commitment creates Christ-likeness…Jesus’ commitment was strengthened as He was tempted in the desert and we are called from what we know; 3 – commitment requires risk but culminates with incredible outcomes…at some point, we realize we need God’s help, and Jesus is glorified when we risk.
He concluded by suggesting everyone ask God where He wants us to commit courageously.
The pastor graciously took time between services to tell us some of the history of New Church.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we praise You for the powerful witness this church has been and pray You continue to strengthen and guide them into the future You have planned for them. Amen.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Today we worshiped at Aliquippa Christian Assembly, 166 West Shaffer Road, Aliquippa, PA 15001 724.775.9101, www.aliquippachristianassembly.org, Pastor John Bannon.
Scripture – NKJV
Ephesians 2:8-10 –
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Romans 5:15-18 –
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
Romans 8:1 –
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Romans 6:14 –
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Hebrews 7:26-28 –
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
Romans 8:15-16 –
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
Galatians 3:13-14 –
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
2 Corinthians 5:21 –
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Ephesians 2:4-9 –
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Galatians 3:13-14 – MSG –
Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.
Deuteronomy 28:3-13 –
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.”
Psalm 84:10-12 –
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!
As we tried to decide where to worship today, I remembered this church as being hard to find. Sure enough, the GPS dead-ended us in a residential area, but my navigator got us back on track in time.
We were welcomed often from the door to the sanctuary. We both peaked early on standing to sing, and I had a first: a woman came in to sit in front of us and inquired if I would be able to see okay with her there.
From the rear of the sanctuary the blocks that form the impressive cross look like wood, so I had to stop after the service to confirm the construction. The chancel/stage has the welcoming look of a living room.
The choir seemed to struggle a bit like a traditional choir with praise songs, but warmed up with a rousing song at the offering.
Seeing some of the words on the screen was challenging because they consisted of white letters over white water scenes.
A lot of Scripture was quoted in the message but I had trouble finding it in time; I usually need to know the book before the chapter and verse.
The message was well supported by Scripture; one important thought was our ability to resist temptation to sin with help from the Holy Spirit.
Following the sermon there was an altar call that didn’t seem hurried at all.
We had a great visit with the pastor after the service. I also got to meet a Marine and a daughter of a Marine, which is always a highlight for me.
I was delighted to hear there is a prayer ministry in place to have those who are shut in praying for those with needs. This is something I feel God encouraging me to suggest to the churches we visit.
I would encourage signage further out at the main road. There are people out there that need this church and don’t know it’s here.
It has been seven years since our last visit here. We were greeted as we entered the door and by numerous others before, during, and after worship.
The spacious lobby seemed empty, probably due to preparation for Christmas decorating after the service. The worship area is large with well-spaced, comfortable chairs. The chancel had a living room-type feel to it because of two chairs, and it’s all nicely coordinated.
The voices of the praise band blended beautifully. I knew none of the five songs at the beginning, but I thought the one sang as the offering was taken, The River, was inspiring.
The pastor used numerous Scripture references to illustrate his point that grace is God’s free gift, the source of salvation which is already accomplished at the cross. Because God the Father took out His wrath on His Son on the cross, He is no longer angry with those who believe and we can therefore expect good from God, not wrath.
But it’s not about us…it’s all about Jesus. He willingly gave His life to ransom all who would accept His gift of forgiveness. He was the only one who could possibly accomplish this mission. He is the key, and by believing in Him, we are set free. Hallelujah!
We appreciated the extended conversation with the pastor following worship.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray for Your continued Presence as this congregation works to impact their neighborhood with the Good News. Amen.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Today we worshiped at Mosaic Community Church, 2801 N. Charles Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15214, 412.321.3911, mosaicpittsburgh.org, Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Volunteer Presbyterian Pastor.
Scripture – Luke 11:1-13 NIV
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. ’ ”
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Donʼt bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I canʼt get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
We went to hear a friend preach today but the election affected a change in the preaching schedule so we were there for a message from another dear friend instead.
It is always a joy to worship here, this congregation has such contagious enthusiasm and a hunger for the Word and message.
There are always more than a few young children to make me smile and it was a delight to see old friends and meet new ones.
The message took Scripture and gave it current application, particularly to the recent election. I pray we all remember nothing happens that surprises God and there is nobody God can’t use for His purposes. Thankfully, in that we have no vote.
I was encouraged to hear about the funding that has come to the Pittsburgh Promise and the good that has come from the program Saleem has steered.
As always it is a joy to see how Christ is at work in and through our Christian brothers and sisters. I found a personal assurance and reminder from the large wooden cross decorated with colorful mosaic pieces: God has places He can use each of us.
It was three weeks ago that we were invited to worship here today, and the world seems very different than when the invitation was received. Nonetheless, it was good to be here as this church has always been warm and welcoming and we were able to worship with friends old and new.
Hospitality was evident with friendly chatter around the generous breakfast spread, and every time we visit here there are more little ones running around.
The music was led by the talented praise band and many present took advantage of the opportunity to request prayer.
Saleem began his untitled message with stories detailing why this past week was at once and for different reasons a hard, glorious, and humbling one for him. He spoke of justice and the Biblical definition of a just society as one where the widow, orphan, and alien fare well. He reminded that God’s people are called to care for those who have no one else to care for them, and that being alive means being called.
He said he would pick up where he left off last week in teaching about The Lord’s Prayer. I appreciated his statement that when we pray we should let our prayer shape us. And the teaching about Luke 11:13, (If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!)…Jesus taught that His Father gives not “good gifts” but the best gift, the Holy Spirit.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we are grateful for Your steady hand that still guides Your Church. We pray for continued understanding and love in and through this congregation. Amen.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Today we worshiped at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 799 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228, 412.343.8900, www.spchurch.org, Rev. Dr. Daniel B. Merry, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Numbers 10:33-36 NIV
So they set out from the mountain of the Lord and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.
Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.”
Whenever it came to rest, he said, “Return, Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel.”
We needed to be in the South Hills this morning and had narrowed our choices to three churches, but when we were ready to leave early we opted for this 8 a.m. service we’ve been wanting to visit. This early service is in the chapel and we were blessed to be there. Something as simple as the passing of Christ’s Peace was so different here, and most of the worshipers greeted us during this time.
As we entered and were admonished by the usher to smile, t made me think how often our faith is evaluated by our demeanor. I remembered being chastised while in a mall wearing a Christian shirt. I was having a bad day and it showed. In honest self-appraisal afterward the concept of being glad in Christ in all circumstances was clear to me, and I have tried to live my life that way.
We were blessed to be here for an adult baptism which seemed much more powerful in this smaller venue.
The message wove around Moses trying to lead his people through the desert, and maybe more so, God trying to lead His people.
We are good at wandering but not so inclined to listening. Moses was shepherding about 1.5 million people for two years to get them to the Promised Land. When their needs surfaced, God provided every time, but they were still unwilling to trust God.
We judge them in retrospect on their lack of faith. Saturday, when I discovered my newer roof was leaking, I complained without thanking God that I owned a house that could have a leaky roof. Since coming to Christ there has never been a time that we weren’t taken care of and He will show us how to overcome this too.
I enjoyed the duet of “Lamb of God” during the offering. The Communion elements were offered verbally, which was an uplifting change.
I would be hard-pressed to decide which I found more delightful, the baby boy peeking over mom’s shoulder or big sister dancing in the aisle during the last song.
I was overjoyed to welcome the newest baptized member of the Church.
As many times as we have worshiped here, we were strangers to the 8 a.m. service. Today seemed a good day to remedy that oversight.
The friendliness of this congregation always amazes me. In the past we have observed that members of a congregation with multiple services often do not recognize visitors, but with three services each Sunday, people at this church are consistently welcoming.
This early service is held in the Chapel and had a cozy feel to it. We were privileged to be present for both Sacraments, Baptism and Communion, as well we the Time of Remembering of all the saints from this congregation who joined the Church Triumphant over this past year, an obviously a meaningful time for those present.
All education efforts seem to focus on The Story, as adult and children’s Sunday school classes, Bible study, and worship messages are immersed in this book. Today’s message, “Wandering and Listening,” was presented by Rev. Sharon Stewart. She spoke of the desert wanderings of the Israelites and how God provided for their every need in spite of the people whining, complaining, listening to their fear, and wayward disobedience. God brought life to His people in this landless, desert time. He is a transformer of situations Who feeds, nourishes and provides in desert circumstances. Just as the Israelites had to learn to trust God in their journey, so do we. God’s Holy Spirit lives in us…we need not fear.
This message was a timely reminder, two days before a contentious election. I was grateful we were present to hear this.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we felt Your blessing on this small group and thank You for Your Presence there. We pray for Your continued rich blessings on this congregation as they continue to serve You. Amen.