Monday, December 26, 2016
Yesterday we worshiped at Pathway Church, 239 Braun Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.843.6381, lifeatpathway.com, Jeff McNicol, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Romans 5:8 –
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Luke 21:28 –
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Last week we were in North Carolina and looking forward to worshiping there, but our daughter was called to the hospital for heart-related emergencies so often that we missed the opportunity.
For Saturday’s Christmas Eve service, we worshiped at Grace Church. A friend of our daughters’ from Geneva College recognized me before the service and we got to chat a bit before she returned to sit with her family.
We enjoyed our coffee and worshiped in the calmer, quieter overflow room, by ourselves as it turned out. I enjoyed the lead female singer and the talented music team.
This morning we were blessed to worship at Pathway where several people welcomed us. With the inspired Christmas decoration I almost missed seeing the impressive cross. The sax and strings were a welcome addition to the other musicians and the voice of the female lead.
The sermon was presented by three of the pastors who commented on their favorite Christmas hymns.
It was mentioned that the beauty of God’s invitation is God’s perfect timing: I can certainly vouch for that based on when He called me.
One of the pastors spoke of his tragic loss of a child and that unlike the loss of a spouse, where one becomes a widow(er), or the loss of a parent where one becomes an orphan, there is no equivalent word when one loses a child. I had never considered the unnamed aspect of this loss, but he added that God had experienced this loss Himself and thus He understands. I was thankful we got to minister to each other some after the service and grateful God led us to worship here.
Noticing all the businesses closed reminded me of when I was much younger, there were two drug stores in our small town. One owner was Catholic and the other Jewish, so when one was closed for a special day like Christmas, the other would be open to handle the needs of the community. They had a lot more freedom then to help the competitor’s customers.
I don’t remember so many churches closed on a Sunday Christmas but I am thankful for God’s Presence here today.
After missing church while traveling last weekend, I was pleased we were led to invigorating services both last night and this morning.
We have worshiped here a number of times, but the facility looked quite different than I recalled as the church is in the midst of a building project. The atmosphere was festive and friendly: several folks introduced themselves and welcomed us, which made it even more of a joy to be there.
The message was centered on hymns that bore particular significance to the speakers. Each included some background on the hymn and explained what it meant to them. The stories were full of passion and significance, appropriate for the day.
I truly appreciated the music: it was outstanding, and the violin and saxophone added an exceptional texture.
I was grateful for the time of the one pastor and his wife and the opportunity for mutual ministry in loss.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we feel the excitement of Your church and pray for Your continued overwhelming blessings. Amen.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Today we worshiped at New Hope Community Church, 592 Beaver Road, Ambridge, PA 15003, 724.266.0890, www.4newhope.org, Rick Thornhill, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – NKJV
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
We were warmly welcomed at the door, including a hug.
I was disappointed not to find a cross until we stood up to sing and found the cross off to one side. There is still a lot of work going on as they continue to make this their church home. This is a somewhat complicated facility but I didn’t notice any signage.
I was impressed by a family sitting near us when I saw them hold hands during the corporate prayer. I also loved watching a father hold his young son as they exchanged hugs and kisses.
The volume was a little high for me but I think it has more to do with the acoustics of the space. The message and prayers were hard for me to hear also, I’m guessing due to the echo effect.
With my hearing problems, I’m not sure how accurate my grasp of the message might be. Something that stuck however was that Christ and Christianity draws us out of our comfort zone. I recalled how many times I have voiced my discomfort about performing a particular ministry and I swear I can hear God chuckle when that is the very situation I’m confronted with next.
The pastor told of a woman presenting herself for prayer who, it became obvious, was demon possessed. How ill-equipped we are to believe it or react…how do we explain the evil? The Devil is real.
A concept I hadn’t thought of was the pastor’s description of Paul in prison, chained to a Roman guard dressed in his armor while Paul writes what we read in Ephesians about putting on the full armor of God. May we remember to use the same protection when we face spiritual warfare.
With the first snow of the season still falling, we decided to stay close to home today.
The last time we visited this church, they were meeting in the downstairs fellowship area and on the verge of moving to the sanctuary of this former Catholic church.
The pastor mentioned that recently a veteran’s memorial was dedicated which included a wall with a memorial object for a number of veterans. I would have liked to look at the wall more closely, but I think I’ll save that for a warmer day. The larger stone was engraved with the symbol of the Fallen Soldier, and looked striking even from across the street.
A gentleman greeted us and held the door for us as we entered and we were warmly welcomed by a number of people. There were many children among this congregation as well.
We sat more than halfway back but the architecture is such that an echo is unavoidable. The leadership is implementing a great deal of rehabilitation so this will likely be addressed.
The greeting time was much longer than anticipated, which was a fine thing as it gave everyone plenty of time to greet friends and visitors.
The pastor has spent the last four months preaching through the book of Ephesians in a series entitled Onward Christian Soldiers and today’s entry, We Will Not Lose, was the final part.
He began by reviewing some of last week’s message, and the topic of this message was the reality, as taught in the Word of God, of the Devil and demons and the existence of evil. In this section of Scripture, Paul gives us the defensive weapons we need: the Full Armor of God. The Shield of Faith extinguishes the fiery darts of the Evil One; the Helmet protects the vulnerable battlefield of the mind no matter what lies Satan throws at us; and the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. He taught that it is only when we speak our testimony that the sword becomes the double-edged sword God intended it to be.
The joy of this congregation was contrasted by the serious tone of the message, but I truly appreciated being here to be reminded of God’s ultimate power and authority.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, it has been exciting to see how You have grown Your church. We pray Your continued blessings upon Your people here. Amen.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Today we worshiped at Chippewa Alliance Church, 3629 37th Street Ext., Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.2070, www.chippewaalliance.org, Rev. Dan Muir, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – Matthew 20:1-16 NIV
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didnʼt you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Donʼt I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
God redirected us easily this morning as the church where we planned to worship had closed recently.
Of course, I was happy to come into a church decorated for Christmas with an impressive wooden cross. We were welcomed and engaged by one member in particular.
I enjoyed the harmony of the two female leads and the blend of the three guitars.
I thought the pastor did well with a concept many struggle with, that the first shall be last, and the Scripture from Matthew about workers hired at various times throughout the work day. A great line from the message: “It’s not fair, it’s grace.”
When I think about the announcement of our Savior’s birth being given to shepherds, I realize He can use even someone like me, thanks be to God.
We enjoyed our conversation with the two pastors after the service and I met two Marines, assuring me this congregation is in good hands.
We arrived quite early and wandered around some. We encountered only a handful of folks and everyone had a friendly greeting.
The worship space is a comfortable, gymnasium-type area, nicely decorated for the holidays.
We discovered a young man who lived near us prior to his marriage last year is playing bass with the praise band at this church and were pleased to have a chance to catch up some. The volume of the music was agreeable and the voices blended beautifully.
The greeting time, as it is usually referred to, was instead called Fellowship Time. This more adequately described this slightly longer-term greeting opportunity. Several people did greet us during this time as well as before and after the service.
The untitled message was presented by Associate Pastor Rev. David Hardie and emphasized how God often does the unexpected in our lives. He pointed out a few of the ways God proved His love for surprising His children, ways He guided over insurmountable odds and proved He was still in control. It was a great reminder that “things almost never go the way we expect.” He suggested that maybe our willingness has something to do with that. Perhaps we must be willing to obey and open to being surprised. He pointed out that we are all broken, and broken people can find it hard to wrap our minds around grace. But God still loves to surprise us.
I am grateful God led us here as this was exactly the message I needed to hear today.
We appreciated the time taken by both pastors for conversation after worship.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we thank You for directing us here to meet with You in worship and pray Your continued blessings on this, Your church. Amen.