Sunday, August 20, 2017
Today we worshiped at Shannopin United Methodist Church, Jordan Street, South Heights, PA 15081, 724.375.2239, www.shannopinumc.org, Rev. Dennis L. Bouch, Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
John 13:34 –
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 –
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
James 2:15-17 –
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Ephesians 5:24-28 –
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Deuteronomy 6:13-15 –
Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.
We were talking about where to worship today with regard to a family celebration later. I mentioned Glenwillard, Jan mentioned it was enjoyable to worship with other Marines, and I was already thinking we had just been there recently, still thinking it had been my idea.
As we drove past Glenwillard’s sister church, Shannopin, I reflected silently that they should join the two churches; however, I did not read the sign indicating that worship was at Glenwillard for July and Shannopin for August. It was a short drive back and we were early.
We were welcomed by many and the pastor and his wife were glad to see us.
A young girl had asked if she could read the Scripture today but was not in the sanctuary when it was time so I believe it was her sister who was serving as the acolyte who did the reading. Her smile was ear-to-ear when she finished, which made my day.
We were pleased to be able to pray with the pastor before and after the service.
The message was simple: love one another. He told a story of how a new pastor preached a great message on it, and then preached the same message again the second Sunday, and still again the third Sunday. When the congregation complained and asked when he would deliver a new message, his answer was simply, “When you get this one.”
I used to wonder why so many sermons were “mother’s milk” messages. We listen, we hear, but we don’t absorb, much like today’s message. We can’t love one another without God’s help, never mind loving our enemy.
The mention of wearing a t-shirt with a Christian message brought back a pleasant memory. I used to always wear a Christian message in public places while wearing sunglasses. A favorite was Kennywood Park, which was where I learned it was of no importance whether I saw a reaction…God could use it as He saw fit.
The idea to worship here came to Bob out of the blue this morning; we did not know why until partway through the service.
We attended here once before, but have worshiped with this congregation’s sister church a couple of times. This turned out to be a joint service, so we were greeted by people from both churches.
Apparently last week’s joint worship was followed by a picnic at which first responders were recognized. As the pastor’s son is a state trooper, this was close to his heart.
The joys and concerns seemed like a touching and important time for these worshipers.
The pastor’s strong feelings for these congregations were evident in his sermon topic: loving one another. He commended the members for the love they have shown each other, reminding them that love is the basis of the Christian life and that unconditional love is possible only with God’s help. He also reminded that loving each other means wanting what’s best for them and being there for them.
These congregations may worship in different buildings but their love for each other is clear and inspiring.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your church will be prayer warriors who love one another. Amen.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Today we worshiped at Hope Assembly of God, 3008 Cleveland Avenue, Hopewell Township, PA 15001, 724.378.7864, www.thehopepage.com, Janet Giles, Pastor.
Scripture – John 11:1-44 NIV
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
It always surprises me what I remember when we revisit a church. I remembered the pastor and worship leader, but little else; nothing outside looked familiar. When we sat down almost in the same pew where we sat four years ago, I remembered a couple with a baby who had a host of serious problems; I felt a strong call to go to the narthex and lay hands and pray for this little girl. My wife joined me to pray for complete recovery. When I tried to check on her condition sometime later, we learned the couple were also first-time visitors. The call to pray was so strong that I don’t doubt God answered prayers and healed her.
When the praise worship was to begin, there was the sounding of a ram’s horn and a long brass horn that caught us both off guard. I had some trouble hearing after that.
The message was about Christ’s raising Lazarus. A thought that stuck out for me: “with the resurrection, we will realize no joy in sin.”
A highlight for me was the call to pray in gratitude before receiving a blessing.
It has been nearly 4½ years since our last visit here. It is still a pretty sanctuary, decorated much the same as I recalled. The windows were clear glass block with pink glass block in the shape of a cross.
A gentleman greeted us and kindly held the door for us to enter, and we were welcomed by several folks prior to and after the service.
The first 45 minutes or so consisted of worship through music. Though I was unfamiliar with the songs, I enjoyed the impromptu use of bells and tambourines by members of the congregation.
I do not recall hearing a shofar or trumpet used in worship before, so the volume surprised me, though they were intriguing.
The message was entitled “Jesus’ Perfect Timing” in which the pastor taught through the Scripture about the death and raising of Lazarus.
She stated that Thomas, also known as “the twin,” is believed by some to have been called that because he looked so much like Jesus. This is the first time I’ve heard this. I always supposed Thomas must have had a twin. She pointed out this would have put him at special risk…a remarkable perspective.
The pastor told a personal story about an issue faced by her late husband. Some time after they had buried two of their children, her husband was losing his eyesight. One day he heard God urge him to praise Him. Her husband obeyed and his sight was restored. The pastor pointed out that when we pray for things, we should be thanking God in faith even before we see His response.
She pointed out a striking detail of the story of Lazarus also: when Lazarus walked out of the tomb, Jesus instructed those nearby to remove his graveclothes, knowing at some point Lazarus would need them again. But when Jesus left His tomb, He left His graveclothes behind as He would never need them again. A nice touch, I think.
Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray Your continued blessing on Your small church full of prayer warriors. Amen.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Today we worshiped at Mayfield Bible Baptist Church, 521 37th Street, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.8738, Pastor Ken Manypenny.
Scripture – James 1 NKJV
James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
We had some confusion today on worship but understood it was His plan.
We tried a second time to visit a church nearby, with enough time in between attempts to forget that no one was home. Looking in the windows it appears to still be in use, so we’ll check with other nearby churches.
We drove past a few neighboring churches before finding this one, which we were certain we had not visited before. It was about 10 a.m. and the sign indicated an 11 a.m. start time. We talked for a while and decided to go for a coffee and wait.
But on our way past, we heard singing and, deciding the 11 a.m. signboard must be in error, went in for worship. We didn’t know we were attending Sunday School, not worship, until it was over.
The building is a small chapel with painted white panel walls and a high arched ceiling. The natural wood beams framed the room well. I noticed a cross leaning against the rear chancel wall. I saw no signage but found the restrooms downstairs.
Hanging on the chancel wall was a large painting on velvet of a cross spanning a chasm showing the way to cross over to God. This is the only velvet painting I’ve seen bearing a Christian message; I hope it’s one they heed.
We were sitting in the best seats for cross ventilation, with doors open on either side, but probably the poorest for audio for the same reason. Consequently I missed a lot before the youth pastor picked up a hand microphone.
The pastor had an opening prayer and offered a report on his wife’s hospitalization: she had a very high sugar reading and some other problems I didn’t catch. At the hospital, there was a point where it was announced her sugar was at 700 and they praised the Lord (her numbers were coming down).
I was reminded of a time when I was in the sanctuary praying for the pastor search committee of what was then our church. The daughter of a member had been ill and they had been searching for answers for some time. The mom came in exclaiming with joy that it was whooping cough, not normally joyful news, but they had an answer and it was treatable.
The pastor had to leave to minister to his wife and I knew then that was why God had us there. I followed him out and reassured him to pray boldly for complete healing for his wife, not just the nice church prayers we use but with the power of Christ Jesus that is ours. Whatever the problem, to pray that errant cells or demonic presence be gone from her body and she experience complete healing.
The youth pastor delivered a message dealing with the rich coming to Christ, that God has no problem with wealth but what you do with your wealth. I have never had anyone who was having financial problems that I convinced to tithe come back to me and complain. This was true for individuals and churches, God will bless you.
It took us some time and exploring to locate the church God wanted us to attend today. We arrived by accident some time into what we thought was the worship service…only afterward did we learn it was not worship but Sunday school.
This is definitely a small country church with the atmosphere of a large extended family, and they operate on a fluid schedule.
We entered because we heard a hymn as we walked past, and we found seats during a prayer. The pastor spoke about his wife, who we gathered had been dangerously ill and in the hospital most of the past week. After a brief prayer, he turned over the microphone to the Youth Director, Tim Winkle.
They were in the first chapter, working their way through the book of James. Tim explained that the problem was not that the recipients of James’ letter were rich, but that they were hoarding their wealth and not using it to bless others.
He stated that when we have less, we need to view it as an opportunity to glorify God and His faithfulness. That even temptation can be viewed as a blessing if we keep in mind that those who are faithful in temptation are promised crowns in heaven. Of course, as he also pointed out, when we are presented with these crowns, we will acknowledge that they belong to Jesus because we will know we are not responsible for getting through our trials and temptations ourselves.
We were greeted afterward by several folks who invited us to return next week if we don’t come back this evening. We do plan to return one Sunday to hear the pastor preach.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray in the power of Christ’s name Your healing touch to the pastor’s wife and Your continued guidance for Your Church. Amen.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.com, Pastor John Nuzzo.
Scripture – Philippians 4 NIV
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
We visited Victory again because a daughter had surgery and isn’t allowed to drive yet, and we were happy to bring her and her family.
I thought it unusual that the bass was so strong out in the lobby that I had to resort to going outside, but in the doorway found some people to talk with and witness to. I believe the loud bass was God’s way of getting me there. I’m sorry I didn’t get to pray with them before they left for the sermon.
On the way back into the church, I noticed the (I think) 6-child stroller getting filled and got to pick up a few things the children dropped and quiet three who were crying. It reminded me of some years ago when I was doing some repairs at a church. I walked into the large daycare and as soon as I spoke all the children quit crying. Before I left I let the wholly female staff know that I was not the baby whisperer, just a male voice the children had not heard all day.
There were baptisms scheduled in the impressive fountain with cross and waterfall, but we could not stay.
The message dealt with worry, and what we rest our mind on. We hopelessly wait to see if we can trust God before we act.
As a Marine, I came to fear nothing, though I often wondered if the bullet holes were bigger would I have minded more. When Christ claimed me, I realized my lack of fear was not bravado, but simple faith in our God Who reminds us not to fear 365 times in His Word. My verse since He claimed me has been Philippians 4:13. Perhaps you would consider making it yours also.
Last night I learned the Heimlich Maneuver by applying it to myself. I tried absentmindedly to swallow some soft food I had not chewed well enough. There was no fear, only wondering if my survivors would realize what had happened.
Our daughter is temporarily unable to drive, so we offered to assist by accompanying them today.
We took part from the lobby seating for a variety of reasons.
The message was part 4 of the series He In Me and focused on the 4th chapter of Philippians. He spoke of the battle against worry, defining it as letting fear govern your thoughts and leaving God out of the equation. Philippians 4:7 promises that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds, making it possible for us to live independent of our circumstances, trusting in God and His economy.
He spoke of a scenario of which I’ve often thought: when we get to heaven, we will know beyond any question that God has everything perfectly in hand and there is nothing we need worry about. He said we should live like that BEFORE we die. I agree completely.
Lord, we pray You will reassure Your church and calm every fear as they move forward in faith. Amen.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Today we worshiped at First Baptist Church of Ambridge, 1112 Maplewood, Ambridge, PA 15003, 724.683.1998, Rev. Matthew R. Klenk, Pastor.
Scripture – NASB
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 –
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
2 Corinthians 7:8-9 –
For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it- for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while- I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
Isaiah 41:1-10 –
"Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, And let the peoples gain new strength; Let them come forward, then let them speak; Let us come together for judgment. "Who has aroused one from the east Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him And subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.
"He pursues them, passing on in safety, By a way he had not been traversing with his feet.
"Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? 'I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.'"
The coastlands have seen and are afraid; The ends of the earth tremble; They have drawn near and have come. Each one helps his neighbor And says to his brother, "Be strong!" So the craftsman encourages the smelter, And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil, Saying of the soldering, "It is good"; And he fastens it with nails, So that it will not totter.
"But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
Proverbs 3:5-6 –
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
1 John 4:17-19 –
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
1 Peter 5:1-11 –
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 6:25-34 –
"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
From a chance meeting with the pastor at a local Walmart to our visit today to the church he pastors.
There were many crosses, as the pastor stated he holds them in the same importance as I do.
A dropped ceiling isolates the balcony, which is not currently used and which helps keep their utility bills low.
I appreciated the pastor in the early prayer referring to the church as God’s church.
The organ player plays every Sunday from the hymnal by ear and another member, who is blind, plays the accordion. Another member is a State Police officer who operates a safety program for children. Out of 30-some worshipers, an interesting involvement.
The pastor’s message was on overcoming your fears and anxiety and he quoted a lot of supportive Scripture.
When he quoted Matthew 6:27 where Jesus asked, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” I couldn’t help but recall a message from one of my granddaughters that I would live to be 1,000 if I drank more water. I don’t know that I want to be around that long, but good advice nonetheless.
I liked a lot of what is going on at this little church and hope to talk to the pastor to refine a few things he said. It’s always interesting to see a growing church.
This church has been on our list for a couple of months, ever since Bob encountered the pastor at WalMart and enjoyed an extended conversation.
The building is small with a nicely paved parking area adjacent. A planter beneath the marquee displayed some lovely flowers. We surely appreciated the air conditioning today.
We entered just as adult Sunday school was ending and took seats in the back. The pastor stopped to greet us and several other folks did the same. The pastor shared a little of the history of this church: it was started in the 1800s at another location, and the current building was built in 1916. With air conditioning, upgrades have obviously been made and right now, it’s just the right size for this congregation which is focusing on taking the Gospel to the community. Despite carrying the Baptist designation in their name, they are independent of any denominational affiliation.
The music was led by the excellent organist (who does not read music, we were told) and individuals at different points in the service, all of whom had fine voices.
The pastor confessed early on that he loved preaching, and he obviously felt appreciated by the congregation when he expressed his gratitude for a zucchini bread left for him as a gift. He also thanked the congregation for praying for him recently over a painful physical ailment which disappeared quickly.
In beginning the sermon, the pastor stated he wanted to address anxiety and fear. He reminded the congregation that anxiety comes from brokenness in the world and even when we do not feel God’s Presence, we can trust He is right beside us. Since most of what we worry about never happens, we should make it a practice to focus on the Kingdom of God and get past our fears by doing something good for others.
We left with the sense this is a close-knit church family that is doing all they can to bring the Light of Christ to their neighbors.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your continued blessings in growing Your church and ask that You open their eyes to Your purposes for them. Amen.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.com, Pastor John Nuzzo.
Scripture – NIV
Philippians 2 –
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
1 Peter 5:5-6 –
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Ezekiel 28:17 –
Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
We were redirected from our original choice for worship this morning, but God graciously opened my eyes as to why.
We were a little late arriving and Communion was just starting. I don’t know if there was a time of confession but we took a moment for prayer and then had a chance to serve each other in the lobby. The cups contained both elements but I couldn’t get to the wafer in mine. Instead I found a bowl containing both elements individually but I had to use a knife to open the wafer packaging. I set my juice down to offer Jan the wafer and the staff quickly took away the juice so I took another from the bowl nearby.
I found a comfortable chair to listen to the message when I asked a staff member where I could leave a note for the secretary about the shut-in member prayer ministry. As usual I was talking too much, but then realized this disciple needed some ministry. We spent the rest of the service in ministry to each other and I was permitted to pray. It just made my day that God would use me.
Our original plan did not work out, so we opted to visit Victory. We were late but arrived just in time to partake of Communion. Due to the size of this congregation, the elements are served in single-use disposable cups, so Bob and I served each other after which I went in to find and sit with our daughter.
The sermon series is called “He In Me,” illustrated by a very cool graphic, in my opinion. Today was part two, entitled “The Secret to Overcoming Anything.” After reading the second chapter of Philippians, the pastor declared that it is possible to overcome anything through humility, and submission to God’s will is a choice.
He pointed out that pride repulses grace and lifts things above God such as the bad stuff that happens to us. Pride exalts our feelings above God’s Word, whereas Jesus Christ’s mindset was one of humility: He made Himself of no reputation, He served others, and humbly obeyed His Father. Therefore, God the Father exalted Him at the right time.
Submission versus pride…the human story since the Garden of Eden.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You continue to build up Your church and may they minister to each other as they grow. Amen.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Today we worshiped at Coraopolis Church of the Nazarene, 386 Shafer Road, Moon Township, PA 15108, 412.264.4582, www.coraopolisnazarene.org, Rev. Greg Kasler, Pastor.
Scripture – Ephesians 1:15-23 NKJV –
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
We arrived just as the service was starting due to poor directions and doubling back right before we reached the church, so there was little chance for greeting. The usher made sure we found our way to the service though.
I liked the wooden cross on the diagonal wood paneling on the rear wall of the chancel and I appreciated singing and hearing praise music we were familiar with.
There was a cute toddler near the front who, as usual, I smiled at till I got a smile in response. I was a little disappointed when my wife pointed out the two girls in front of us who were probably who the little one was smiling at instead of me.
The pastor’s message was part of a series, “Digging in to Ephesians” and raised the question “What is the church to be?”
He told of an elderly woman who had been active in the church but was finding herself limited and lamented, “All I can do is pray.” I wish we were all so limited that we would accomplish what should be our primary goal and pray.
I got to share with the pastor the story of my elderly neighbor who became a prayer warrior and how God has used that interaction to inspire me to suggest to the churches we visit that they ask their shut-in members to take on this important role for the church.
We arrived just as the service was beginning so we had no opportunity for greetings or to wander around the building. A gentleman greeted us at the door with a bulletin and ushered us into the sanctuary where we found seats immediately.
The sanctuary is uncluttered and the colors are well coordinated. I liked the cross and the pattern of woodwork behind the platform.
The contemporary music was well done with excellent volume.
The message series is called “Digging in to Ephesians” and today’s entry was “Our Identity in Christ.” The pastor stated that when most of us pray, we pray for others to come to know Christ or for strength to do our real work, but in Ephesians we learn that prayer IS the real work. Too often people say, “All I can do is pray,” and the pastor advised that if you can do other things, make sure you’re praying first.
This message put a different spin on how to pray for others, that instead of simply praying for physical or spiritual needs, I should be praying:
1 – that others, even if they already know God, may come to know Him better;
2 – that others will know the hope to which God has called them;
3 – that they will know His incomparably great power, the power of the Holy Spirit, Who lives in all believers.
I appreciated this message and plan to keep those points handy for my prayer time.
Several people, including the pastor, made it a point to introduce themselves after worship, which was much appreciated.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your church will catch on to the calling You are leading them to that they also may avow, “All I can do is pray!” Amen.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Today we worshiped at Valencia United Methodist Church, 66 Almira Street, Valencia, PA 16059, 724.625.2330, www.valenciaumc.org, Pastor Robert Martin.
Scripture – Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-18 NIV
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. They keep saying to me, “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it now be fulfilled!”
I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair. What passes my lips is open before you. Do not be a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror. Bring on them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction.
After a late night with family, we were looking for a later service time and God led us here. Outside there is a new building we thought was for worship, but we were told it will be a fellowship area.
We were welcomed by a number of people including a woman who thanked me for my service.
I appreciated the wood paneled arched ceiling and the wooden cross in this small church sanctuary. I noticed no signage but easily found the restroom downstairs.
The message, “God’s Blessings,” talked about our required simple obedience and our reluctance to wait for God.
When we moved to our current home, directed by God, I kept enlarging my main garden until it was something over 100’ x 200’. I grew a lot of produce that I could give away and a little that we used ourselves. I was so sure this was what God was calling me to do, but I was killing myself trying to keep up. When I finally realized this was my idea of what God wanted me to be doing, I gave it up and peace washed over me. There was no doubt that I was finally obeying. I’m not sure what all He has for me next, but I’m ready.
The pastor commented about going to Walmart, avoiding parishioners and not preaching there, but I respectfully disagree. That has been one of my most fertile mission fields. I love praying for people in Walmart or Giant Eagle parking lots, and cashiers and customer service employees seem to really appreciate prayer.
I was sorry I didn’t realize the organist would come back to finish her offertory medley with the Marine’s Hymn, I would have stood at attention.
There were a few children who were entertaining, always a joy for me, as well as a small dog that joined us for worship.
This is a traditional church with a long-time-family atmosphere: the pastor is beginning his 11th year with this congregation and there were several multi-generational families, including the family sitting in front of us.
We were warmly welcomed by numerous people from the time we walked in and engaged in a touching conversation with a woman who was married to a Vietnam veteran during his deployment.
The message was called “God’s Blessings.” The pastor relayed the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5. He held that when things do not work out in our lives, sometimes it’s because we moved ahead in our own plans without waiting to hear from God. We can be disconnected from Him because of a lack of relationship.
The pastor urged the congregation to pay attention to their relationship with God above everyone and everything else. He stated that the best blessings are found in simple obedience, and trust is born from relationship.
I was pleased to be able to participate in the Sacrament of Communion.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your church hears Your direction for them and they experience the blessings of obedience to You. Amen.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Today we worshiped at Riverside Community Church, 401 Allegheny Avenue, Oakmont, PA 15139, 412.828.2488, www.riversideconnect.org, Bill Ellis, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – Revelation 2:1-7 NLT
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
We tried to visit this church a few years ago and, being a 70-mile round trip, we were not in a hurry to try again. Jan found their website and the correct location, and I’m glad we made the trip.
I was welcomed by a Marine at the door who said there were several other Marines there also, and we were greeted by a few people sitting near us during the official greeting time. I was sorry to see the children leave before the sermon.
There is an appealing cross and innovative use of an older church building; from the sanctuary down, it was more modern than expected.
The praise team sounded talented but I was surprised to feel the floor vibrate with the bass. I appreciated the solo from the female leads.
We watched a video of the Serve the Burgh project which was just completed.
One of the children’s directors delivered the message and asked the church to make a loud noise so the children would wonder what they were missing…the neighbors may have wondered too.
The message was part of a series called “Priority Mail” and how we get correction mail along with encouragement mail from God and we are to accept both joyfully. He talked about his acceptance letter from Grove City and his eventual realization that he needed to change his major. This was the story of our oldest daughter at Grove City also.
The Marine I met was one of at least a half dozen ushers who stood around the perimeter throughout the service, though I am not sure why.
There was good signage in the part of the building we saw as well as mention of handicapped accessibility.
Several people smiled and said good morning, and the usher who gave me a program, whom I had asked about the location of the ladies’ room, saw me come back up and checked that I’d found it, which I appreciated.
We also had us a chance to look around a little bit. The colorfully-decorated children’s church area looked like it was definitely geared for kids.
Upon entering the sanctuary, we noticed the contemporary instruments in the front so we chose our seats based on the location and direction of the overhead speakers. I was glad we did when the music started and I felt the bass vibrations in my feet. The worship leaders’ music was well done and the voices blended harmoniously but I’m fairly certain the volume would have been a problem had we sat almost anywhere else.
The platform was simple, with what looked like a solid periwinkle color on the rear wall and a plain white cross rising from the center. I thought it looked striking.
A video updated the congregation on an event called “Serve the Burgh” (www.servetheburgh.org) in which the church partnered with other churches and organizations in the area to perform service projects in the community.
The current sermon series is “Priority Mail: Letters to the Churches in Revelation” and this week’s entry was titled “Bold Faith Can Handle the Truth.” The message was presented by Josh Hall, who serves this church as one of its Kid Ministry Directors. He was enthusiastic, upbeat, and passionate with many personal stories and examples.
He began with stories about good mail versus bad mail he had received and the necessity of reading both, especially when they are from Jesus. He sees what we do right, He knows our struggles, always gives precisely the right direction, and knows the best reward for our efforts.
He closed the message with the admonition to always seek the Truth, even when it is not what we want to hear. When it comes from Christ, it’s what we need to hear.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church gets to expand their Serve the Burgh program as it sounds like an inspired way to take their witness of Your message to their neighbors. Amen.