Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hillside Christian Community

Today we worshiped at Hillside Christian Community, 1050 Campbells Run Road, Carnegie, PA 15106, 412.279.2996, www.hillsidechristiancommunity.org, Ben Kendrew, Senior Pastor.


Scripture – NIV

Genesis 5:28-29 –
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.”

Genesis 6:5-6 –
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

Genesis 6:8-9 –
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

Genesis 6:17-19 –
“I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.”

Genesis 7:5-7 –
And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.

Genesis 7:18-19 –
The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered.

Genesis 7:23-24-
“Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”

Genesis 8:1-2 –
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.

Genesis 8:5-15 –
The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.”


Bob’s thoughts –

My memory was that this was a friendly church, but only a few spoke to us today. The Associate Pastor, who preached today, was one of those who greeted us, so I hope the church doesn’t think that is only the pastors’ job.

I appreciated the huge backlit cross on the wall and the countdown clock for the start of the service.

I enjoyed today’s message and felt Christ speaking to me from when I prayed yesterday for God to lead us to where we might meet with Him in worship. I realized today that when I haven’t prayed that request is when we end up at a church with a question mark after it.

I did not expect to need my ear plugs today but I could have used them, and there was an odd tone that made us both feel ill.

A number of the younger youth were in worship today and the pastor did an excellent job of adjusting his message to reach them.

The best was a personal story from childhood of the consequences of giving in to the temptation of peer pressure to do something you know is wrong.

The message again brought us to the question, what is God calling you to do? For some time I grew a large garden and donated much organic produce. I had a sense last year that God didn’t want me to do that any longer (it was wearing me out doing hillside gardening) but I was stubborn…shocking, I know… and tried to continue. After a few of God’s red bricks up the side of my head, I came to realize this was Bob’s idea of what God wanted me to do, and not God’s direction. His peace overwhelmed me when I chose to obey. I look forward to what He has me do next, with a lot less pride getting in the way.


Jan’s thoughts –

It’s been three years since we last visited this church and it turns out the pastors currently serving started just after our last visit.

This is a nicely appointed facility with ample signage. The worship area is stunning with stone work covering the back wall of the stage. The lighting was interesting without being blinding.

A few people greeted us and the associate pastor, who preached, took time to introduce himself and speak for a few minutes before worship.

The current series is called “The Goodness of God” and today’s entry was about “Noah and the Flood.” The first question was: Do you live to please others or God? He went on to speak of details of the event, such as the dimensions of the Ark, the number of animals (determined by Dr. Henry Morris to be 125,000), that the animals were likely young when they were herded aboard by God, and that the total time Noah, his family, and the animals were on the Ark was one year and 17 days.

He surmised that Noah and his family, in the midst of the Flood, had to have wondered how long this would go on since God did not speak to them during the event, and asked how often we wonder how long a particular life situation will continue until God brings a change to our lives. I couldn’t help but notice that Noah stayed on the Ark until God told him to disembark. I will remember Noah the next time the temptation arises to climb off my “Ark” before God gives the go-ahead. In order to live for God we must listen for His direction, and this message was a good reminder.


Our prayer for this church –

Lord, we pray Your church on this hill will continue to be a beacon to the neighborhood. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bright Hope Community Church

Today we worshiped at Bright Hope Community Church, 4101 Highland Avenue, Butler, PA 16001, 724.614.7611, www.brighthopechurch.com, Paul Hoover, Lead Pastor.


Scripture – Acts 17:22-30 NIV –

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

“Therefore since we are Godʼs offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”


Bob’s thoughts –

We received an exceptionally warm welcome from the moment we walked in the door; people engaged us in conversation and made a point of getting our names. I felt at home even before I got to see the large wooden cross on the wall or notice all the children.

There is a healthy age mix with lots of young people and children and enough babies to keep me smiling. I find it interesting how new moms sort of bop to the music with their baby and experienced moms/grandmas have that signature sway even when they are not holding babies.

A short video, “Choice,” was a segue to the message on the sanctity of life. The pastor’s passion was apparent in his delivery. I thought it impressive that the secular logic was presented first with simple proof followed by the scientific proof. Without the absolute proof of the Bible the sanctity of life is clear, yet we continue to place ourselves above God.

I enjoyed the time we got to spend with the pastor and a number of members after the service and appreciated the conversation with the church secretary.

We were blessed to worship with this church and appreciated the welcome.


Jan’s thoughts –

A gentleman opened the door for us as we entered, and numerous people welcomed and engaged us in conversation.

I was astounded at the number of children God has entrusted to this church and I was pleased to see they have a Child Protection Program in place.

The sanctuary is not huge but was easily 95% full, which is why plans are underway to enlarge the facility.

The music was contemporary and the volume was perfect, in other words, easily heard from the far back and also easy on my ears. And the harmony was excellent.

Since today was Sanctity of Life Sunday, the message was entitled “Giver of Life.” The topic was abortion and the pastor spoke passionately on the topic.

The message began with a video clip from a documentary called “180.” (If you would like to check it out, it’s at www.180movie.com.) The clip was spoken word poetry about choice, and one line that caught my attention referred to choice as an idol. I agree that choice has become an idol and not only regarding abortion.

The pastor stated emphatically that no matter what, God is a forgiving God, full of grace, mercy, compassion, and long-suffering. He presented undisputed scientific deduction that personhood begins at conception. He affirmed that all human life is valuable and every person God ever put on earth has dignity because they are created in God’s image.

It was a powerful message that I felt privileged to hear.


Our prayer for this church –

Lord, we were excited to worship You at this church You are growing. We pray they continue to walk closely with You throughout this period of growth. Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

When Angels Visit

When searching for a church to attend, many of our leads come from Bob’s driving around and making notes that (in his words) look like they were written by a chicken on drugs. We spent a good portion of today deciphering those notes and making a new list of places to worship.

This week we thought we’d use this space to point out a few things we’ve learned in our visits, most of which we never would have considered when we were members.

Visitors are hampered when a church does not have a website. Some churches do not have a phone or an answering machine where the greeting can provide such general information as worship times or where a caller can leave a message or ask a question. These are hindrances for those seeking a church, and many will pass.

Churches should regularly put some time into reviewing their communications, giving thought to exactly what they want to communicate and to whom. Members know which door to use, where the restrooms are, and what’s down the hall. The visitor is lost. I (Bob) once climbed a set of stairs looking for the sanctuary and came out in the choir loft; thankfully for all they didn’t make me sing.

Consider whether the outdoor signage is of value to a visitor. Some churches have a large sign that cannot be read by someone driving by. If they must turn into the driveway to read the sign, many have likely passed by.

Does your sign list the meetings this week or does it display a come-on that makes someone want to come in to learn more? Is the sign up-to-date or are the Christmas worship services still listed at Easter? Are the correct worship times shown? If passers-by notice the sign, you’re halfway there…make sure the message they see brings them inside.

Worship in the Park / Picnic Sunday is a great time for church fellowship, but are visitors welcome? The signs on the church doors indicating that “worship is in the park today” are only for members unless they include directions to where you are.

Visitors are usually easy to spot. Watch who parks in the visitor spots, notice who is looking at the bulletin boards or literature table…members almost never do. Is someone you don’t recognize sitting where a particular member always sits? Do they look lost?

If you are looking for fresh eyes, ask a relative or friend who is not familiar with your church to come and provide candid feedback about their experience.


God brings visitors to your door. If you see someone you don’t recognize, take the time to smile, say hello, and ask if you can be of assistance. I never had a long-time member who was offended when I asked if I could help. Ask God to guide and help you and He will.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Unidentified

Today we attended a service at a church that shall remain unidentified.



We traveled for worship today but the church we chose was conducting a prayer and healing service, therefore we did not experience any of a normal worship service. The best line I heard was when the congregation was coming forward for prayer they were admonished to “come with expectation.”

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Northway Christian Community Church

Today we worshiped at Northway Christian Community Church, 12121 Perry Highway, Wexford, PA 15090, 724.935.6800, www.northway.org, Kent Chevalier, Wexford Campus Pastor.


Scripture –

Philippians 1:7, NLT –
So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.

1 Peter 3:15-16, ESV –
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Isaiah 8:13, ESV –
But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.

Matthew 10:32-33, ESV –
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Proverbs 15:1, ESV –
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.


Bob’s thoughts:

We wanted to attend an early service today and it had been quite a while since we worshiped here. We were welcomed at the door by the usher.

I couldn’t find a cross, but one may have been hidden by the Christmas decorations.

The bass was well beyond my earplugs but I could retreat to the atrium and watch on the screens. With my hearing problems, when the volume is loud I have trouble understanding the words.

There is a lot to this campus and I had to ask how to get back into the worship area after the music ended.

The message was a Christ-inspired personal testimony of medical trials and God’s miraculous healing. I wonder how often we witness God’s intervention and fail to proclaim it loudly to all. This message was a reminder that we have a responsibility to tell what God has done. Are we living as people of hope?

It was a wake-up call from Christ for me to go back to telling what God has done in my life.


Jan’s thoughts:

It was something of a challenge to find an early worship service this first day of the new year as a number of churches were not holding a service and/or had done so Saturday evening instead. But we arrived here early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee in the café before the service began.

The message, “A New Year’s Wish – Choose Passion,” was presented by a guest, Dr. Jim Platt. He said he had planned to preach on a different topic but felt compelled to speak instead about deliverance in the face of a recent health crisis. He provided sufficient detail for those listening to recognize that he was only still present because God intervened, and stated “When God shows up, we have a responsibility to talk about it.”

After reading through 1 Peter 3:15-16, he stated that everyone in whom the Holy Spirit lives needs to be able to articulate the reasons for their faith with gentleness and kindness and without defensiveness or anger. He urged everyone to choose passion and be ready to share their story.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray this church continues to loudly proclaim Your goodness. Amen.