Sunday, February 26, 2017

New Community Church


Today we worshiped at New Community Church, 3100 Wexford Road, Wexford, PA 15090, 724.935.0909, www.NCCinWexford.org, Mark Bolton, Senior Pastor.





Scripture – NIV



Galatians 2:3 –



Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.



Galatians 2:15-21 –



“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.



“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.



“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”



Ezekiel 36:26-27 –



I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.



Romans 6:1-4 –



“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”



Galatians 3:1-5 –



You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?





Bob’s thoughts –



We were welcomed by a woman in the sanctuary who walked down the steps with us to show us to the restrooms as her husband went and poured coffee for us. We also got to speak to some members in the social area over coffee following worship. Did not notice signage anywhere and thought it a bit odd that there were no restrooms on the sanctuary level.



There were numerous panels in front with watercolor crosses. There were more of us “gray hairs” at this service, but it was the early worship. With two services, people seem less inclined to ask if you are visiting. The band and singers were enjoyable though a little loud for me over the prayers.



The sermon dealt with the conflict of faith and works, or more accurately, grace and works. I’m sure every Christian struggles with this at times, that we receive God’s unearned grace that we know we don’t deserve is a dilemma.



The J.B. Phillips version of the Bible was quoted regarding Paul’s admonition to the church in Galatia, something like, “Dear idiots of Galatia.” Quite a lot of Scripture was quoted in support of the message and nuances of some words were explained.



The pastor related a story about when he was young in his faith and visiting charismatic Christians. After they had laid hands on him and prayed over him but was not speaking in tongues, someone remarked that he seemed fully baptized.



And the best line to live by: “There is nothing God has for me that I don’t want.”



Members were invited to come to the rail and pray at the end of the service.



I appreciated the chance to talk to the lead singer and pastor after the service; I was sorry we didn’t get to talk with some members who recently lost a child.





Jan’s thoughts –



We arrived very early for the 9 a.m. service and had an opportunity to wander around. A member kindly escorted us to the restrooms and directed us to the coffee after which we found seats in the auditorium. The large worship area was perhaps ¼ full when worship began, but it filled quickly.



It turned out the lead male singer was one of the founders of the Christian rock band ApologetiX. He was supported well and the volume was perfect. He told a story about losing a Terry Bradshaw football card and how a fan with a 5,000-card collection sent him one card as a gift…a Terry Bradshaw card just like the one he lost. His point was, if it matters to us, it matters to God.



Today’s message, The Counter-Argument, is part of the current message series Galatians – Getting Grace. The question has been asked for thousands of years: Don’t we need something in addition to Jesus to be saved? After all, it seems like we should have to contribute somehow to help get ourselves into heaven.



The pastor made a strong Scriptural case for believing Jesus’ sacrifice is all that’s necessary; that we need only believe and surrender, laying our dead works at the foot of the cross, believing and yielding, then watching Him work in us.



All too often I find myself falling into this trap, asking God what He wants me to do, when what He wants me to do is stop striving and just trust Him.



We appreciated the time taken by the pastor following worship after which we joined many folks for refreshments between the services. Many people had welcomed us with smiles before but at this point even more spoke with us at length and we enjoyed the conversations.





Our prayer for this church –

Lord, we are grateful Your Spirit guided the pastor in his message and we pray You continue to guide him as he pastors Your flock. Amen.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

All Saints Anglican Church

Today we worshiped at All Saints Anglican Church, 1510 Haine School Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.614.7746, www.allsaintscranberry.org, Rev. Paul A. Cooper, Rector.


Scripture – ESV

Ephesians 5:21-6:9 –

[Submit] to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Psalm 71:12-24 –

O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt.

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.

My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.

Matthew 5:38-48 –

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


Bob’s thoughts –

The architecture features a low-rise arched ceiling that frames a clear window behind some great antique woodwork. There was a brass cross on the Communion table and I had hoped to get a closer look at some of the other woodwork.

We were welcomed coming in and after the service. I don’t recall any signage but there was a note in the bulletin detailing restroom locations.

It was a great visit for me because there were lots of children and I caught more than a few smiles.

I was reflecting a bit on bulletins we have received as visitors at various churches. They have ranged from nothing at all to information on everything but the service, and today a bulletin that had virtually the whole service in print. It is comforting for a visitor to have some idea of what to expect and when.

The message was based on Paul’s direction to the Ephesians on submission, which I daresay has caused lots of confusion and strife for married couples as we are prone to excerpt from the Bible in bits and pieces. The clarity of the preaching through this Scripture was invaluable; the concept that this covers marriage, family, and the workplace is a refreshing look at these verses.

A favorite line was from a commentary on Ephesians 5:32, “This mystery is profound” translated instead to “This truth here is hidden but revealed in Christ and is a wonderful thing.” I believe this is much closer to what Paul was trying to convey. I also appreciated the reading from Matthew 5:38-48, a favorite think piece.

I enjoyed the conversations with the pastors after the service.


Jan’s thoughts –

The church is a more recent occupant of this small building, but it seems like a good fit.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare; however, the sanctuary doors were closed so we waited in the narthex which gave us time for genuine conversation with the warmly welcoming members.

The sanctuary is smaller and the only visible musical instrument was a baby grand piano (I think, anyway). An acoustic guitar joined later, and the music was excellent.

The service was traditional, as were the hymns, and the bulletin contained all the Scripture, music, and all the spoken words except the sermon. This made it easy for visitors like us to follow.

The untitled sermon was based on the challenging Ephesians passage, which he worked through deeply and thoroughly. He taught that this Scripture speaks to what it means to be Christians in relationship with others within the contexts of marriage, the family, and the workplace.

He stated that faith changes our perspective from “our outrageous self-focus” to one where we willingly make others more important than ourselves. He declared that in the admonition for wives to submit to their husbands, “submission” does not mean subjection, subordination, or subjugation, which is the fear of most wives when we hear these words. And when husbands are addressed, they are told to love their wife as Christ loved the Church, i.e., sacrificially. The bottom line is that husbands and wives are instructed to be mutually submitted to each other.

He also touched on what it means for parents to submit to their children and employees to employers.

This is the second time within a week that this Scripture passage has come up, so I’m thinking I should spend some quiet time on it. I am blessed to have heard this message today.


Our prayer for this church –

Lord, we are grateful that You would lead us here today and speak to us through Your Word and the message. Please continue to bless this church in all they do. Amen.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church

Today we worshiped at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, 8070 Rowan Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.3141, www.hlc.church, Rev. Ronald A. Brown, Senior Pastor.


Scripture

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 NASB –

"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 NIV –

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Matthew 5:21-37 NASB –

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ' You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

"It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.


Bob’s thoughts –

We were warmly greeted at the door and then by the ushers. It almost felt like a receiving line coming in, not that everyone spoke, but there were smiles that made me feel welcomed. Once in the sanctuary the greetings ceased, but the smiles and interaction with the children around us made me feel welcome as only a child’s smile can.

I was grateful to find a large cross suspended over the chancel, and delighted with the rendition from the horn ensemble.

The sanctuary is a high arched, smooth ceiling and bare walls, and the effect of both was an echo that with ear problems made most of the service impossible to hear clearly. I could understand some of the sermon and wish I could have understood more of the young woman who sang…the tone was quite pleasant. The line that stood out was, “At the crossroads of life, choose life.” For those of us who believe in the sanctity of life, this has a strong meaning.

It also came to me that we are afraid to ask for more in our life, that often we feel we are not worthy to ask for our heart’s desire. We are not worthy, but that’s not the point. Our lives could be so much more than they are. God holds these blessings for us and wants us to choose the abundant life He has planned for us.

I enjoyed a chance to speak with two of the pastors after the service and took a peek at the outside of the building going up for education and social functions. From what I saw it appears close to completion. I was also pleased to see the church supports Pleasant Valley Men’s Shelter, a long-time mission favorite of mine.

I relished seeing so many children along with us gray hairs; the healthy mix is a good indicator of a growing church.


Jan’s thoughts –

This church is building a new education wing, and for good reason: they are bursting at the seams. They have one Saturday evening service and two on Sunday, and the sanctuary was full at Sunday’s early service.

As we approached the entry, a gentleman and lady each held doors for us and welcomed us, and inside we found seats in the very back. This and the stunning, high ceiling may have been part of the problem with hearing over the echo.

The sanctuary is lovely with intricate stained glass in front and both sides. In this very traditional service, the graceful acolytes wore white gloves with their robes. The bulletin contained everything necessary to follow along with no issues, for which I was grateful.

The prelude and other special music was presented by Joyful Noise, which consists of mostly wind instruments from what I could see, and they sounded splendid.

There was much enthusiasm and many announcements regarding the 100th anniversary celebration happening pretty much all year from the looks of it.

The bulletin did not indicate the name of the preacher, but he stated he had written a musical called Choose Life about the story of Ruth. A young woman from the church sang a song from that production called “At the Crossroads of Life.”

He also spoke about God’s curses referred to in the Deuteronomy passage and explained that people bring disaster upon themselves by their choices; if you follow God’s law, you will have abundant life in this world.


Our prayer for this church –

Lord, we pray You will continue to bless church as they work to reach the world with Your Good News. Amen.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Crossroads Church

Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church, 8533 Peters Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, www.crossroadsumc.org, 412.494.9999, Mike Arnold, Campus Pastor.


Scripture – Galatians 1:6-7 NIV –

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.


Bob’s thoughts –

We chose to visit here today for the opportunity to reunite with some of our grandchildren and to see how the church had made this their new home. Both were positive: it was great to see our grandchildren again and I was impressed with all the work on the building. Everything has a fresh coat of paint and the infusion of some barn wood was dramatic.

There are a number of wooden crosses, which made me happy. We were greeted by our children and introduced to some of their friends. Interestingly, a woman recognized us from worshiping with us there with the previous church and I was able to act as an impromptu visitor greeter for Crossroads.

We were privileged to see a video of their first church plant in Florida. If we go there to visit, I hope it is in winter.

The message today was delivered by the Student Pastor, Tim. I thought he developed it well with effective Scripture references. More importantly, he believed what he was preaching.

The theme was the Fake Good News contrasted with the Real Good News. I think we have all been tempted to believe the devil’s fake news or known those who just hoped to get enough points to get into heaven. Some of my most precious memories were when I could help someone on their deathbed come to grasp God’s truth that their debt was paid by Christ.

We got to hear a little about the church plans and feel them bursting with growth ideas in their new home.


Jan’s thoughts –

This building was left vacant when Fountain Park Church dissolved last year, so in December Crossroads moved in. The lack of clutter would be the only real indication of such a recent move, because everything looks quite spiffy and seems to run like clockwork.

We were greeted as we entered the building and by a number of others from the congregation whom we have come to know. Our son-in-law gave us a tour and the freshly painted walls and redecoration in the sanctuary was evidence of a superb transformation.

Reclaimed wood provided a design theme in the lobby area as well as the rear stage wall, the sound booth, and the refreshment counter. I had heartfelt appreciation for the fact that they brought with them the countertop from the coffee area of the old place…somehow that just felt right.

Signage was excellent, providing directions to each of the well-staffed children’s areas by grade.

The worship area was full and more seating had to be set up during the opening songs. The music was terrific, as always, and the clarinet, I think it was, provided an extra dimension to the sound. The volume has never been a problem for us at this church and it was still fine.

During the city’s boil water advisory this past week, the East Liberty Crossroads campus collected donations of gallon bottles of water and distributed them to anyone from the neighborhood who was in need. Today this congregation saw the local news report featuring this effort. Other highlighted mission efforts included their support of a new church plant in Florida.

Student Pastor Tim Fray presented the message, Fake Good News, the first in the new series “Losing My Religion.” He used Scripture to debunk widespread inaccurate beliefs, i.e., Fake Good News, such as to get God’s acceptance you must be a pretty good person, believe AND be religious, and be sincere. He then contrasted that with the Real Good News: you can live forever because Jesus died for you and you can stop striving because God’s acceptance is a gift.

I think this church will find a real niche in their new home, and I hope many people discover the blessing of worshiping here.


Our prayer for this church –

Lord, we pray You will continue to encourage this congregation as they grow Your church. Amen.