Monday, May 29, 2017
Yesterday we worshiped at Dutilh Church, 1270 Dutilh Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.1094, www.dulilhumc.org, Tom Parkinson, Senior Pastor.
Acts 1:1-11 –
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Romans 10:17 –
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
We were greeted by one of the pastors who let us know it would be okay to bring our coffee in for worship; this is always a question for visitors.
The sanctuary has an interesting modern flat ceiling with a low center arch. The large cross in front is framed by a stained glass window. There are some great banners on the walls displaying minimal color.
The message, part 6, was “Can I Get a Witness?” Christ ministry was in a very small geographical area and most people didn’t know of Him, which required people to witness about Him. Faith in Christ was spread by these witnesses and the reality is, this is still how it grows. Christ was limited on Earth by the human constraints of time and space.
People seem hesitant to tell their story, much as the worship leader professed. My answer is always, “Christ claiming me was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, how can I be quiet about it?”
I’ve known many people who try to intellectualize their way to Christ, but it just won’t happen. However, your story may encourage them to faith.
He cautioned to remember, when witnessing, display the love of Christ. If you are not being Christ-like, it could invalidate your witness. Be bold, witness not in “Paul’s Jesus,” but in your Jesus.
Being a holiday weekend, we decided to worship someplace nearby. Our last visit here came only a couple of weeks after this pastor’s arrival.
We arrived plenty early, got a cup of coffee, and sat in the café area. Since this church has three Sunday services, I was not surprised when only the Associate Pastor greeted us.
Eventually the sanctuary was filled, but since this was a contemporary service, we found seats easily. I had forgotten how beautiful the unusual windows were, and the banners were also distinctive: mostly white with gold colored accents.
The people sitting near us welcomed us warmly during the greeting time.
The sermon was the sixth and final part of the series SHARE and was entitled Can I Get a Witness? It focused on the fact that all believers are called to be witnesses and he outlined the three steps it takes to be a witness:
1 – You must have a personal experience with the Gospel.
2 – You must declare what you know to be true. Declaring God’s truth means telling others how the story of Jesus has become MY story so that it will become THEIR story.
3 – You must display the love of Christ in your life. Our character can validate or invalidate our witness, and when we don’t extend the grace we have received, the window gets foggy and Jesus becomes unclear. (I thought this was very well put.)
He encouraged the congregation to use the half sheet of paper included in the bulletin to share their story and be witnesses, so we did also.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray for Your continued presence and guidance as this church moves to become an overwhelming witness to this community. Amen.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Today we worshiped at 3 Rivers Free Will Baptist Church, 20401 Route 19, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 724.776.7588, www.3riversfwb.org, Cody Freeman, Pastor.
Scripture – ESV
Ephesians 3:20-21 –
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20 –
And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Revelation 2:2-5a –
"'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
This church has been on our list to visit for a while, and when we saw their sign about an African choir in worship, we were hooked.
We were welcomed and engaged in conversation by members and the pastor.
There were some examples of African art on tables in the rear and an adorable young girl spoke with my wife about the items…a worthy ambassador for the church.
The projection screen was down but I noticed a large wooden cross behind it. I’m sure the moderately high wooden arched ceiling perfectly framed the cross.
Although the African choir was somewhat Americanized, the unbridled worship still came through. Their dress and vibrant colors made them look like they were moving even when standing still. The Spirit of God was certainly here for worship today.
From the visiting pastor’s message, “All authority has been given” tied with a message yesterday from Robby Dawkins: our power to rule the world was ceded to the devil in the Garden of Eden and he has been running wild with it since. It is time to re-take that God-given power.
We arrived early and were greeted by the pastor before we entered the building. Inside there were tables with handmade African items for sale. Several other folks greeted us and we enjoyed extended conversations.
We chose to worship at this church because we learned an African children’s choir would participate this week. From their website:
Amani children’s Choir (amanichoir.org) is a ministry of Light Africa Ministries (lightafrica.org) and Kampala Community Church (kampalacommunitychurch.org) based in Uganda.
The children range in age from 9 to 16, and exhibited incredible energy and enthusiasm and nearly professional abilities. The congregation was reminded we were all present to worship God and this was not for entertainment.
After several songs, the visiting pastor, James, spoke. He had planned another topic but he said he felt prompted by the Spirit to speak about Jesus’ post-resurrection meeting with the disciples at Galilee. He said we should not fear people; instead we should go and encourage them. He said God has given His people authority to be used to invite people to know Jesus.
Following this word there was more music and dancing after which we had to leave. I was grateful for the worship through music, for the reminders of Africa, and for the opportunity to say farewell to James and thank him for his words.
We plan to return for a regular service and to hear the pastor preach.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray these missionaries from Africa re-kindle a fire in Your church and they go forth in the power of the Living God. Amen.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Today we worshiped at Monacrest Free Methodist Church, 995 Elmira Street, Monaca, PA 15061, 724.774.6606, www.monacrest.com, Rev. Douglas E. Rabe, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Joshua 7:1 NIV
But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel.
We were welcomed upon arriving, including by the pastor who called a Marine over to meet me. Always a pleasure.
The great wooden cross on the wall made me happy.
I thought it might have been the high arched ceiling, but I was unable to hear any of the announcements. Perhaps the mic wasn’t on, but I could hear everyone else.
The praise worship was amazing: three good, strong leading voices, with excellent harmony made for enjoyable worship.
I was pleased to see a friend and especially when her young son came back into the sanctuary at the end of the service calling what sounded like “Ba,” the name my grandchildren call me. I enjoyed watching some other little ones also.
The message was about The Joshua Generation. In a way, the tribes were living on faith since all but two people had not witnessed the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt. The miraculous provision of water and food was all they had ever known, it was normal, not a miracle at all. It’s hard for us to see now how the miracle of Jericho would not be an overwhelming wake-up call.
Maybe they were not too different from us in that the everyday miracle of our existence is all we have ever known and we forget to give God the glory He deserves. It is easy to judge Israel when we have no mirror.
The pastor handled loud talk in the narthex and a cell phone going off (his) splendidly and went on with the message. I was glad we were here for this message as the pastor will be leaving soon.
I wish I could have talked to the older Marine we met after the service but maybe God will lead us back here.
We were greeted by several people as we entered and then welcomed by the pastor who introduced Bob to another Marine.
I noticed large bulletin boards with maps indicating overseas missionaries supported by the church, so my impression is that mission is high on the list of priorities.
The sanctuary seemed spacious with its clean lines and uncluttered appearance. I was not expecting a contemporary service, and though the music was led by seven musicians/vocalists, the volume was agreeable.
One of the announcements was a reminder to the congregation that next week will be the pastor’s last week at this church. We learned in a later conversation that he was elected to the position of Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Conference.
In a pleasant moment, the oldest, youngest, and newest mothers in the congregation were recognized, then all the moms were invited forward and prayer offered. One of the Marines made sure I received a Mother’s Day plant on our way out, which was appreciated.
The message, entitled “Sin in the Camp – the 1st Crisis!” was part of the series The Joshua Generation. The pastor spoke about what it would have been like for the generation that lived under Joshua’s leadership and the lessons they learned from Achan’s sin of stealing from God. Israel’s relationship with God was only restored by their repentance and obedience.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your blessing on this church in this time of transition and as they move into the future You have planned for them. Amen.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Today we worshiped at Glenwillard United Methodist Church, 1328 Main Street, Crescent Township, PA 15046, 724.457.6325, www.glenwillardumc.org, Rev. Dennis L. Bouch, Pastor.
Scripture – John 10:1-10 NIV
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
We received the Marine welcome I expected right inside the door and a moment of prayer with the pastor when we shared good news about a family member.
We were warmly greeted by most of the congregation; there is a real feeling of being with family here.
There are enough crosses to satisfy even me, and it was great to see smiles from the four-member choir.
The smiles that made me melt were from the children sitting in the pew in front of us…they were joy to watch throughout the service. The mutual hug from the little one with her acolyte brother was especially sweet.
Another that warmed my heart was when a young lady waved to the pastor and he waved back, then I watched her exchange a reciprocal fist bump with an usher as she went forward for Communion. These small things speak volumes and make a huge difference.
The message was on Christ calling us by name, something I’ve never gotten over…the idea that of the billions of people on Earth, Christ called me, a worthless sinner, by name. The simple analogy of the shepherd and his sheep was not lost on those he was calling but was beneath the reasoning of the religious elite. Sadly, I think that still applies today: His call is unheard unless we are willing to listen. He calls us where we are, not where we might someday be. He offers Himself to the hopeless sinners we are, filthy foul-smelling sheep, to come and be cleansed.
We were pleased to partake of Communion and to be able to serve the elements to the pastor. We enjoyed an uplifting time of worship.
As we entered the building we immediately encountered the pastor, who has become a friend. He asked about a family situation and after we updated him he prayed with us.
The church held a flea market yesterday and things were still set up. Since we arrived plenty early, we wandered around some then went back upstairs. We were greeted by all the Marines in the congregation and by nearly everyone else.
I enjoyed watching the pastor greet each person who came in as well as the members as they greeted each other. Clearly my sense of the closeness within this congregation was on target.
The traditional music was led by a well-played organ and four strong voices.
The message, entitled “The Good Shepherd,” emphasized that Jesus knows the name of every one of His sheep and He calls each in a distinct and personal way. However, we must choose to listen.
One night, years ago, as I faced the possibility of a frightening medical diagnosis, I tried to sleep but my mind churned with the possibilities the future held. However, I only saw the negative options, so peace eluded me. Bob was asleep, and as I lay there, I heard a voice call my name as clear as day. I stopped thinking and waited, listening for more, but there was only quiet. As I pondered what might be going on, I realized I felt calm in my spirit. I was no longer afraid and I knew all would be well, which it was.
Indeed, God knows our names and He knows how to communicate with us, whether we are running from Him or thrashing about in fear. He knows and He cares.
We were blessed to partake in Communion and even more so in the opportunity to offer the elements to the pastor.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You continue to bless Your little family church and may they continue to respond to the sound of Your voice. Amen.