Sunday, July 30, 2017

Victory Family Church


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.”


Bob’s thoughts:

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.


Jan’s thoughts:

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.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray You will reassure Your church and calm every fear as they move forward in faith. Amen.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

First Baptist Church of Ambridge


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.





Bob’s thoughts:



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.





Jan’s thoughts:



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

Victory Family Church


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.





Bob’s thoughts:



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.





Jan’s thoughts:



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

Coraopolis Church of the Nazarene


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.





Bob’s thoughts:



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.





Jan’s thoughts:



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

Valencia United Methodist Church

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.


Bob’s thoughts:

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.


Jan’s thoughts:

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.