Sunday, July 15, 2018
Today we worshiped at NorthBridge Community Church, 216 Mystic Pine Trail, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.371.1180, www.northbridge.org, Jame Price, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
1 Timothy 4:14-16 –
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
2 Timothy 1:6 –
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
We were welcomed in the parking lot, by the greeter, and by the usher. Only one non-staff person said hello.
There is still no cross and I’ve given up on finding out why.
I have never been to any kind of a concert but I imagine it must be like this: loud with flashing lights and roving spotlights. I thought if I turned my hearing aids off it would be bearable…I start to feel ill with the spotlight wandering. I guess my age is showing.
I enjoyed hearing a little of the female lead’s voice.
For me the message didn’t seem to fit the rock and roll atmosphere. I don’t know where it is recorded or what kind of venue, but it was well thought out and presented. Often biblical sermons lack application and this was well supported. I look forward to hearing the other parts.
The format is not my favorite but we share this: we are all hopeless sinners but for the saving grace of Christ.
This is our first return visit in nearly four years, so we were curious what might have changed. We were among the first to arrive for the early service, so we had to wait for a few minutes until guests were permitted to enter the worship area.
We had some conversation with the person who handed us the cards with information about the message. Upon entering the worship space, greeters stand between the doorways and the seats. In anticipation of the volume, we sat against the back wall. The greeter nearest us was kind enough to let us know the coffee had been made available in the outer area since we sat down.
This being National Ice Cream Day, the pastor announced that free ice cream would be available following the service courtesy of Meadows, a local ice cream shop.
The singers’ voices blended well but I found the volume distracting. We stayed though and covered our eyes while the lights flashed.
The message was presented by Jeff Henderson from the Gwinnett campus of Northpoint Church. I found him engaging as he spoke on a topic near and dear to my heart: discerning one’s life purpose. He said that last week, in part one of this series, he taught that work was God’s idea. This week he mentioned some statistics: more than 1/3 of our lives are spent at work and approximately 80% of us are dissatisfied with our job. That’s a big number.
He stated there is no such thing as a job without purpose when viewed from God’s perspective. But the question remains for so many of us: How do I discover God’s will for my life? He said the most important thing he would say was: God’s thumbprints on you are clues about His plans for you.
(I will use personal pronouns here, as I felt he was speaking directly to me.) Stressing the importance of knowing my gifts and leveraging opportunities to use those gifts, he encouraged me to pay attention and do the work to discover how I am gifted because I will be held accountable by God for my failure to use His gifts. (As if it didn’t seem important enough before, now it feels imperative.)
He suggested to start the way he did: by emailing seven people who know me well and ask “what do you think I’m good at?” And pay attention to what people tell me, don’t be falsely humble and say it’s nothing, because it isn’t nothing, it’s important.
The church has developed a website with (mostly free) resources to help discern God’s thumbprints: www.northbridge.org/messages/dream-job. (I have bookmarked it for future use and can’t wait get started.)
Then he said that if I’m not willing to put in the time it takes to find out what God’s purpose is for my life, I forfeit the right to complain about it in the future. Fair enough…let’s go.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your church serves in Your Holy Name according to Your desires. Amen.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Today we worshiped at 3 Rivers Free Will Baptist Church, 20401 Route 19, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 724.76.7588, www.3riversfwb.org, Cody Freeman, Pastor.
Scripture – Galatians 5:16-25 KJV
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
This is an interesting little church that I was glad we had the opportunity to revisit.
The engineered beams of the ceiling blend with the knotty pine paneling. There is a great back-lit cross behind the projection screen, and I was grateful for the air conditioning. Today would probably have been alright, but a few Sundays suffering to breathe reminded me that I need A/C.
I was taken with the harmony of the ceiling light fixtures and the lights of the ceiling fans.
I honestly don’t know how many years it has been since I was responsible for the maintenance of a church, but I had to smile when I was drawn to notice a burned-out bulb so maybe it never goes away.
I remember sitting in a church we were visiting after being long-time members in a nearby church. I noticed things like burned out bulbs and other maintenance items, then I noticed a family that seemed out of place and went to greet them as visitors. It took a while to get over that feeling of responsibility and allow myself to just worship God. Serving the church is great but I hope you won’t let it keep you from worship. May you free yourself to worship Him.
A woman brought a baby to church today and that was noted by the congregation. The timing was divine as I was thinking this church needs some youth to come alive; maybe it’s a start.
We were warmly welcomed, including by some who remembered us from our last stop there.
The lead singer has a great voice and led the congregation well. There was a bass singer whose mic was set almost painfully loud to me. Surprisingly when he spoke and prayed later from the pulpit, I could barely hear. There was mention from the pastor that maybe the mic was off.
I put my prayer request in with the offering and it was read to the congregation while we were there, which is a first. I was pleased to find a prayer list included in the bulletin.
A line from the message that struck me: “Do we listen to the flesh or the Spirit?”
Having arrived with enough time for conversation before worship, we were greeted warmly. We last worshiped here in May 2017 when Amani Children’s Choir led the service, and today we got to hear the pastor preach.
We sat as far back as possible, which at times seemed a mistake because at some points I had a time trying to hear. Usually we have the opposite issue.
The piano, harpsichord, violin, and guitar provided pleasant-sounding back-up for the vocalists, whose voices blended well.
Many prayers were offered, both joys and concerns.
The untitled sermon focused on the battle between the flesh and the Spirit and concluded with an invitation to go forward for prayer.
Someone had donated some pies, and everyone was urged to take one or more home with them, which we did, with thanks.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will bless Your church with youthful enthusiasm, that they may live for You. Amen.
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Today we worshiped at Grace Community Church, 9160 Marshall Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.779.7997, www.mygcc.org, Matt Kaltenberger, Lead Pastor.
Scripture – Genesis 2:15-25 NIV
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
We received as warm and engaging a welcome as we have in the past.
I have wondered for some time how there can be a waterfall cross outside the sanctuary, like a miniature of Victory’s cross, but not inside. It seemed to tie in to today’s message of true theology to have a cross as part of worship.
Today’s message was on men and marriage and I sensed that I had heard a similar one here on a prior visit. The message was well delivered with dissected Scripture and, I believe, well received by the congregation.
A line caught my ear that we need to give young boys responsibility, and my memory kicked in with “or explosives.” I think I was one of the few children who got dynamite packs and railroad flares to play with. Not sure it was responsibility but it certainly inspired me to be a Marine.
I enjoyed a woman nearby holding a child till he fell asleep, a job that was frequently mine in the past.
I was recognized and thanked for my service by a few from this large congregation.
There was a comment that men who grow old alone age more like milk than wine, and I aim to change that. If it hurts to get back up, others don’t need to know that. I trust my going and doing to Christ…He will never let me down.
It’s been a while since we last visited Grace, and with today’s 90+ degree temperatures, we needed to be certain we’d be in air conditioning. We arrived in good time for the early (now 9:30 AM) service, and one of the greeters welcomed us almost immediately. After a cheerful conversation, we got something to drink and then found our seats.
There are several things I’ve always liked about this church, but topping the list is that they unapologetically affirm the infallibility of Scripture. Today, the prayer for the offering included their commitment to “be careful to glorify You with it.”
Target Practice is the title of the current sermon series. Apparently, the series has so far been aimed at men, but today’s message had a great deal of advice, information, and guidance for women also.
He outlined God’s intentions for marriage along with some ways in which men and women are different. When it comes to connecting and remaining friends, he advised women to find out what their man likes and learn to join him in his pursuits and for men to sit down and talk with their woman.
The message was about much more than marriage; it was also about raising boys to become men and letting them go into adulthood. It was about sex, sharing, and being vulnerable. He spoke Scriptural truths not heard from our culture or media of any variety. I was thrilled to hear these truths preached and I hope many others will hear them. I plan to listen to the previous messages.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we thank You for Your presence and for Your living word to guide us. May we all be better spouses. Amen.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church Cranberry, 8533 Peters Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 412.494.9999, www.crossroadsumc.org, Mike Arnold, Campus Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Ephesians 4:17-29 –
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Galatians 5:22-23 –
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
We went to Crossroads to see our grandchildren perform some of the songs they learned at Vacation Bible School the past week. I was disappointed when the congregation stood up and we couldn’t see them, but someone posted a video soon after the service and we got to see most of it.
The message was part of a series on how the Spirit of God changes us. A former pastor uses me in sermons often as an example of God’s Spirit changing someone who comes to Christ.
I was feeling a little disconnected and then heard faint children’s laughter and music and it brought me out of my slump. That is some of the very best medicine that can’t help but bring you closer to God.
Our grandkids know they can count on a positive response when they invite us to their church for a special program, and that’s where we were blessed to be today.
The congregational support and unity was clearly displayed by the adult volunteers who sported a KidsXP t-shirt and participated in the enthusiastic singing and dancing presentation with the youth. A great deal of work went into Crossroads’ Vacation Bible School last week, which was attended by a record-breaking 129 children, including seven of our grandkids. The musical presentation was upbeat, energetic, and kids and adults alike were thoroughly engaged. It was a joy!
The current message series is called The Good Life, and today’s part two was entitled Live Different. Pastor Mike began by using “before” and “after” photos and concepts to illustrate the changes in a person before and after accepting Christ. He emphasized that following Jesus will change us and we think differently and behave differently. The power to live differently comes from the Holy Spirit and is made clear by the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I was grateful to be there today, to see the joy on the faces of so many children as they come to know Jesus and learn to believe Him. He is the solid foundation in an uncertain world and worth every bit of time and work given to the task of teaching them that.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, I sense an unexpected change for this church You are growing. I pray for Your continued guidance and everlasting love. Amen.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Today we worshiped at Bell Memorial Presbyterian Church, 610 Line Avenue, Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.758.3458, www.bellmemorialpc.org, Rev. Ray Medina, Pastor.
Scripture – 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 NKJV
Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.”
But the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”
So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him!”
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
We were welcomed by many from before we got out of my truck. After a brief look around we found our seats and were greeted there also.
The modified arch ceiling is paneled with lighter wood and offset by dark wood beams. The acoustics were better than I expected but there was a higher-pitched noise, maybe from the instruments, that made it hard to hear the singing.
I was delighted to see a cross on the chancel wall and to be greeted by a Marine brother along with others who thanked me for my service.
I noted that the Prayer of Illumination was offered before the Word was read. We were tripped up again by “It is Well With My Soul” …it still brings difficult memories.
The message Dare Mighty Things “Hope” pointed out how much better we are at looking back with our blessed hindsight to see how God worked. How can we lack so much heart in the moment? With 22 suicides per day in the Veteran community, we need to take up our call to be messengers of hope. To me, the best line in that regard is: “If we can’t do that, we should close our doors.”
I was reminded of a funeral home visit where I never spoke a word, don’t even think I said hello. I held the widow’s hand, got her tissues and water, and later overheard her say that what I said meant the most to her that day. Bring your message of hope; speak if you need to.
I was glad to meet the speaker’s family; his children won my heart early on. I wish we could have talked more of Malawi mission trips.
My breathing has gotten to the point where I will have to look for air-conditioned sanctuaries, it’s too hard to breathe without it.
So glad the church is in the process of examining itself, getting clarity about “who do we say we are/who are we?”
Numerous people stopped to welcome us with warm handshakes and introductions.
For some reason it was difficult to understand those who spoke toward the beginning, although by the time we got to the sermon, the issues seemed to have been fixed.
The well-populated praise band led mostly contemporary songs, which I enjoyed hearing.
The sermon was presented by Ed Sutter of The Soul Shop and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh’s South Hills. The summer series begun by the installed pastor is called Dare Mighty Things, and the topic of the day was hope.
According to their website, www.soulshopmovement.org, the mission of The Soul Shop is:
To train leaders to equip congregations and communities to minister to persons impacted by suicidal desperation:
A. Persons who have experienced loss
B. Persons concerned for family/friends
C. Persons engaged in suicidal thinking
D. Second Day people (people who have walked through the dark night of suicidal desperation and survived to see a Second Day)
He spoke of small moments ordained by God that we often miss, when we are called to preach good news and hope to someone desperately in need of them. We are divinely appointed to preach light to those sitting in darkness and be messengers of hope with our presence, our conversation, and encouragement.
We often shun the idea that God could use us in such a big way, but God uses the small moments, the ones we do not even think about. He orchestrates these very times and uses them to accomplish His good plans. Ed pointed out that our words need not be perfect, they only need to be after God’s heart.
I encourage you to check out the link above. You never know how God may use you.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You will be with this congregation through their exam (it’s an open book test and the book is right in the pew). Bless them to know how to be Your church. Amen.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
We were extra early for the church we planned to attend and stopped to get a few things at a local grocery store. We checked out with a cashier who had asked me to pray for her and her family. As she updated us, we felt moved to assure her that God would use her situation to achieve His purpose, that He was firmly in control, and this would work out to His glory. Her face reflected her relief and encouragement that He was active in her situation to bring her family closer to Him.
After leaving we were still early, so we stopped for coffee at a restaurant that turned out to be not the best choice on this Sunday morning: by the time we were served and on the road, we had minutes to spare. We arrived only to find they were meeting at a remote church location today. Had we stopped there first, we would have tried driving to that location but as it was, my truck overheated again and we likely would have been stranded far from home.
We sought churches in the area, but this was summer schedule change time and when the truck started to overheat, we headed home with the windows open and heat on full blast.
I need to find a way to replace this vehicle and wait on God to show the way…He has never failed us yet.
We didn’t realize how prophetic Jan’s comment was as we left the grocery store, that “we just had church.” God is amazing.
Lord, we pray for Your little churches that are struggling, that they might feel Your Presence. Amen.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Today we worshiped at First United Methodist Church of Ellwood City, 416 Crescent Avenue, Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.758.6278, www.firstumcec.org, Rev. Angelique Bradford, Senior Pastor.
Isaiah 40:27-31 MSG –
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.
Acts 20:1-12 NLT –
When the uproar was over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia. While there, he encouraged the believers in all the towns he passed through. Then he traveled down to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He was preparing to sail back to Syria when he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life, so he decided to return through Macedonia.
Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. They went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. After the Passover ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later joined them in Troas, where we stayed a week.
On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved.
We arrived just before the service started so it’s hard to guess if we would have been welcomed by anyone in addition to the greeter.
The only crosses I could find were in the stained-glass panels. The walls are white with dark paneling and beams for the ceiling, which created a beautiful contrast.
I had trouble understanding most of the singing…I couldn’t hear what part they were singing over the organ.
The woman who presented the graduates was easy to hear and understand.
I am always interested to see how the Scripture readings match up to whatever version is up on my phone.
I thought the main point of the message was to be willing to change, an abhorrent thought to most old mainline churches. The pastor raised the point to not only break out of the box, but to break the box.
The old churches want the world to change to what the church was. The churches that are thriving and blessed by God have kept the biblical truths but became welcoming to the young people of today. Crawl out of the box and live for Christ.
One of the most impressive things to me has been each time I read my Bible, it changes. What I find is what God wants me to know right then.
This is a good-sized building with traditional décor (including stained glass), some traditional songs, and organ-led music.
Since it was graduate recognition Sunday, we were two among many visitors.
We were pleased to be there for recognition of the church’s graduates, including two adults. As it was a special day for so many families, we were only two among a number of visitors.
I appreciated hearing the Scripture readings read with inflection and emotion.
It was convenient to have the words to each song printed in the bulletin.
The Message of Hope (sermon), referring to thinking inside versus outside the box, was entitled “Break the Box”. The pastor spoke of the call to change, growth, and moving forward.
Communion was expressed verbally and served by intinction, an enjoyable change.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will bless Your church with understanding, that they may know how to serve You now. Amen.
Monday, May 28, 2018
With a daughter in town from North Carolina and a reunion picnic on Sunday, we missed the opportunity to worship in church.
At one point, one granddaughter commented that she hasn’t been going to church because the youth minister “always talks about his son instead of God’s Son.” Her statement got me to thinking about some of the churches we’ve visited.
I think we all tend to indulge in preconceived views of churches by their name or denomination, i.e., Church of God, Christ Fellowship, Church of Christ, and many others. We tend to think they must teach rightly if Christ or God is part of their name, but is Christ IN the church? Sadly, some we have been to are focused more on their building or the minister. But do they preach God’s Word or their own interpretation?
There is only one true Church, and it is not a building. Are we discerning about where we worship? We should pay attention and test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Go to God in prayer. Meet with Him where He wants you to be.
Blessed Memorial Day.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Today we worshiped at The Galilean Presbyterian Church, 201 Madison Street, PO Box 247, New Galilee, PA 16141, 724.336.5660, www.thepresbyterianchurchofnewgalilee.org, Rev. C.F. Hoffman, Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Acts 2:1-21 –
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Philippians 4:4-7 –
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.
We set out to visit a nearby church this morning, but we got there early and were ignored. We were hoping to celebrate Pentecost, so after a drive to a coffee shop, God led us to a Presbyterian church that was observing the occasion. Several people greeted us there.
There was a beautiful cross that looked like it had reflective red tape on the edges but when we went forward after the service we could see the internal red lights. It was most striking with the red drape. The sanctuary was decorated with red and orange, and I particularly liked the flower arrangement in the rear. My favorite, though, was the red ribbon streamers on the windows that blew in, quite appropriately.
In the message the pastor mentioned that God waits patiently for us and I thought back to when He claimed me. In my childhood I attended a church that became Methodist and have the Sunday School ribbon bars to prove I was there. I thought I was a Christian but lived a rough life for the first 50 years. When God claimed me, the change was overwhelming. My wife started calling me her second husband and our pastor started using me in his sermons (which he still does). I was ordained a deacon and an elder, became a lay pastor and the visitor greeter, and anything else that came my way.
I went from smoking six packs a day and drinking accordingly to being His servant. I believe He waited on me for those 50 years because I was so stubborn and so I would have those experiences as part of my witness. He has guided me to use what I was to witness for Him. The question was raised “Where is the joy?” Now I know that joy.
I enjoyed watching the children, as always. Communion was served, albeit silently, and I think the pastor served himself. I enjoyed talking to the pastor and some others after the service.
It was an unusual morning. We arrived far too early at the church where we intended to worship. Since the sun was shining and the flowers smelled lovely, we decided to walk around this quiet neighborhood. Down the street we happened upon this PC(USA) church, then walked back to the one we planned to attend. When we went in, there was nowhere to go except the sanctuary where people were engrossed in a game and ignored us. After sitting there for 10 or 15 minutes, noting nothing to indicate Pentecost would be observed, no signage to indicate the location of a restroom, and no one who seemed at all interested in conversation, we left and went down the street to this church.
We encountered restrooms immediately upon entering the building, and the women in the kitchen welcomed us as we found our way. The ladies pointed the way toward the sanctuary, and others greeted us as we went.
I couldn’t help but admire the red, orange, and yellow decorations in observance of Pentecost, and most of the congregation sported red.
In addition to worship, the service included Communion, a new member, recognition of the Communicant’s class, and a Minute for Mission.
Most of the songs were contemporary and led only by a pianist.
The sermon was entitled “The Lord is Near” and I like the pastor was speaking directly to me. He assured that God has His ways of making His Presence known, that
He waits patiently for us to understand. He gives us space to figure things out and to grow without forcing Himself on us. He prepares us, and at the right time, He gives us the opportunity to respond by stepping out in faith. The pastor acknowledged it often happens that we only see these things clearly when we do take that step in faith but encouraged me to rest assured that God is the God of creation and He is always creating something new.
We were kindly invited to attend the celebration luncheon following but had to decline.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, Your church is nestled in a community that needs You. We pray they might shine brightly in Your name. Amen.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Today we worshiped at Crossroads Church, 8533 Peters Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 412.494.9999, www.crossroadsumc.org, Pastor Mike Arnold.
Scripture – NIV
Ephesians 1:15-21 –
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Colossians 1:27 –
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1 Peter 1:13 –
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
We figured we could see some of our family by visiting here on Mother’s Day. I usually spend the service captivated by my youngest granddaughter but today she was in her class so I only saw her before and after the service.
The message, as usual, was well-planned and with supporting Scriptures. They use a sermon outline page to help remind of key points. The pastor related how he might look in the fridge for something and not see it, like looking for the cheese, which I was sure would be followed by “Who moved my cheese?”
The topic was the second in a series of predicting the future. At one time, I was not only sure of what was next but wanted to know what God had after that. One day He brought me to the realization that He is good at letting me know about right now, and not much to say to me about later. I start the day with what I feel He is calling me to do and when I get it wrong, I’m corrected and redirected. For me it’s a perfect plan as long as I stay out of the leading part.
God has used me, and I like to say re-used me when I go astray. When I’m sensitive to His call, I am presented with amazing people to witness to and pray for. God empowers us to do His work…how cool is that?
I sense God is growing this ministry in His Church for where they will be next.
It is always a joy to worship with our family, and Mother’s Day seemed like an excellent day to do so. We’ve been here often enough that we exchange greetings like old friends with a few of the folks.
I was pleased we were there to pray for the commissioning of a group leaving for a mission trip to Mozambique.
The current sermon series is called Mysteries Revealed and today was part two, What the Future Looks Like. In this encouraging message, the pastor issued a reminder that in Christ, our future is secure and bright and that because of that, we can persist in hope, look forward to our inheritance, and access God’s great power.
He emphasized that we must look through spiritual eyes, stating that hope is not a wish or a guess, but is based on God’s rock-solid promises. He concluded with strong encouragement to never give up.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray this congregation continues to be alert to Your leading and open to following You. Amen.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Today we worshiped at Ellwood City Free Methodist Church, 412 Glen Avenue, Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.758.9494, www.churchontheisland.org, Rev. Raymond Start, Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Ephesians 2:19-20 –
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Matthew 6:33 –
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:24 –
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Joshua 24:15 –
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
We were welcomed by many, including a Marine and some other veterans.
I appreciated the handsome backlit cross on the back wall of the chancel.
With minimal signage, we found the restrooms downstairs.
Early on, the pastor mentioned the church would get together to pray for God’s direction for His church…the best thing any church can do.
One of the best current applications of the Bible in the Children’s moment: giving one piece of candy to sister, then giving two to brother. Well explained and almost acceptable to sister (she did get a second piece of candy). My favorite: she was given a small stuffed toy that she gave to her little sister in the pew on the way out. Little sister was a Shirley Temple that charmed my heart from the moment she walked in.
I had a lot of trouble hearing/understanding the speaker and somewhat with the pastor also. I am looking forward to a hearing aid to see if it’s all me.
The sermon dealt with our rights and responsibilities in our dual citizenship on earth and Heaven. The concept of putting what Christ wants for us first has been firmly seated and I am seldom disappointed. When I am, it usually becomes clear later, and I’m happy to leave it all to God.
We were living in a house where we raised our children and found out it was being sold. I was out of work and money was gone, but Christ had recently claimed me. A cousin in New Mexico called and offered to rent us his late father’s house and he would pay some of the utilities. After my wife’s prayer that if God really wanted us to move in the opposite direction from the church we belonged to and a church that I did some work for, that He should find a way for them to give us the house. The following Sunday while changing clothes from church (I was still wearing a three-piece suit to contemporary worship), my cousin called and said, “I don’t know why but I would like to give you the house.” God has blessed us so many times that I can never doubt Him.
Spend the time in prayer to discern His purpose for His Church, then boldly step out in faith. It is most important to spend that time in prayer, but also don’t second guess and go back to prayer. When He gives you direction, act.
My prayer to add would be to thank God for the adversity He lets come into our lives and the wonderful lessons it brings. He is always faithful and you are right where you are to be at this moment…be ready to step out in faith when He calls.
I was glad we had a few minutes to talk after the service and thankful to get a copy of the church’s prayer requests.
We arrived very early and the three people in the sanctuary welcomed us and introduced themselves. We saw no signage, so confirmed with them our guess that the restrooms were downstairs. This also gave us an opportunity to tour that space. Someone (or more) put a great deal of effort into painting the walls in the hallway and each room with bright colors and Bible stories.
We found seats in the sanctuary and many people stopped to greet us on their way past.
I was excited to hear about the mission trip to Kenya and will pray for traveling mercies and God’s providence and guidance for all those who participate.
There were two children for the exceptional Children’s Moment, which was perfect. The pastor illustrated the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. He told the children he would give them one piece of candy, and after giving the first child one piece, he gave the other child two pieces. When the first child asked about that, the pastor explained that he had promised them one piece and had given them one, and if he gave one of them two, that was his choice. It was a terrific way of explaining it. What I really enjoyed was, of course, he ended up giving the second child a second piece of candy, but before it ended, someone else gave each child a small gift for another reason, and on her way past her family and out of the sanctuary, the girl gave the gift to her younger sister. Such a sweet moment.
The untitled sermon focused on the rights and responsibilities of our citizenship, both of our country and of the Kingdom of Heaven. He referred to our “dual citizenship” advising that when it came to which should take precedence, we should put God above our rights and His teachings should take precedence. I appreciated his advice to “find joy in God’s joy.”
He ended with a reminder from Joshua 24:15: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You bless Your church with faith. May they hear Your voice when You call, and may they step out in faith in You. Amen.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Today we worshiped at New Brighton United Methodist Church, 1033 Sixth Avenue, New Brighton, PA 00000, 724.843.3774, www.nbumchurch.org, Rev. Scott Berkley, Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
Psalm 22:25-31 –
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
John 21:15-19 –
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
We were redirected from the church we were headed to this morning and surprised the worship start time was not what we expected.
We were welcomed warmly and given a tour of the basement kitchen and even into the boiler room.
This church is the outcome of three churches’ merging seemingly in harmony, unusual in church mergers.
The sanctuary has a large cross suspended, and I liked the ribbons over the wall sconces to resemble the Methodist flame emblem.
The woman who showed us the military honor wall, which I was pleased to see, told us her husband is a Marine and he came by later to talk.
I missed not seeing any children or young people for that matter, and I also found no signage.
There is a banner depicting Christ’s empty tomb but from where I was sitting I was sure it was an upside-down kitten. I wish I’d gotten a better look.
Most of the time I was lost during the hymns because I could not hear the choir.
The pastor referred to the governor who ran for mayor because at that level he could do something to help. I was reminded of when my brother was a state representative and wanted me to run for some office. I told him I was willing to be a Justice of the Peace or God, but I would want a job where I could help.
A gentleman opened the door for us as we entered, greeted us, and then took the time to give us some history and a tour. This congregation resulted from the merger of three churches which, from all accounts, truly became one congregation.
When we returned to the sanctuary following our tour, I noticed a hospitable touch: small bottles of water in several locations in the rear of the worship area for anyone in need.
A number of people extended an invitation us to join them at the lunch following worship but we had to decline as we had other plans.
“Three Threes” was the sermon title, which referred to Jesus’ restoration of Peter by asking three times “Do you love Me?” With compassion, Christ “brought Peter through boasting and denial to discipleship.” The lesson was summed up in one statement: to love God, love the people God loves.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will breathe the Spirit anew on Your church. Encourage them and continue to grow their faith. Amen.