Loading...

Follow Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

“I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth…” Luke 1:3-4a.

Last Tuesday evening we had another installment of Bethlehem Book Club.  We were wrapping up C.S. Lewis’, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” so Hannah was present to listen in and potentially contribute to the conversation.  She doodled a little and was quiet during our time together at church, but on the way home she started to detail her love of books.

Our chat continued as we walked the dog that evening, and I finally asked her, “Do you think you’d like to be a writer some day?”  She laughed, and said, “No, I could never be a writer.” 

It was such a strange answer, especially considering the conversation leading up to that moment, so I pressed her.  I assured her that with enough good fortune and effort, she may meet with some success as a writer.  Her rebuttal, “I could never just sit down and write a whole book.”

Perceptions are everything, aren’t they?  I shared with her that very rarely, does an author just sit down and pound out an entire work of literature.  She was not convinced.  After our conversation I did a little research and found out it took Tolstoy six years to write “War and Peace.”  J.D. Salinger spent ten years writing “Catcher in the Rye.”  And I’m sure there are countless other examples of these extended efforts at crafting a literary masterpiece. 

I wonder how long it took to write the books of Luke and Acts?  Basing our best guess on the passage that appears above… it certainly didn’t happen overnight.

In fact, I am firmly convinced that the best stories take time.  And the stories we typically tell best, are our own.  And here’s the cool thing about our stories… they aren’t over yet.  We are still in the process of watching them unfold. 

The good news is that we are not passive participants in plots that have already been predetermined.  Rather, we have the capacity and the power to contribute to the writing of our stories in significant ways.  What would you like your story to be about?

Just think about it… will it be an encouraging tale of triumph over great odds?  Will it be about sharing the wisdom you have accumulated through the years?  Maybe it is an action/adventure story?  A spy novel?  I supposed the possibilities are endless.

We are the main characters of our stories, no one can write these tales except us… so, we might as well get creative and come up with something good.  But here’s the thing, take your time, let the plot thicken, because you just can’t rush perfection.      

Question for reflection: Besides the Bible, what is your favorite book and why?  If you had to recommend a book to a friend, what would it be?          

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday morning Story Hour gets underway at 9:30.

On Wednesday, Bible Study continues with a 10:30 morning session and a 7:00 evening session.  This week we have the fourth and final installment of our study entitled, “A Crazy, Holy, Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory,” by Frederick Buechner.

On Thursday evening “Stammtisch” begins at 7:00, our evening of casual, but meaningful theological conversation will be held at the Ulirich’s place (727 Venango Ave, 15209). 

On Saturday morning at 9:00 the Ladies in Fellowship Together group will begin their day trip to Hartville, Ohio.  And then, on Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00. 

On Sunday morning, we will share in worship services at 8:00 and 10:30 with Sunday School in between at 9:15.  On Sunday evening our Confirmation Kick Off dinner will begin at 6:00.    

Have a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray…
Gracious Lord, fill us with the fire of your Holy Spirit, that our passion for you and your word would burn anew.  Permit us to encounter your grace in new ways, and may we never grow weary of sharing the glory of the Gospel.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
          “Reformation Matters”

“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works...” –Romans 3:28
           
I have a book on my shelf entitled, “You Know You Are a Lutheran If…”  The text was written by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Johnson Nelson, and it is hilarious.  I have some real favorites in this book, that both humble me and hit a little too close to home.  Like this one: “You know you are a Lutheran if… you keep your baptismal certificate with your Lutheran Brotherhood or AAL insurance policy in a safe, dry place.”  Doesn’t everybody? 
And how about this classic, “You know you are a Lutheran if… your favorite beatitude is, ‘blessed are the meek’ and you know it is referring to those who are uncomfortable being asked to shake hands or that it has something to do with The Green Hymnal idea of ‘passing the peace.’”  I suppose Lutherans do tend to be a little more introverted. 
Now, if I’m going to be completely honest, while I find these lines amusing, I also need to admit this humor does indeed show my age.  And here’s why… Lutheran Brotherhood and AAL are no longer in existence.  Many of our current insurance policies are from Thrivent, which was formed almost sixteen years ago.  And how about that comment about “The Green Hymnal,” otherwise known as the “Lutheran Book of Worship,” yep it was first released in 1978… to much resistance I might add.  But if you’re a Lutheran in 2018, you may not know the difference between the blue hymnal or the red hymnal, because many congregations print their bulletins these days, using a variety of options for liturgical settings.  This would have been almost unimaginable back in 1978.
So, let me ask the timeless question from Luther’s, “Small Catechism,” (most recent edition published in 2016), “What does this mean?”  It means, that while Lutherans are sometimes given a hard time about their resistance to change, I do not think the criticism is entirely justified.  Most of us understand that change is an essential, and yes sometimes difficult, part of our lives.  While Lutherans rightly value tradition, and know what they like, our whole way of being is rooted in the creative force of the Holy Spirit, as well as the reformation itself.  Which, of course, led to some momentous changes in how Christians approached their faith. 
For this reason, and for so many more, I pray we are perfectly comfortable describing ourselves as Lutheran Christians.  So many people approach me and say, “Times sure are changing pastor.”  I’ll even hear, “The church just isn’t what it used to be.”  I understand the spirit behind those comments, I understand the force of nostalgia that pulls us (I feel its tug every day), but there’s another part of my spirit that wants to cry out, “thanks be to God!”  Reformation continues, too quickly for some, not quickly enough for others, but it continues nonetheless.
I’m eager to see how God’s creative Spirit and sustaining grace (that gave us our start so long ago), will lead us in the days ahead.  This is an exciting time, filled to overflowing with opportunity, let’s enjoy it.     

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan 
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

"Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." Proverbs 11:14

A little over four years ago Time magazine published an article entitled, "Why Your Fear of Looking Stupid is Making you look Stupid."  It was an interesting read. 

The article offered readers some important insights.  The first being, asking for help, guidance, or advice is most often perceived as a sign of wisdom, not incompetence.  Secondly, people who are unafraid to ask for a little help along the way, often experience a greater sense of confidence as they complete the tasks they have been given.  These individuals who ask for help also enjoy a much greater chance of meeting with success as they complete their assignments. 

After diligently weighing the research data, the article rightly reminds us, "there are no stupid questions."  Right on!

As I sit here today, in front of this computer, pounding out this little reflection.  I am very cognizant of the fact, that I wouldn't be here typing this little reflection if countless people had not given me much needed guidance through the years.  I am not afraid to admit this, I needed help.  And quite frankly, I do not care if everyone knows... as you know, this will hit the internet today. 

When I'm feeling lost, I often pray.  And after I pray, "I phone a friend."  Sometimes these friends shoot straight and immediately point me in a given direction.  And other times don't offer advice right away.  Some of these close friends have a creative way of listening, and then they guide the conversation in such a way that I arrive at some deep truth with their guidance.  These friendships and these conversations are an invaluable blessing in my life.

The Bible is always encouraging us to be wise.  I think one of the many ways we can be wise is to remain humble and keep these unhealthy fears of looking silly in check.  Just think about... should we be more afraid of "looking" incompetent, or more afraid of actually being "incompetent?"  I'm leaning more toward the latter option.

We just were not designed to have all the answers, but there is some fairly strong evidence that indicates we have been created in such a way that we do need the encouragement of others. 

And... if we really are imago dei, created in the image of God... then, we should realize that even God is dependent on God, the three in one and one in three. 

Question for reflection: Can you quickly name the top three people in your life from whom you would seek advice when facing a critical decision?  Do these folks know how highly you think of them?  Would you benefit from some regularly scheduled time with these individuals?          

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday evening at 6:30 the Bethlehem Book Club will be getting together to discuss C.S. Lewis', "The Last Battle."  This book is the final installment in The Chronicles of Narnia.

On Wednesday, Bible Study continues with a 10:30 morning session and a 7:00 evening session.  This week we have the third installment of our study entitled, "A Crazy, Holy, Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory," by Frederick Buechner.

On Thursday evening the high school youth group will be getting together for some fellowship at GiGi's Cupcakes at McCandless Crossing. 

On Saturday morning members of our congregation will be gathering to participate in the Shaler Homecoming festivities.  And then on Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00. 

On Sunday morning, we will share in worship services at 8:00 and 10:30 with Sunday School in between at 9:15.  On Sunday evening the middle school/confirmation age youth group will be having their whiffle ball and bonfire night, set to begin at 6:30.    

Have a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray...
God of truth and wisdom you have given us the capacity to love, serve, think, and hope.  Among the greatest of our abilities, is the ability to enthusiastically worship you. In every circumstance, may we offer our praise to you for your never-ending goodness to us.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." -Isaiah 35:10

We were much closer to disaster than you might realize.  Yes, most of you know that production of the Clark Bar, moved away from Pittsburgh some years ago.  The New England Confectionary Company had been producing Clark Bars since the 1990's.  But the company was facing financial difficulties that they could not overcome.  They were closing their doors, and the iconic Clark Bar recipe could have been lost forever.

Until, the Boyer Candy Company (the folks that make those delicious "Mallo Cups") stepped in, and not only purchased the rights to the recipe, but also returned production to Pennsylvania.  Is this important?

Oh yes, it absolutely is.  The Clark Bar was originally developed by an Irish immigrant named, D.L. Clark right here in Pittsburgh around 1917.  The chocolate bars were a huge hit locally, but also helped lift the spirits of troops serving on the frontlines in World War I.  The treats became associated with the city, and were a part of our identity, at least to a small degree.

When the re-released chocolate bars make their way back onto local store shelves (somewhere around their 102nd birthday), I'm going to buy a few and share one with Hannah.  If you would like to share a Clark Bar, just let me know.  We can talk about how the Clark Bar almost became extinct.  We can converse about the importance of shared historical experience and how that history can inform and inspire the endeavors of future generations.

We Christians know all about inspiring history.  We are awash in it from very early on in our faith journey.  Eventually history morphs into sacred tradition.  Just think about our celebration of Christmas and Easter and all that goes into those seasons.  And let's not forget about the sweetest meal of all time, holy communion, a sacred rite that Christ himself encouraged us to continue.  We continue it, for the sake of forgiveness, but also to "remember" our Lord.

In the Eucharist every Christian shares a common experience with the disciples, apostles, and saints of yesteryear, but is also made one with Christ.  I understand that time marches on, and sometimes we need to move on as well, but I also understand there are certain parts of our past that we should preserve and pass along to future generations.

I'm so excited for those Clark Bars to hit the shelves again, I'll have such a greater appreciation for them now, knowing what we almost lost.  But I'm even more excited for worship this coming weekend, when we will have the opportunity to participate in the scared traditions that fill us with goodness, that remind us of who we are, and what we have the capacity to become.  I pray we always have the wisdom to value these traditions appropriately, and in the process, "obtain joy and gladness., and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."    

Question for reflection: What are you favorite "Pittsburgh" traditions?  What faith traditions are particularly important to you?          

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday evening, the Stewardship Committee will be meeting at 7:00 and the Bethlehem Lutheran Church Conservation Corps will be meeting at 7:00 as well.

On Wednesday, Bible Study continues with a 10:30 morning session and a 7:00 evening session.  This week we forge ahead in our study entitled, "A Crazy, Holy, Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory," by Frederick Buechner. 

On Saturday the men's group will be gathering for their annual fall retreat.  And then on Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00. 

On Sunday morning, we will share in worship services at 8:00 and 10:30 with Sunday School in between at 9:15.  Following the late service our youth group will be headed to Fall Run Park for a hike and clean-up project.    

Have a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray...
Gracious Lord, you are the creator of all things, the source of every joy.  Give us opportunities to discover your wonder in the world around us.  In the smile of a neighbor, in a simple meal, in a falling leaf, your grace and beauty reside, and is ours to cherish.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

"They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.  In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright..." Psalm 92:13-15a

When I was growing up we were always taught that we needed to, "respect our elders."  This is a good rule to follow, of course, but why is this rule so important, and what does this really mean?

Well, let's first check out the definition of respect, "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something, elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements."  Exactly!

When we "respect" our elders we embrace a feeling of "deep admiration" recognizing their experience as something that should be valued.  Our elders have, by the very nature of who they are, seen more of life than we have.  In the living of that life, they have learned how to navigate difficult situations, appropriately celebrate the milestones, and sustain lasting relationship with people that are important to them.  From our elders we can learn to thrive as we reap the rich harvest these individuals have to offer.  Remember, just as the psalmist suggests, "they still produce fruit."

The best way to reap this harvest is by listening.  Too often, "respecting your elders" just means listening to their commands.  In other words, you needed to be willing to do as they say. But, that's just a little piece of a much bigger puzzle.  We need to be willing to listen to their stories, access their perspective, and embrace their wisdom.

To be successful in this endeavor there are some temptations that we need to overcome.  One, don't just hang out with people your age, that is so predictable and boring.  Second, never assume that newer always means better.  When we walk through an art museum we see works of art that move us in profound and meaningful ways and, by the way, are as priceless as they are timeless.  Our elders are a treasure in this very same way.  Finally, we just do not have it all figured out.  It seems to me, as soon as I start to even remotely believe this, I end up in a colossal mess.  Our elders can serve as sound mentors and guides.  They can help us avoid the pitfalls and stay on track.

So, respect your elders.  Take some time, find some time, and cozy up to someone that has been blessed with an abundance of experience, and listen to their story.  You will be enriched by the encounter.  And I should mention, the beauty of Christian Community is that we have access to these elders all the time.  There are all kinds of opportunities to pull up a chair and share in a special moment, so go ahead, and seize the opportunity.

Question for reflection: What makes for a good mentor?  Who are the elders you respect most deeply and why?          

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday evening, the Christian Education Committee will be meeting at 6:30 and our Congregation Council will be meeting at 7:30.

On Wednesday, Bible Study continues with a 10:30 morning session and a 7:00 evening session.  This week we will share in a study entitled, "A Crazy, Holy, Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory," by Frederick Buechner.  This promises to be an outstanding and inspiring study, so please consider joining us!  Please note, we will also have Lay Assistant, Lector, and Acolyte training for those who may be interested in serving in this way at 6:00 on Wednesday evening.

On Thursday evening, members of our congregation will be attending the Celebration of Humanity Gala, hosted by Northside Common Ministries, during which, Bethlehem Lutheran will be blessed to receive the Congregation of the Year Award.

On Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00. 

On Sunday morning, we will share in worship services at 8:00 and 10:30 with Sunday School in between at 9:15.    

Have a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray...
God of all goodness, our hope rests in you.  When our strength fails, when our wisdom is insufficient, when our faith falters, we trust that you will enter in and save us through the power of your Holy Spirit.  Keep us each day in your care, that we might keep you always at the center of our lives. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

"Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise." Deuteronomy 6:6-7

This Wednesday our Bible Study classes will resume.  On Thursday evening members of our congregation will gather and share in conversation that is important to their faith, exploring together the deeper meaning of believing.  On Sunday morning, Sunday School classes for all ages will begin again at Bethlehem.  The week ahead will be a bonanza of blessing.

I do not say this lightly.  Christian Education needs to be at the heart of everything we do.  The reason being, Christian Education empowers us to come to a deeper understanding of what God is all about, and why Christian community is so important.

Seriously, each week we gather to worship God.  Have you ever asked yourself, "why?"  For we Lutheran Christians, it is not because we must, but rather because we would like to.  I'm not being coy, this is just one of many questions that when explored sincerely results in a deeper experience in faith. 

If, and when, you consider why worship is so important, you'll inevitably be more enthused about being there.  Ask the question, and you will discover that worship has nothing to do with entertainment. 

Technically, worship doesn't even have to be "engaging," that's one of the new catch phrases.  Worship is instead about us entertaining just how essential God is to a meaningful life.  Worship is to be about us engaging the Divine through prayer, praise, adoration, and approaching God in and through the Sacraments. 

Think about your time in church in that way, not whether my being there was pleasing to me, but whether my being there in worship was pleasing to God.  Where would we come up with such an idea?  Great question!  Hebrews 13:15, "Through him then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God..."  It's about what we are offering as much as it is about what we are being offered, such an understanding might shift your whole experience.

These last lines are not meant to boost attendance in church, but they are most certainly meant to boost attendance in bible studies, Sunday School classes, retreats, and the many other avenues we make available to explore these essential questions.

The best part, we have all been given the capacity to do so, every child of God, without exception has been given the ability to share the wisdom and grace of God effectively.  Yes, every child of God.  And bear in mind, the resource, is not just the biblical text, but also the people that gather to study the word.  What a joy that we have been created in this way, what a blessing that our life together has been shaped in this way.

So, let the fun begin!  Our wait is over, it's time to get back the blessed grindstone and have our spiritual wit sharpened by the gifted students and teachers that will fill the halls of our church with joy-filled commotion in the coming days.  I plan to learn as much as I possibly can, and sincerely relish every moment of this blessed bonanza.

Question for reflection: If you could teach the world one thing about God, what would it be?          

This week at Bethlehem:

On Wednesday, Bible Study resumes with a 10:30 morning session and a 7:00 evening session.  This week we have a "warm up" session with some fun learning to get back into the swing of things.  And then beginning next week, we will share in a study entitled, "A Crazy, Holy, Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory," by Frederick Buechner.  This promises to be an outstanding and inspiring study, so please consider joining us!

On Thursday evening, our "Stammtisch" group will gather at the Ulrich home (727 Venango Avenue, Pgh, PA 15209) for casual, but meaningful theological conversation.

On Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00. 

On Sunday morning, we will share in worship services at 8:00 and 10:30 with Sunday School in between at 9:15 (Yay, it's Rally Day).  Please note the worship time change, we are back to our normal schedule for the programmatic year.  Also, plan to stick around for our annual church picnic following our 10:30 worship service. 

Have a blessed week!

PLEASE BE SURE TO RSVP FOR THE CHURCH PICNIC TODAY!!!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray...
Gracious Lord, we long to know you more deeply.  Your word is a lamp unto our feet.  Your wisdom serves as the inspiration for a meaningful life.  And your lessons, grant us perspective in every circumstance.  May we always be thankful for the opportunity to learn of your goodness, and especially thankful for the opportunity to do so together. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
                                
                                                                     
                                          From the Pastor...
     September 2018

                                                                                                             "The Reunion"

"We love because he first loved us." –1 John 4:19
           
Every year, usually around the middle of August I get a call from my grandmother, "Are you going to make it to the family reunion this year?"  My response is usually the same.  "Well Nunny," that's what we call my grandmother, "I need to check my schedule."  It turns out, when you are well over ninety years old, you lose your patience for platitudes and are not easily placated.  So, she comes right back at me with something like, "You know Danny, it's only once a year."  These family reunions are a highlight for my grandmother and it is important to her that I attend.  So, I do my best to get there.
And I must admit, there really is something special about these times together.  And here's why... when we first arrive I'm looking for my niece, my brother, my parents, and I am also looking for my grandmother... so that I can get credit for being there.  But of course, these are just the folks I know very well.  There's another group of people that I kind of recognize and so kindly say hello to. And then, there is the final category of attendees that I really don't recognize at all.
This is where Nunny steps in and takes control.  In fact, she takes me by the arm and begins to lead me around.  She, being the matriarch, knows everyone.  So, she takes it upon herself to be sure that I know everyone as well.  "This is Danny, my grandson..."  I blush and smile and shake a hand, and she continues, "Danny, this is..."  And then, she proceeds to explain my connection to this other person in exacting detail.  Nunny is an amazing historian. 
Coming to a deeper understanding of these connections is humbling.  If I happened to stroll past this person in the grocery store just days before, I would have never known that we were kin and share a common history.  It is a blessing to know and feel these connections.
It just so happens that we have a family reunion of sorts coming up at church as well.  Yes, it's true, did you know?  Just for the record, we don't call it our family reunion, we call it "Rally Day."  There are games, a great feast, and a glorious opportunity to catch up with your family of faith.  Can you make it this year?  Oh, you need to check your schedule?  Oh, come on, it's only once a year!            
All kidding aside, summer is indeed ending and it's time to come back together again.  That's easy enough, but at this year's picnic I hope we can take it a step further.  I pray there are some gracious guides and ambassadors that take new and even more veteran members by the arm, lead them around, and share the important ways that we are connected to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Such efforts make a big difference, and it really is a blessing to know and feel these connections.  The more we sense our unity in Christ, the more we will find ourselves united in mission, which of course is... to share the love of Christ, and the love of our family with people we don't know quite yet.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan 

  
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

"And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands..." 1 Kings 8:61.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "There was a time when the church was very powerful.  In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.  Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being 'disturbers of the peace' and 'outside agitators.'"

These are inspiring words to be sure, and King would go on to say about those early Christians, "They were small in number but big in commitment."  As I re-read King's words recently I was reminded of just how important commitment really is.

One's commitment to any task shapes the whole experience.  If you are building a house to get a pay check, you will likely end up with one set of results.  If you are building a house, because you are entirely committed to crafting the highest quality structure possible, you will end up with another set of results.

This isn't easy of course.  It goes without saying that having commitment takes more energy and effort.  We need to acknowledge that commitment isn't convenient, it is in fact, the opposite of convenience.  We also need to take a little time to think through what we would really like to be committed to.  Yep, is it a person or relationship?  How about an occupation or personal goal?  Will serving Christ or faith find its way onto your "commitment list?"

These questions are worth considering, because I don't think you can force commitment over the long haul.  I think our commitment to something has its greatest longevity, when we make those determinations for ourselves and are not forced into them.

Labor Day is just around the corner.  This holiday marks the end of summer, but also serves as an unofficial last hurrah, one last day of rest before the great rush of activity that descends upon us in the fall.  Enjoy it, in fact, I sincerely pray you enjoy every minute of the holiday weekend.  But I would ask one favor... just take a few seconds to think and pray about what you are resting up for?  What will you be committed to in the days and weeks ahead, what will earn your precious time, energy, and focus in the coming months?

Just a little thought might provide us with a tremendous sense of purpose.  That sense of purpose is a beautiful expression of sincere commitment.  When we're committed to a common cause, or a shared goal, trust is built.  When trust is built, relationships are strengthened.  Where relationships are strengthened, love grows.  Where love grows, we encounter God.  And when we encounter God, we and the whole world have our faith strengthened and our hope renewed.

If we have learned nothing else from history, we have learned that even just a few people with purpose can reshape the history of humankind.  I hope this power and potential humbles you, I hope it also reminds you just what we are capable of as the Body of Christ.

Question for reflection: What will you be committed to in the days and weeks ahead?  What will earn your precious, time, energy and focus?  How will your personal commitments be a blessing to others?          

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday evening the annual men's steak fry gets under way at 6:00.  Join the gang at the Point Grove at North Park for good food, fun, and fellowship.

On Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00. 

On Sunday morning, we share in worship services at 8:00 and 9:30. 

Have a safe and happy Labor Day as well as a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray...
God of wisdom and might, we pray that you would show us the way.  Give us the insight we need to know when to be outspoken and when to be contemplative, when to act and when to reflect, when to serve and when to be served.  We trust your Holy Spirit will provide the encouragement we need in every moment. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

*Please note, the church office will be closed on Monday, September 3rd in observance of the holiday. 
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

"He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!'  Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm." Mark 4:39

A couple weeks ago there was an individual dressed in a Steeler's practice uniform, including pads, that momentarily breeched security and made it on to the practice field in Latrobe.  To some of us, sneaking through security might seem like a big risk to take, but for others... such a move is well worth enduring any consequences one might face.  Young people daydream about what it might be like to hear, "the roar of the crowd."  From what I understand, that roar is powerful and significant.

In fact, decibel levels at sporting events can reach dangerous levels.  What are dangerous levels?  Well, 85 decibels sustained for any length of time can cause hearing loss.  What is the decibel level at an average sporting event?  It varies, depending on the circumstances.  But, I do have some stats to share.  On September 29, 2014 the crowd's enthusiasm at a Chief's game peaked with just 8 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the decibel level reached 142.2 dBA. That is loud.  

But just stick with me for a second, because this is going to get interesting.  I was recently reading a book by Erling Kagge entitled, "Silence: In the Age of Noise."  While doing research for the book Kagge asked a professional European soccer player what he hears on the field as he takes a shot on goal.  The player shared that for an instant, he hears absolutely nothing.  The player's intense focus results in absolute silence, despite the scientific data that indicates that decibel levels reach a pinnacle just as he swings his leg back to take the shot.

How could this be?  I don't doubt the validity of the player's comments in any way.  In extremely important moments, our intensity can drown out all the noise swirling around us.  In those important moments, we are blessed with an exacting focus that diminishes the distractions and gives us a singular sense of purpose.

We can decide what these important moments are.  And, if we are intentional about making prayer and contemplation as important as a shot on goal, we might grow closer to God, but also be afforded moments of peace even in the middle of our hectic lives.

This is important, because the research seems to indicate, we don't need to hide out in the woods hundreds of miles from any form of civilization (although that's helpful sometimes too) to find solitude.  Rather, when we embrace the focus that comes with expecting to encounter God, we could enjoy the blessing of calm in the middle of a New York City thoroughfare.

Question for reflection: How do you feel about silence; is it essential or a little scary?  Are you the type of person that turns the television on when you're home alone, just so you have a little "noise" in the background?  Or are you constantly turning the television off, because you just can't stand all that "racket?"  Do the answers to the above questions give you some insight into your spiritual life?  Do you need a soundtrack or silence to begin praying?     

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday evening, friends from BELC will be headed to the movie theatre at Pittsburgh Mills to watch, "Interview with God."  The show begins at 7:00.

On Thursday evening the Sunday School teachers meeting begins at 6:30.

On Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00.  Following the Saturday evening worship service, we have an outdoor movie night scheduled to begin at dusk.

On Sunday morning, we share in worship services at 8:00 and 9:30.  Stick around after the 9:30 worship service for some lemonade on the lawn.  The youth are hosting this week, so weather permitting, we'll have lawn games out!  And don't forget, Bethlehem Book Club delves into C.S. Lewis', "The Silver Chair" on Sunday evening at 6:30.      

Have a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray...
Gracious Lord, give us times of quiet when the boisterous world is hushed and our spirits can settle into your peace.  May these moments of refreshment and focus provide us with a sense of renewal as we seek to love, know, and serve you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen. 
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Dearest Members of Bethlehem,

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

One of the most difficult things to do in life is admit that you were wrong. 

We pride ourselves on our proficiency, our knowledge, and our skill level.  We define ourselves based upon our accomplishments and credibility.  We hope to build trust in relationships by having the right answers at just the right time. 

To be one of those people that always makes the right choices, is to be a person that is valued; a person that people consistently turn to for sage advice and wise counsel.

To admit that you were wrong compromises your credentials, it brings into question your knowledge and your skill-level, and maybe even your value as an individual.  Right?  Wrong!  As if the student who gets a “C” is somehow less than the “A” student… how ridiculous!   

My response to this predominant understanding in our society and culture?  Sincerely, please stop kidding yourself.

Only the strongest, most well-adjusted, profoundly faithful people can admit when they have truly messed up.  It takes even more character to detail the extent of your folly, ask for forgiveness from God and those affected by your utter silliness, and then strive never to slip up in the same way again.

The New Testament is encouraging us to be those kind of people… people who know they will forever contend with sin, and people who recognize the remedy for this chronic ailment, “If we confess our sins…

A meaningful life is filled with learning.  The most valuable lessons are often learned by living through the mistakes that we make.  As a bonus, when we get comfortable with our own foibles, we will be more gracious with the broken people with which we share this kingdom.

If you asked a person, even a person that isn’t very “Christian,” what Jesus and his life were all about, their answer would likely be, “forgiveness.”  If you asked that same person, with the most basic/elementary understanding of Christian theology, who that forgiveness was for… they would likely say, “me.” 

And they would be right of course… it’s crazy then, that so many folks who know better, for the sake of appearing to be Christian, will convince themselves they are “good enough,” will hide their failings, dodge responsibility, and work tirelessly to pin the blame for their own actions on someone else. 

Sadly, these tired tactics will only serve to weigh down our spirits all the more… there is another way.  Just be honest.  Don’t deceive anyone else, and most importantly (especially according to 1 John), don’t kid yourself.  God is faithful and just and is all too happy to afford you a clear conscience.         

Question for reflection: What are the areas in your spirit that need tended to?  What are your growing edges?  How has God’s grace allowed you to transform your catastrophes into triumphs?     

This week at Bethlehem:

On Tuesday evening, the Christian Education Committee will be meeting at 6:30.

On Saturday evening, we will gather for our spoken word service of Holy Communion at 6:00.  

On Sunday morning, we share in worship services at 8:00 and 9:30.  Stick around after the 9:30 worship service for some lemonade on the lawn.  Also note, the youth group pool party will be hosted by the Ulrich’s, and the festivities will get under way after late service.  Pizza will be provided for lunch!   

Have a blessed week!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dan

Let us pray…
God of righteousness, let us not wander aimlessly, convict us through your gracious teaching and show us the way forward.  We pray you would bring us to true repentance, that in that journey we might know the profound power of your grace and the glory of a brand-new start.  We pray this in the name of Jesus, the one who gave himself to take away the sin of the world, Amen. 
Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview