Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cove's Worship Service – The First Sunday after Christmas (1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, December 27, 2015. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

If you found this service meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

The Order of Worship
The First Sunday after Christmas – December 27, 2015

Enter Worship with Praise

Entry of the Word: “This is the Day that the Lord Has Made”

Praising God Through Song
Hymn: “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”
Hymn: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
Song for the Children: “Bethlehem Lullaby”

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

The Choir Offering Praise thru Music: “Were You There on That Christmas Night?”

Our Congregational Prayer, followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Our Song Glorifying God: Gloria Patri

Giving Back to God: “Now The Holy Child is Born”

Song of Praise:  Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Stating Our Faith: From The Second Helvetic Confession
The Lord enjoined his ancient people to exercise the greatest care that young people, even from infancy, be properly instructed.  Moreover, he expressly commanded in his law that they should teach them, and that the mysteries of the sacraments should be explained.  Now since it is well known from the writings of the Evangelists and apostles that God has no less concern for the youth of his new people, when he openly testifies and says: "Let the children come to me; for the pastors of the churches act most wisely when they early and carefully catechize the youth, laying the first grounds of faith, and faithfully teaching the rudiments of our religion by expounding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the doctrine of the sacraments, with other such principles and chief heads of our religion.  Here let the Church show her faith and diligence in bringing the children to be catechized, desirous and glad to have her children well instructed. 

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, "May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord"; and then they would return to their home. Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

The Word Proclaimed: The Giver That Keeps Giving

Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn: “How Great Our Joy!”

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: “ In Dulci Jubilo”

Two Ridges' Worship Service – The First Sunday after Advent (1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio, on Sunday, December 27, 2015. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

If you found this service meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

The First Sunday after Christmas
December 27, 2015


LITURGIST: Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
PEOPLE: Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
LITURGIST: Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
PEOPLE: Praise him,you highest heavens, andyou waters above the heavens!
LITURGIST: Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
PEOPLE: He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
LITURGIST: Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
PEOPLE: Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
LITURGIST: Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together!
PEOPLE: Let them praise the name of the LoRD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
LITURGIST: He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him.
PEOPLE: Praise the LORD!

GATHERING HYMN: “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”

Almighty God, we confess that we’ve sinned against you. At Christmas, we tend to focus on the gift rather than the giver. And even though that’s appropriate when we consider your gjft to us, often we neglect the responsibility we have to others after our gifts have been given. Merciful God,forgive us, and help us be givers who keep giving. Amen.




ANTHEM: “Were You There on That Christmas Night?”

SCRIPTURE LESSON: I Samuel 2:18-20, 26

SERMON: “Givers Who Keep Giving”

HYMN: “In the Bleak Midwinter”


Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever - Amen.



We offer these gifts that your kingdom may take shape here on earth, and that we may also be shaped in the giving by the One whose very ljfe is a gjft to us, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

DEPARTING HYMN: “Go, Tell It on the Mountain”



A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – The Question of Control

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

The Question of Control

Without a doubt, we like to believe that they have control. I mean, we like to believe that we have control over our environment. And we like to believe that we have control over other people. And we certainly like to believe that we have control over our own lives. My goodness, we decide what we’ll do and say, right? And we determine where we’ll go and who we’re with. As a matter of fact, we’ve convinced ourselves that the only way God has control over us is if we give him control. And when we do, we have every right to feel great satisfaction, because we believe that our giving him control is a sign of great faith. O yes, we like to be in control.

There’s just one problem, we’re not; we’re not in control. It’s like James reminds us, we don’t know for sure what’ll happen tomorrow. And we don’t have absolutely control over how long we live. In reality, we don’t have nearly the amount of control that we assume we have. And for that reason, maybe the most important question isn’t, “Do we have the faith to give God control?” Instead, maybe we should be asking ourselves, “Do we have the faith to accept that control was never something we had the power to give?”

A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on John 16:33

Minute for Mission – University of Dubuque Theological Seminary


Talented College Student Seeks to Share His Faith and God’s Love 
If it’s trueaccording to a children’s hymnthat “all God’s creatures got a place in the choir,” then Caleb Chincoya is an overachiever.
 The multi-talented, 21-year-old college senior takes up at least five spots—guitar, bass, congas, drums, and piano—in the band. 
 Chincoya, a computer information technology major at the University of Dubuque, traces his love of music to the profound influence and considerable gifts of his uncle Lemuel Velasco, with whom he and his mother moved to the U.S. from Mexico when Chincoya was just six years old.
“When we first came to the U.S., my uncle was the worship leader at the church we were in, and I just really enjoyed the beat of the music in general,” Chincoya said. “I started off with the congas when I was six or seven, and then, when I saw my uncle playing the guitar, I just picked it up and messed with it until I got it. My uncle taught me the mechanics, but rhythm was always natural to me.”
 Chincoya’s goal in high school—where he served as assistant to the band teacher—was to learn as many instruments as possible. But all toward a specific end.
 “God has given me the gift of music and I’ve been trying to use it in my life,” said Chincoya. “When I look at the talents that I have, I ask myself, ‘How am I using this to glorify God?’ Because if I’m not using this in a positive sense, then what’s the point? If God is the reason I’m alive, what’s the point of doing something that’s not for Him?”
 Chincoya cites a favorite passage from the Gospel of John (6:66–68), in which Jesus explains to a crowd of his disciples what it takes to follow him. “Most of them turn around and say, ‘How can we follow something like this?’” he said. “Then Jesus turns to the twelve and asks, ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Peter’s response is then, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’ In the same fashion, I think my parents have dedicated their lives to serving God because of the same answer, ‘Where else would we go?’ Because he’s our Savior, and because I’ve seen my life as being shaped by God and my parents, where else would I go?”
 Although Chincoya has played in a jazz ensemble before audiences at such venues as the Heritage Center at the University of Dubuque, it has been his worship leadership in the campus ministry there—as well as having provided music for the PC(USA)’s last two Big Tent events—that have proven most transformational.
 “I think that when you’re playing music that is not worship for God, there is an expectation of perfection in order to connect with people who tend to be more literate in music,” he said. “When it’s for worship, it doesn’t matter when I mess up or play the wrong chord. I think worship is an environment where people understand that it’s not for us, but for someone greater.”
 While Chincoya has amassed a long list of accolades and achievements throughout his nearly four years at the University of Dubuque—including having been elected both Student Government Association president and president of the Christian Leadership Council—he at one time wondered whether he could even afford to attend college.
 And then the connectional church stepped in.
 Members and staff of Denver Presbytery—including the Rev. Tom Sheffield, the Rev. Amy Mendez, Raquel Yslas, and the Rev. Joe Mares, Chincoya’s pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Aurora, Colorado—connected him and his family to scholarships available through the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s office for Financial Aid.
 “We looked for scholarships that would help anybody, without necessarily needing a Social Security number,” said Chincoya. “They all helped my family, including my uncle, who is trying to become an ordained pastor through the University of Dubuque using their distance program, while working a full-time construction job and being an assistant pastor at the Aurora church. It’s been a lot to manage, and there were days when he didn’t sleep, but he has been a great influence on me. I know I can do it because I have a great example of someone who has done much more.”
 Mendez, who serves as pastor for Church Development and Multiracial Ministries for the Presbytery of Denver, has known Chincoya—whom she calls “a blessing in my life and ministry”—since he was young. She has had the privilege to watch him grow and mature as a young adult.
 “Caleb is a true dreamer,” Mendez said. “Despite all the challenges his family has confronted in the U.S., Caleb has been able to make the right choices in his young life. For instance, his dream to go to college. His mother did not know how was she going to pay for his college tuition, but his academic discipline, determination, and his hard work have enabled him to actively pursue higher education. In the local church and in the Presbytery of Denver, we feel very proud to have supported and invested in Caleb’s dream to complete his undergraduate degree.” 
 One of the national scholarships for which Chincoya applied—and subsequently received—was a Student Opportunity Scholarship from the PC(USA). The Student Opportunity Scholarship serves PC(USA) college students by providing need-based aid for sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are full-time, first degree students attending accredited institutions in the U.S. Students are awarded up to $2,000 for no more than three years.
 He was also one of two seniors who were awarded a $1,500 supplemental award for service. In addition to his elected campus office, Chincoya has served as a Young Adult Advisory Delegate at the PC(USA) General Assembly, a camp counselor at Highlands [Presbyterian] Camp and Retreat Center in Allenspark, Colorado, and last summer was a youth pastor intern at his home church in Aurora.
 “Without people like Amy, Raquel, Joe, and Tom, I wouldn’t necessarily be where I am right now,” said Chincoya. “The connections in our church come a lot through the actual people. They show a lot of love for what God is calling them to do, which is to share opportunities with others.”
 Even though he will graduate this spring, Chincoya has already started work on his M.Div. degree through the University of Dubuque’s 3/3 Program, which allows students to complete the B.A. and the M.Div. degrees in six years.
 “I think the assumption is that everyone who enters seminary will become a pastor, but I think that seminary is the place where we go to understand God more in depth,” he said. “If I’m going to show others what God is about and they ask questions, I need to provide actual sources, biblical citations, and know the history of how these things happened. Going to seminary is an important part of continuing to grow my faith and share it with others.”
Emily Enders Odom

Let us pray

Most powerful creator and gracious God, be our guide. Inspire us to build unity and trust among your people in our presbyteries. Teach us to live as you would have us live. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cove's Worship Service – Christmas Eve (A Service of Readings and Carols)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Thursday, December 24, 2015. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

If you found this service meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Our Call to Worship: Psalm 96
Leader: O sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.
People: Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Leader: Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.
People: For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
Leader: For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
People: Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Leader: Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
People: Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Leader: Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
People: Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
Leader: The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.  He will judge the peoples with equity.”
People: Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it.
Leader: Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth.
People: He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Our Offering to God: “What Child Is This”

Our Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.

Choir: Great Joy Medley

A Service of Readings and Carols

First Reading: Genesis 3:8-15
During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?!”
And the woman said, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the snake,
“Because you did this,
you are the one cursed
out of all the farm animals,
out of all the wild animals.
On your belly you will crawl,
and dust you will eat
every day of your life.
I will put contempt
between you and the woman,
between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
but you will strike at their heels.”

Hymn: “Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus”

Second Reading: Genesis 22:15-18
The Lord’s messenger called out to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I give my word as the Lord that because you did this and didn’t hold back your son, your only son, I will bless you richly and I will give you countless descendants, as many as the stars in the sky and as the grains of sand on the seashore. They will conquer their enemies’ cities. All the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants, because you obeyed me.”

Hymn: “Angels, from the Realms of Glory”

Third Reading: Isaiah 9:2,6,7
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be vast authority and endless peace
for David’s throne and for his kingdom,
establishing and sustaining it
with justice and righteousness
now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this.

Hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Fourth Reading: Isaiah 11:1–3a; 4a; 6–9
A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;
a branch will sprout from his roots.
The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him,
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of planning and strength,
a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
He will delight in fearing the Lord.
He won’t judge by appearances,
nor decide by hearsay.
He will judge the needy with righteousness,
and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
the calf and the young lion will feed together,
and a little child will lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze.
Their young will lie down together,
and a lion will eat straw like an ox.
A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole;
toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den.
They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.
The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,
just as the water covers the sea.

Hymn: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

Fifth Reading: Luke 1:26–35; 38
When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.

Choir: Bethlehem Song

Sixth Reading: Luke 2:1; 3–7
In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.
Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Hymn: “Away in a Manger”

Seventh Reading: Luke 2: 8–16
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night.  The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

Duet: Birthday of a King

Eighth Reading: Matthew 2:1–12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:
You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Hymn: “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

Ninth Reading: John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the word
and the word was with God,
and God was the word.
He was in the beginning with God.

All things through him came into being,
and apart from him nothing came into being.
That which came into being in him was life.
And the life was the light of humanity.
And the light in the darkness shines,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

He was in the world,
and the world through him came into being,
and the world didn’t know him.
To his own he came,
and his own didn’t accept him.
But all who accepted him,
he gave to them the ability to become children of God,

And the word became flesh
and dwelt among us,
and we saw his glory,
glory as the first born from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Because from his fullness,
we all received, even grace upon grace.

Hymn: “Silent Night!  Holy Night!”


Postlude: Excelsis Deo

The Happenings Around the Presbytery - December 30, 2015

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery
907 National Road
Wheeling, WV  26003

Office Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In an emergency after office hours: Call 740-359-1813

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Marie Luckhardt
Joe Byrne
Ed & Dorothy Mooney
Leura Nancy Macon
John Lewis
Kenn Sickle
Nancy Mountz
David Brocklehurst
Bob & Sue Shearer
Betty Dornick
Domasi Presbytery
Malawi flooding & food crisis
Lesley Shoup
Lt. Aaron Mistic, USAF
Dakota Presbytery
All our service men & women
Please keep us informed of any prayer concerns you may have.
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PRAYER FOR UOVP PASTORS: Select one of these pastors and remember him/her in your prayers this week: David Stammerjohn, Ed Stern, Donna Todd, Paul Todd, Gene Toot.
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THE PRESBYTERY OFFICE will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, December 31. [And every Friday.] See you “next year!” --Monday, January 4.
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MEDICAL BENEVOLENCE FOUNDATION International Partner Prayer Requests for December ~ Presbyterian University of Eastern Africa, Kenya: The Presbyterian University of East Africa is a private Christian University founded by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), long-time partners of MBF. Additionally, nursing schools for two of our hospital partners, Tumutumu and Chogoria, are connected to the university through their nursing programs. The University is struggling and is in need of God's intervention for the very existence of the school. They are facing severe financial difficulties as a result of previous administrations and mounting debts. Many of the highly qualified and dedicated staff have stayed on, despite not being paid since April 2015. Problems are compounded by the fact that the government still has not granted them a Charter to operate so they continue, precariously, with only the original letter of interim authority.
ò  Pray that Vice Chancellor, Prof Kibas, has the wisdom and guidance he needs to lead his team down the path that God has laid for them so they may continue their good work.
ò  Pray for favor from the government bodies as the University seeks a Charter so that they can expand their programs and increase their student body.
ò  Give thanks to the loyal staff who have continued to work patiently without pay for so long.
ò  Pray for God's favor as PCEA seeks support from both local and overseas partners. Pray for the partnerships between MBF, the church, Tumutumu and Chogoria, will be strengthened and can provide guidance through this difficult time.
ò  Pray that all members and institutions affiliated with the PCEA see the importance of the University and find it in their hearts to support them so they may continue providing a quality, Christian education to all those who seek it.
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Control+click: Food security conditions in Malawi continue to worsenDespite aid efforts, increasing number of people are going hungry.
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Jan. 2  ~
Roger Criss
Jan. 6  ~
Bill Lawrence

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YOU'VE SHARED YOUR BLESSINGS, Now share your stories. As the Presbyterian Mission Agency looks ahead to 2016 and beyond, we need your input to make the Presbyterian Giving Catalog even better. How did your congregation promote giving through the catalog? What are you already thinking about for next year? What can other congregations learn from yours? How can we help make it even easier to use the Presbyterian Giving Catalog and its supporting resources? Share your stories and feedback by clicking on the button below. We want to hear how your congregation was inspired to give back and share in God's
mission through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Tell us how your congregation was inspired to give through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

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Nativity-Wallpaper-05[1]A prayer in this Season of Epiphany (author unknown)
Bright Star, Holy One

Bright Star, Holy One
Be with those who suffer, struggle, cry out, weep,
Are in pain of heart or soul or mind;
From the darkness, may the glory of God arise!

Bright Star, Holy One
Fill the hearts of leaders, nations, cities
and faith communities with wisdom and grace.
May the glory of God arise!

Bright Star, Holy One,
Lead our leaders in your way, your hope,
your love and your peace.
Enlighten the pathways.
With the Glory of God, arise!

Bright Star, Holy One
Laugh with those who laugh this day; lift up our joys,
Our hope is found in you.
May the Glory of God arise.

Bright Star, Holy One
Help us in all we do and say and are,
To be your love shining forth –
May the Glory of God arise.

Bright Star, Holy One
Hear our prayers. Amen.

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SAVE THE DATEChurch Officer Training & a program on Professional Ethics for all Pastors
In the north: Saturday, January 30th9:00 AM, Trinity Presbyterian Church, East Liverpool, OH  43920
In the south: Saturday, February 6th9:00 AM, First Presbyterian Church, Wheeling, WV  26003
All new and continuing ruling elders and deacons are encouraged to attend. Some who have been church officers for many years have found this training very helpful. New officers have enjoyed the experience and found it provides a very valuable introduction to their calling.
As we adopt new standards for child protection and as a time of renewal about other ethical issues, we will provide a program on professional ethics for those engaged in professional ministry. ALL TEACHING ELDERS AND ALL COMMISSIONED RULING ELDERS ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND.
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JANUARY PRAYER REQUESTS are on our website under “Spotlight.”
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THE PRESBYTERIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY Newsletter for December, 2015, is on our website under “Items of Interest.”
THE PEACE & JUSTICE Newsletter for December, 2015, is also on our website. Click on “Mission” on the sidebar to the right of the photo slideshow, then click on “Peacemaking.”
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OPEN HOUSE is an outreach to those in need in the Wheeling area. We provide dinner, fellowship, and share a movie every Saturday night from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 1307 Chapline St., Wheeling, WV. You are cordially invited to join us! Volunteers are also always needed. Monetary donations can be sent to the presbytery, payable to UOVP, with a memo line: Open House Ministry.
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THE END-OF-THE-YEAR GA Statistical Reporting site is now open. Clerks of Session, please go to our website and find all the information as well as links to the GA statistical report and clerk’s questionnaire under Annual Reports. Please plan to submit your two electronic General Assembly reports by January 31, 2016 (or by February 15th at the latest). However, the longer you wait, the slower the process will be when you actually file the reports online.
There are also four reports to be returned to the Presbytery Office. You can e-mail the completed reports to If you wish to file paper copies, please return them at the presbytery meeting on Saturday, January 23, 2016, at Follansbee Presbyterian Church, Follansbee, W. Va.or by mail (the address is on the forms).
There is one report for the Board of Pensions.
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LEAD YOUR CONGREGATION into informed church membership with the Being Reformed workbook New Members: Call to Discipleship.Noted theologian Donald McKim offers his unique perspective on different aspects of the ministry of church members. The workbook may be used in different ways: as a self-guided study, as a group study, or as a ready reference for personal reflection. Suggested lesson plans are offered for group study.
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THE PCUSA DOCUMENTARY VIDEO, “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence,” is now available in the Presbytery’s Resource Center to be lent out to anyone in the presbytery wishing to borrow it. Trigger shares the story of how gun violence impacts individuals and communities. It examines the effect that one shooting has on a survivor, a family, a community, and a society. 54 minutes. [This video compliments of the Peacemaking Sub-committee.]
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PRAYER PARTNERS: You will find the January 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, prayer partner list on our Presbytery Click on “Prayer Partners” in the top blue box. Your prayer partner is the church on the same line across from your church in this file. The purpose is to get to know each other better and to pray for one another by sharing joys and concerns in a more personal way. You should contact that congregation and get acquainted and find out about their prayer concerns and share those with your congregation in your bulletin and/or newsletter. We know the power of prayer, and we know that many times God shows His will for us through others, so let’s pray together.
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PIANIST NEEDED: Yellow Creek Presbyterian Church, Wellsville, OH, is looking for a pianist for their 11:00 a.m. Sunday worship services. For more info, call the Rev. Bob Offerdahl at 330-207-6233.
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SMALL CHURCH + SMALL BUDGET = BIG MINISTRY WORKSHOP: On Saturday, January 16, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Lisa Buckingham, the Assistant at GRACE Presbyterian Church, 7 N. 4th Street, Martins Ferry, OH, will offer to our presbytery a free workshop. It is called: "Small Church + Small Budget = Big Ministry". She will show that it does not take a large budget or a large church to grow a successful Sunday School ministry. You will receive information to put into immediate action as well as after the program grows. Printed material will be available. This workshop is for anyone and everyone who wants to see a Sunday School grow and flourish in their church. This is a free workshop. Lisa will also be available, to those who come, for support and encouragement and coaching over the next year.
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2016 LITURGICAL COLORS CALENDAR: To find a printable liturgical calendar with the liturgical colors for paraments, control+click here: 2016 liturgical colors.
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A Thought from the Word - A 15-second thought based on John 14:1-3

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 30, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 30, 2015: Today our passages are Malachi 1:1–2:17; Revelation 21:1-27; Psalm 149:1-9; and Proverbs 31:10-24. The readings are from the  Conte...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cove's Worship Service – The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Micah 5:2-5a)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, December 20, 2015. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

If you found this service meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

The Order of Worship
The Fourth Sunday in Advent – December 20, 2015

Enter Worship with Praise

Lighting the Fourth Candle of Advent 

Praising God Through Song
Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Song for the Children: “Christ Was Born in Bethlehem”

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

The Choir Offering Praise thru Music: “Come, Emmanuel”

Our Congregational Prayer, followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Our Song Glorifying God: Gloria Patri

Giving Back to God - Duet: “Carol of Hope”

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Stating Our Faith: The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.  He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father.  And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.  And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.  And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.  And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen. 

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

The Word Proclaimed: What Happens in Bethlehem

Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: Celebrate Christmas

The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, January 3, 2016 (The Second Sunday after Christmas)

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, January 3, 201...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:7-14), the Psalms (Psalm 147:12-20), the Letters (Ephesians 1...

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – The Best Way to Honor the Dead

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

2 Samuel 23:13-17b

Towards the beginning of harvest three of the thirty chiefs went down to join David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. David said longingly, "O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!" Then the three warriors broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it; he poured it out to the LORD, "The LORD forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?" Therefore he would not drink it.

The Best Way to Honor the Dead

In my 58 years of life, I’ve seen the United States become involved in several military adventures, and I think you could make the case that at least a couple became quagmires, you know, situations where winning seems doubtful, if not impossible. And the only thing that seems clear is that the conflict has become a drain on our resources, including our most precious resource of all, the lives of our service men and women.  As a matter of fact, some might say that our recent involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan fits this definition. And yet, when anyone suggests that it might be time to refocus our attention and move on, someone will undoubtedly say that, if we withdraw, that’s showing disrespect to those who’ve died. We’d be saying their deaths had no meaning, that they died in vain. Therefore, we need to stay even if that means more young men and women will die while the situation becomes more and more muddled.

But this passage from 2 Samuel might cause us to question this assumption. I mean, using this logic, David should have drunk the water that those three warriors brought to him. By drinking, David would have given the risk they took meaning, and if one had died, his death wouldn’t have been in vain. And yet, that wasn’t the perspective of God. Rather he forbid that David drink the water from Bethlehem’s well, because the lives of those men were worth far more than a cup of water. And as we apply this to our situation, maybe the lives of our men and women are worth more right now than justifying an action taken in the past or some sense of frustration in the present. In other words, maybe the best way to honor the dead is to do what we can to reduce their number in the future.