Saturday, April 30, 2016

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - God Knows

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. And no contribution is too small.

Matthew 7:13-21

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

God Knows

God knows, we live in difficult times. I mean, Christians in some parts of our world are facing enormous persecution. And at the same time, in other places, the church is in decline, with some folks drifting from congregation to congregation while far more are dropping into nothingness. Families are being stressed and torn by divorce and drugs and death. And sadly, even within congregations, believers seem to treat one another with something less than Christian love, tearing one another down and dividing over minutia at the very time our society desperately needs a consistent message of mercy and hope. Like I said, God certainly knows that we’re facing difficult times, something that Christ understood when he warned his disciples of the challenges presented by the narrow gate and the danger that can come from false prophets and empty claims of faith.

But that’s not all he offered them and us. You see, in spite of the very real challenges and threats, we can also trust in a God who’s in control, one who’s not only leading us toward our destinies but who is aware of what’s happening all around us. You see, God’s aware of all those who are merrily dancing through the wide gate, because it’s easy and comfortable. And he’s aware of all those who pretend to be as gentle as lambs and yet will rip into those whom they don’t like, human plants that bear the fruit of bitterness and malice rather than grace and love. And he’s aware of everybody who uses the right words but demonstrates through their lives something very different. You see, as Christ reminds us in this passage, when it comes to our own faithfulness and willingness to follow the example and commands of our Lord, God knows.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 30, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 30, 2016: Today our passages are Judges 11:1–12:15; Luke 16:19–17:10; Psalm 101:1-8; and Proverbs 14:13-14 . The readings are from  The Mes...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, May 1, 2016: Below are puzzles for children focused on the  Acts 16:11-15 . There are two “bulletins,” one for ages 3-6 and the other for ages 7-12. Feel...

Prayer Requests, to be shared during Sunday’s worship service

On Sunday, May 1, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Amy Slisik
Audrey Vincent
Betty Kraina
Betty Michael
Bill Manley
Bruce Mader
Carol Baker
Chad Wilson
Cindy Kuzel
Darcy Keffer
David Craig
David Johns
Debi Edge
Deloris Chesebro
Diane Roney
Edward Morgan III
Emery Edwards
Evan Pulice
Gen Meyer
Georgette Gordon
Goldie Baly
Greta Billham
Jan Jackson
Jeff Grant
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Joanie Lawrence
Jody Johnson
John Guglielmo
John Schlotter
Karen Edwards
Karen Lombardi
Kathryn Heilman
Kelly Stephens
Kevin Kuzel
Marcia Cooper
Marge Oslett
Mary Kay McSwords
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Shade
Mike Churchman
M'Liz Held
Nick Mourat
Olivia Shelton
Patricia Cox
Peggy Stewart
Penny Mourat
Rob Pepper
Rob Roy Jones
Ronnie Buffington
Sam Fortunato
Sandra Duckworth
Sharon Wheeler
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
The People of Dancan's Village
Vicki Williams
Wink Harner

Aksel Ace
Audri King
Devon Bragg
Elijah Parker
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Lily Ghrist
Mitch Almason

Cory Shumard
Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Lisa Burk
Michael Criss

Church Families
John & Norma Tunanidas
Ruthanne Valiga
Jenny VanGilder

Local Church
First United Methodist Church

Special Friend
Judy Jackson – Apt 316, 3720 Main St., Weirton, WV  26062-5365

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations 
Evangelism/New Church Development – Rev. Sam Gibb, Chairperson
Permanent Judicial Commission

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062
Carl Hamill – Serra Manor, Apt. 11, 205 Serra Manor, Weirton, WV  26062
Dolores Edwards – Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062
Harry Hutch – Villa Vista, Room 406, 1800 Sinclair Ave., Steubenville, OH  43953
June Virtue – Grace Cottage, 195 Eden Dr., Weirton, WV  26062-3664
Theresa Skiles – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062
Ruth Ann Oestering – Woodland Hills, 608 North 10th St., Weirton, WV  26062

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

Below are the announcements as they appear in the Sunday bulletin.

is being held in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings beginning at 9:30 a.m.  Everyone wishing to praise our Lord thru song is welcome to join us!

we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.

all our children and young people. This Sunday School experience offers them the opportunity to learn the Bible story and apply that story to their lives. “Jesus Time” meets at 11:00 a.m. and runs until the end of the Worship Service. If you have children and teens, ask one of the greeters to direct you to the nursery, for younger children, or the library, for young people.

on Monday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the church.

will  meet on Tuesday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. to continue our study of Genesis. During this session, we’ll discuss the Covenant with Abram, Genesis 15:1 – 17: 27.

their Annual Salad Smorgasbord Luncheon on Tuesday, May 3 at 12:30 in the Fellowship Hall. Devotions will be led by Eloise Evans.  Following lunch a very special program "Who Touched Me" will be presented by Rebecca (Tish) Turner. "Tish" is a member of Shiloh Apostle Faith Assembly of Weirton. Enid Williams will be pianist. All ladies are welcome to our class. So ladies, fix up that favorite salad and join us on Tuesday. A brief business meeting will be held to plan our June outing. Hostesses for the day are Eleanor Cline & Betsy Watson.

will be having their May Friendship Day Friday May 6th at10:00 in the Oakland Presbyterian Church. A lite breakfast will be served. The theme is Gathering at God's Table. The Mission project is Supplies for the Light House who need fragrance free cleaning supplies. The meeting coordinator is Isobel Bell. All are Welcome to attend.

The weather may not be warm, but Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming and it's time for Spring cleaning!! As a way of assisting you to dispose of no longer used or wanted items, the Deacons would like to inform everyone that they are having a Flea Market on May 7 at the church. They welcome any and all donations. The sale will consist of small appliances, glassware, dishes, books, collectibles, toys, and household items. Gently used children's clothes will also be sold. If you have items that you would like to contribute to this cause, they can be dropped off at the church at anytime or call the church office at (304) 748-5980 to arrange to have the items picked up.

on Sunday, May 8, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

The Chad Pickens Scholarship is available to high school seniors and students currently attending colleges or universities, etc. The applicant must be a member of Cove Presbyterian Church; must have a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and must plan on entering school in the fall of 2016 as a full-time student or a returning student. Grade transcripts are to be turned in with the application.
The Bud Schmidt Scholarship is available to any  member of the congregation of Cove Presbyterian Church who plans to attend a seminary in the fall of 2016. Chad Pickens and Bud Schmidt Scholarship applications must be received in the church office by Sunday, May 22, 2016.
Applications for The Helen T Hamill Scholarship are available through the guidance counselor at the area high schools.  Scholarships will be presented to the recipients during the morning worship on Sunday , June 5, 2016.

will be available after the service to hear your suggestions and concerns.

to the phone committee for helping us reach out to our Cove community:Katy Allen, Eleanor Cline, Kay Hyde, Bonnie Nichols, & Phil Fraga.
Debbie Siefert

between Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery PCUSA and Domasi Presbytery Church of Central Africa Presbyterian:
This afternoon, there will be a celebration of the partnership between UOV Presbytery and Domasi Presbytery, Malawi. There will be a covered dish dinner followed by a worship service at Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, OH, at 5:00 p.m. All are invited. Our guests Abusa (which means the Revs). Jafali Asidi and Collins Maganga will lead worship. Come and join with us in praising God for our unity in Christ.

either call Sue Willson (304-748-5338) or talk to any member of session.

can be found by calling 304-748-7900 Cove’s Prayer Line. You can call at anytime to hear a message by Rev. Rudiger. The messages are changed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You can also hear the devotion at and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian). You can also read the devotion at

regularly. If you wish to add someone, contact the church office.

your enrollment is valid for 12 months from the registration date. You will need your Kroger rewards card number. To confirm that your registration is still active or to re-register you can contact Kroger customer service at this number: 1-866-221-4141. If you need to re-register all you'll need is your Kroger Card number and  our Cove Church number which is 80270. All that is required is that you go to; Community; Rewards; Enroll Now; type in Cove and hit search; click on Cove Presbyterian; click on Enroll Now. Please check your receipt the next time you shop, the bottom should read You requested Kroger to donate to Cove Presbyterian Church. If you need help with this process just call the church office, and Heather Campbell will be happy to assist you.

that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They’re listed below:
The Cove Community ( - This is for the whole church. I’ll post sermons and announcements.
Cove Kids ( - This is tailored for the young people in our church. Again I’ll post announcements. You’re also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you’d like to post.
Bible Talk ( - We’ve established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary.
The Bible in a Year ( - Each day, we’ll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.
Growing in Grace ( - Although we’re saved by God’s grace, we can grow in our understanding of grace. At Cove Presbyterian Church, we offer a variety of different classes for children and adults, many of which are recorded and the podcasts posted on our PodBean (covepresbyterian).

Information and an application for the Russell Scholarship can be found on our website Deadline for applications is MAY 27, 2016. If you have questions concerning the application, please call Cindy Foster 740-359-2750. Online applications will not be considered.

if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact the church office.

so that some of homebound members are able to attend our worship services, please tell the pastor or another member of session.

the Cove PodBean page ( and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

“like” us on Facebook (Cove Presbyterian Church, or join our Facebook group (The Cove Community, You can also connect with Pastor Rudiger on Instagram (rev_ed).

if you know of someone who is in the hospital please contact the church office, due to privacy laws the hospital is unable to contact us. If you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger or to receive communion please contact the church office. Also, if you would like to receive the Sunday Bulletin contact the church office.

drop it in the purple container at the back door so that it can be recycled.

can be purchased for a service. The cost is $16.00 a vase.  You may also purchase silk flowers or live plants, the choice is yours.  Telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, we’ll place the flowers in a vase for you to take.

Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Cent er.  The labels including the bar code or just the bar code can be dropped off in the container located in the main  hallway downstairs.
Greeting Cards are being collected by the Myrtle McHendry Class. Please drop off your used Greeting Cards or just the front of the card in the box located in the main hallway downstairs. No envelopes -please. The cards are being sent to St. Jude’s  Ranch to be remade into cards to be sold in their gift shop.  FYI . . Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting Cards can not be accepted as they are trade marked.
Can Tabs are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container located in the hallway downstairs.

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, May 1, 2016

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. The title of the sermon is “To Boldly Go”, and we’ll look at how we might step forward into challenging situations with faith and confidence.

Friday's Essay - Why Are We Here?

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. 
If you find this essay helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Now, before I write anything else, I need to apologize. If you saw the title and assumed that I might be offering some kind of metaphysical meaning to life as we know it, I’m sorry, because you’re going to be disappointed. No, I’m not talking about why we’re here on planet Earth, trudging through this mortal toil. Instead, I’m asking why we’re here in the church. In other words, why do we choose to be involved in the Body of Christ? And even though I’m a good Calvinist and believe that God has called us into his church, we still have freedom over the amount and the motivation for our involvement. Therefore, I think it’s very appropriate, from time to time, for us all to ask that very straightforward question: why are we here?

And I think that’s particularly true for those of us who are actively or inactively involved right here in Cove. I mean, as most of you’ll know, we’re facing financial issues that are serious, in fact, that are compromising our ability to much more than survive. And if you’ve been to worship lately, our sanctuary looks a little like my Aunt Virginia’s smile, a couple of teeth surrounded by a lot of empty space. And as the cherry on top of the sundae, we have folks who are involved in the leadership of the congregation who neither give nor attend. As a matter of fact, from what I gather, some are actively involved in other churches and even discouraging people to attend the congregation they lead. Now let me be clear, I think it may be important to explore why these things are happening, and this probably should be a topic we discuss in the future. But before we begin this conversation, I think it may be important to answer the question I posed a little while ago, and I’ll tell you why. Our answers may and probably should shape whatever we discuss later.

And I’ll tell you, I think our individual answers can be clear and unambiguous. You see, when you get right down to it, we’re (and I’m talking about you and me) we’re here either to serve Jesus Christ or we’re not. And even though I know there’s all kinds of other ways you could answer this question, I think the alternatives are still the same. Jesus is either the reason we attend or we give or we lead, or he’s not.

And you know, if he is the reason we’re here, then I think there are some things we’re probably going to want to do. I mean, first, we’re going need to follow the commands of the one we claim as Lord, which means accepting the fact that, internally, we need to love one another as we’ve been loved and, externally, we’ve been called and equipped to make disciples of all nations, which includes people on the other side of the world right along with the guy on the other side of the street. And then second, we need to decide that we’re going to work together. As a good friend reminded me this morning, it’s really not about me, you know about what I like or what I want or even what I think. It’s not about me, and frankly, it’s not about you; it’s about God. And because of that, it has to be about us, about us working together to do what God has called us to do. It’s about us building one another up rather than tearing one another down. It’s about us talking and listening, giving and receiving, praying to God and reaching out to others. And third, we’re going to need to remember that God is in control and as Paul wrote, he will ultimately judge the work we did, including the motivation we had in doing it. Of course, I recognize that, when the roll is called up yonder, none of us will present to the Lord anything that’s completely pristine and pure. As I’ve said before, if on Judgement Day, you see me up ahead of you in line, I hope you brought your lunch. We all have strengths and weaknesses; therefore, we’ve all had successes and failures. But personally, I just cringe at the thought of standing before the one who knows the human heart and hearing him point out all those times when I claimed my actions were motivated by concern but both us know that there was a lot of malice behind the words and the work. You see, in my opinion, if we are here because of Jesus, I think it’s a no-brainer; we’re going to follow his commands and we’re going to work together and we’re going to acknowledge that God is our judge.

But of course, that’s not the only answer to the question: why are we here? Although some say I’m here because Jesus has called me here, and I’m going to serve him as best I can, others may have answers that aren’t Jesus-centered. But then, if you’re here in the Christian church for any reason other than Christ, then maybe you should ask yourself, why are you here?

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 29, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 29, 2016: Today our passages are Judges 9:22–10:18; Luke 24:13-53; Psalm 100:1-5; and Proverbs 14:11-12 . The readings are from  The Messag...

From Presbyterian Disaster Assistance - U.S. Flooding (Spring 2016)


In a series of extreme weather conditions, the South Central U.S. has experienced continued flooding and storm damage. The Sabine River, which forms part of the border between Texas and Louisiana, crested in several areas, along with the Red River among others.

PDA Response

Man wades through flood waters with boat full of sand bags
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is working with impacted mid councils in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to bring God’s hope and healing to all affected by flooding. Gifts from One Great Hour of Sharing are helping Presbyterian congregations as they reach out to their affected communities to provide emergency items like water, food and other urgent supplies to neighbors in need. Members of the PDA National Response Team (NRT) will be helping with assessments, connecting with long-term recovery groups, and serving as a present witness of the larger church during this difficult time. 
PDA has disaster coordinators and NRT members already on the ground in Houston, Texas assessing the needs. More NRT members will be deployed to New Covenant Presbytery at the beginning of May after the waters finally recede. So far one Presbyterian Church, Christ Church in Bellaire, has been identified as having flood damage. They have received Church Damage grant monies from PDA.
NRT members are also being deployed to Louisiana and Mississippi to assess the needs and assist the affected congregations and Mid Councils about next steps.
The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP”—Give. Act. Pray.


Lord, all around us the waters are rising.
I feel so helpless, for I cannot stop the rain from falling or the waters from rising.
I feel so powerless, for the current is strong and my body is tired.
I feel so empty, for our possessions are floating away or anchored in the muddy water.
Lord, all around us the waters are rising.
Grant me your strength, since mine is somewhere downstream.
Grant me your patience, since mine is drowning.
Grant me your perspective, since my loss is in replaceable things, not irreplaceable grace.
Give me eyes to see how precious your gifts are: family and friends, faith and mercy.
And Lord, when the waters rise around me in my spirit, and my faith and hope are swept downstream, help me to remember how you got me through this flood.
In Your Son's name. Amen.
 Prayer written by The Rev. John G. Hamilton, FPC, Rochelle, Ill.

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Wills Emphasis Sunday

Inky and Harriet Inscoe were very involved with their church community at First Presbyterian Church of Morganton, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. After his wife’s passing in 2004, Inky continued his commitment at the church until his death in 2013.
“At Inky’s funeral we recalled his wonderful sense of humor, his positive attitude and sense of adventure, his service to his country as a World War II pilot and his dedication to good works in our community,” said pastor Michael Bailey.
For Inky and Harriet, the church had been their life, pure and simple.
“They did everything here, held every position at this church—and even sang in the choir together,” Bailey said. Dedication to their faith and to their church had been a hallmark of their lives.
The Inscoes had not necessarily been thought of as “rich people,” but after Inky’s passing, the richness of their lives was made manifest. 
After his death, the church’s clerk of session received a letter—along with a check for $92,000.
On that same day, Converse College also received a letter, along with a check for $5,500. The same thing happened at Salem College, Union Presbyterian Seminary, the Grandfather Home for Children, Habitat for Humanity, and Burke County Hospice and Palliative Care.
“We might not have thought of the Inscoes as rich people, but as we look back and reflect, it becomes all too apparent just how richly they lived,” said Bailey.
Theirs were lives of generosity and dedication, sharing and good works.
An emphasis on planned giving is a regular part of the worship life at First Presbyterian Church of Morganton. Every three to five years an emphasis is made on planned giving. The possibility and importance of planned giving are also communicated from the pulpit two to three times per year. When gifts such as the Inscoes’ are received, they are celebrated in the worship life of the congregation. In this way pastor Michael Bailey hopes to allow the gifts themselves to continue to generate momentum for giving.
Live Forward, Give Forward is a Presbyterian Foundation program designed to help pastors and church leaders talk to their congregations about future bequests. Resources for a wills program are available at A Presbyterian Foundation ministry relations officer is also available to discuss starting a wills program in your church or ministry.

Let us pray

Lord, thank you for your blessings. Whether we have plenty or little, teach us to be cheerful givers and to give from a full heart that serves you and uses your gifts in ways that will bless others.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 28, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 28, 2016: Today our passages are Judges 8:18–9:21; Luke 23:44–24:12; Psalm 99:1-9; and Proverbs 14:9-10 . The readings are from  The Message...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Growing in Grace: A Study of Genesis - The Call of Abram (11:27 - 14...

Growing in Grace: A Study of Genesis - The Call of Abram (11:27 - 14...: Below are the notes from the fifth session in "A Study of Genesis." This 16-session series considers the narrative found in the fi...

The Happenings Around the Presbytery - April 27, 2016

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
Karen Edwards
Ed & Dorothy Mooney
Leura Nancy Macon
Ronald Wolf
Kenn Sickle
Nancy Mountz
David Brocklehurst
Bob & Sue Shearer
Ed Rudiger
Lt. Aaron Mistic, USAF
All our service men & women
R. H. “Mac” McCuen
Carol Schoolcraft
Malawi food crisis
Domasi Partnership
Dakota Partnership

Please pray for the people of Japan and Ecuador: For the survivors, for those who suffered the loss of loved ones, and for those who are working tirelessly to provide rescue, humanitarian aid, and spiritual and psychological support.
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: Kenn Sickle, Lloyd Smith, David Stammerjohn, Ed Stern, Donna Todd
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THANK YOU ~ To the members of Grace Presbyterian Church, Thank you for hosting the April meeting of Presbytery. As a person of Hungarian descent, I was especially happy to see cabbage rolls on the dinner buffet! “The deepest of level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless ... beyond speech ... beyond concept.” ― Thomas Merton. Peace, Reverend Robert Nagy, Moderator UOVP
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OUR CONGRATULATIONS to First Presbyterian Church of Martins Ferry, OH, as they celebrate 175 years in ministry.
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THE MOST UP TO DATE Pulpit Supply list, effective April 26, 2016, can be found on our website
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CELEBRATING THE PARTNERSHIP between Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery PCUSA and Domasi Presbytery Church of Central Africa Presbyterian: Sunday, May 1st, there will be a covered dish dinner followed by a worship service at Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, OH, at 5:00 p.m. All are invited. Our guests Abusa Jafali Asidi and Abusa Collins Maganga will lead worship. Come and join with us in praising God for our unity in Christ.
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EMMANUEL PRESBYTERIAN Church, 767 Park Blvd., East Liverpool, OH, invites you to a roast beef dinner, with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, coleslaw, rolls, dessert, & beverage, on Saturday, May 7thfrom 4:00 to 7:00 PM. Cost $8.00. Take out available.
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THERE WILL BE A MEETING OF ALL PASTORS—ordained teaching elders, retired, at large, commissioned ruling elders, and those available to preach—on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Presbytery Office. The purpose of this meeting is to get together in fellowship, be in communion with each other, build community, and together celebrate the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper. Lunch will be provided.RSVP to 304-232-3490 or
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COMPASSION, PEACE AND JUSTICE Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency Addressing Racism--Justice & Peace Close up newsletter, April, 2016, control+click here
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NEW RESOURCE FOR MISSION LEADERS: Looking for a sermon illustration? Need a story for Sunday school? Find stories from PC(USA) mission workers, such as Carol Fujii (right), shown here praying with a student in Thailand. Carol wrote a story about the transformation of a woman named “Oh,” who, once trafficked, now teaches art classes. Each story illustrates a Sunday New Testament reading for the Revised Common Lectionary. Control+click: Read mission stories.

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PRESBYTERIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY newsletter April, 2016, can be found on our website under “Items of Interest.”
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PCUSA SUMMER 2016 curriculum is now available for download or print and ship. Designed for children and those who love them, each age level (Multiage and Preschool) provides materials for groups to use from June 6 through August 28, 2016. Available in downloadable and print and ship formats, each age level includes leader materials, volunteer leader friendly helps, reproducible resource sheets, and Stories, Colors & More. Music & Melodies CD is an additional charge. Learn more by clicking here.

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In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes, the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase...'Goodnight, sleep tight.'
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PITTSBURGH THEOLOGICAL Seminary Continuing Education News April, 2016: Click here for newsletter
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COLUMBIA THEOLOGICAL Seminary Center for Life-Long Learning April 2016 newsletter: Click here
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BEING CHURCH ~ We love the church. But we know that the 20th century church is not meeting the needs of the 21st century world. Over one week, June 5–11, 2016, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary invites you to gather together in community to consider church. Eric H. F. Law of the Kaleidescope Institute will be here June 5-8 to offer certificate training in Gracious Leadership. On June 9, earn a certificate in Youth Ministry or Cyber Ethics. Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans will join us June 10-11 to further the conversation of being church. Register for all or part of the conference at The Seminary is within walking distance of a number of hotels. Have lunch on campus or enjoy one of the new eateries in East Liberty. This is open for everyone to attend. Teens are welcome with an adult. Childcare is available. Questions: ConEd@edu or 412-924-1345.
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Control+click: Youth searching for an identity Youth often struggle to define who they are but churches can provide valuable support.
Control+click: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to continue food security support in Malawi Communities show resilience, but help still needed.
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HAS ANYONE TAKEN ANY PHOTOS at your church events? Special dinner? Special Sunday School or youth event? (Make sure it’s okay with parents.) E-mail one to us for our website slideshow. Include what and where. Photos in landscape view work best.
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ATTENTION HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS: Information and an application for the Russell Scholarship can be found on our Deadline for applications is MAY 27, 2016. If you have questions concerning the application, please call Cindy Foster 740-359-2750. Online applications will not be considered.
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OPEN HOUSE MINISTRY 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 NEW WILMINGTON MISSION CONFERENCE, July 23-30, 2016, seeks to deepen the missionary spirit in fulfillment of the Great Commission. NWMC meets in scenic New Wilmington, PA, just one hour north of Pittsburgh. We gather on the campus of Westminster College for a week of worship, learning, and service. Annually, more than 30 states and 30 countries are represented at this multigenerational mission conference with scholars and missionaries from around the globe. There is programming for all ages – infant through adult. You can bring the whole family. There are hands on service projects and opportunities for a select group of young adults to participate in a short-term mission scholarship experience. Visit the website for speakers, schedules, program details, and more information. 724-946-9770. Register by May 1 for the lowest cost. Learn more
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PRESBYTERIAN DISASTER ASSISTANCE to Japan and Ecuador. If you want to make a donation for this, make your check payable to Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery with memo line: DR999999. Or to donate quickly, you can go to
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Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, May 1, 2016 (T...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, May 1, 2016 (T...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 67), the Letters (Acts 16:9-15) or (Revelation 21:10, 22 - 22:5), and the ...

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 27, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 27, 2016: Today our passages are Judges 7:1–8:17; Luke 23:13-43; Psalm 97:1–98:9; and Proverbs 14:7-8 . The readings are from  The Message  ...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - The Better Question

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. And no contribution is too small.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

The Better Question

For as long as I can remember, Christians have been spending a lot of time and effort trying to figure out “when”. Of course, what follows the word varies from person to person. I mean, some believers are almost obsessed with the question, when will Jesus return? And they spend time and money trying to figure out the signs. Other Christians, ask a more general question, like when will the world end? And even though their speculation involves more than theology, their passion and concentration is pretty much the same. And for others, there’s a more personal spin, like when will I leave this mortal toil? But regardless of whether you’re talking about a triumphal return or a traumatic end, I think a lot of people live their lives looking into the future and asking “when.”

And although that may be both natural and expected, I think there’s a much better question we should be asking ourselves, and the one I have in mind begins with the word “how.” How am I living my life right now? And before he comes, how well am I following the commands and the loving example of Jesus Christ? And how am I putting to use all the gifts and talents I’ve been given to make the world around me a better place? And how am I making the very best of the time I have remaining? You see, although we’ll probably never stop asking “when”, let’s not neglect all those much better questions that start with the word “how.”

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 26, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for April 26, 2016: Today our passages are Judges 6:1-40; Luke 22:54–23:12; Psalm 95:1– 96:13; and Proverbs 14:5-6 . The readings are from  The Messag...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sunday's Sermon – Two Roads Diverged

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, April 24, in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio and Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page. 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Acts 11:1-18

And the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that even Gentiles had received the word of God. And when Peter went up into Jerusalem, those from the circumcision separated themselves from him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men, and you ate with them.” And Peter began to explain to them precisely, saying, “I myself was in the city of Joppa praying, and I saw in a trance a vision, a certain object came down as a great sheet by four corners let down from heaven, and it came close to me. Into it, I looked intently, and I took careful note, and I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild animals and reptiles and the birds of the heaven. And I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Arise, Peter, kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, because nothing profane and unclean has entered into my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you should not call profane.’ This happened three times, and everything was again drawn into heaven. And behold, at once, three men came up to the house where I was, sent from Caesarea by him. And the Spirit said to me to go with them without a second thought. And with me, these six brothers also went, and we went into the man’s house. And he related to us how he saw the angel in his house, standing and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, the one who’s called Peter, who will speak a message to you through which you’ll be saved, you and your whole household.’ And as I started to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as it fell on us in the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘On one hand John baptized in water, but you yourselves will baptize in Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave the same gift as also to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who was I that I that I could hinder God?” When they heard these things, they said no more and they glorified God saying, “So then even to the Gentiles, God’s given the repentance into life.”

Two Roads Diverged

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Of course, that’s the first three stanzas of Robert Frost’s great poem The Road Not Taken. And although a lot of people believe it’s about trusting yourself and not following the crowd, according to the author, it’s actually about the struggle some people have making decisions. 

And I’ve got to tell you, I can really identify with that kind of struggle, because as the minister of a congregation in the twenty-first century, that sure seems to be were we are. I mean, as a church, in some very real and profound ways we’re facing two divergent paths. And although there’s all kinds of stuff connected with this fork in the road, I think it all comes down to this choice; as we try to be the people God has called us to be and to do the work God has called us to do right here in Weirton, West Virginia, do we look primarily to the past for direction, doing the same kind of things we’ve always done, because even the though, on the surface, a lot seems to have changed, at the core of their being, people are really the same as they’ve always been? That’s one road. Or do we assume that the world has changed; therefore, we have to change too, because a lot of the very good and effective stuff we did in the past will no longer work in the present, much less the future? Now this is what I think we face, and I’ll tell you, I believe it effects not just us, but the entire Body of Christ. As Christians, we all have to decide which road to take. 

And you know, even though for some, the answer is really easy, it isn’t for me. Remember, I’m almost sixty years old, and I grew up in the church during the sixties, singing all the old-favorites during a time when no one questioned whether or not they should be sung. And I went to seminary and got my first church in the eighties and I learned that services needed a “Call to Worship” and a “Prayer of Confession” then one of intercession then one of thanksgiving, all separate. I mean, that’s how I was taught to worship God. And of course, that’s what I believed. But now, well, I’m not as sure, not when I see people looking at the church more as a place where they can experience the presence of God through music and worship that’s modern and meaningful to them than as a community where folks love to spend time with one another and share the traditions of the past. Now, I’m not saying one road is right and the other is wrong. It’s just that we may have to make some decisions, and I’m talking about tough decisions about the direction we’re going to move, decisions that are going to effect not just the church right now but the one we’re going to leave to our children and grandchildren.

Of course, this idea of having to choose, well, that’s certainly not new. As a matter of fact, in the passage we just read, the church in Acts was facing the same kind of decision. You see, they had to decide whether a man had to become a Jew before he could become a Christian. In other words, did a Christian need to be circumcised? Now, I recognize that we may view that issue as unnecessary or unimportant, but for them it was a big deal, every bit as big as the structure of the service and the layout of the bulletin and the familiarity of the hymns. As a matter of fact, this issue was ripping the early church apart, with neither side willing even to sit down with the other. You see, like us, they were certainly facing divergent roads.

And that’s why I think it’s interesting that when Peter came to Jerusalem in the middle of this crisis, he told them a story from his own life where he faced the same kind of decision himself, namely when he was called to abandon some of the stuff he’d always believed, you know, like how it was wrong to go to the house of Gentile. Now that’s what he faced. 

But you know, as he was telling his story, not only did he tell them what he decided, he also let them know how he ended up making that decision. I mean, Peter told them how he opened himself up to the message that God was trying to communicate to him, you know, what he was getting at by those animals that descended from heaven in a sheet. And he told them how, when he was instructed to kill and eat some animals that he believed were unclean, he questioned what it meant. In other words, he didn’t just blindly do it. He made sure that the direction was clear. And then he told them how, once he was sure, he went. You see, when the three men came to the house, he said that he went “...with them without a second thought.” And as a result, well, not only did he share with Cornelius and his household the Good News of Jesus Christ, Peter also saw that “...the Holy Spirit fell on them just as it fell on [him] in the beginning.” And he baptized them in the Lord’s name. You see, Peter told them how he made his decision. 

And I think it’s really exciting, that these early Christians sort of followed his example. I mean, as Peter told his story, they must have listened, because when he’d finished, Luke wrote that “...they said no more and they glorified God saying, ‘So then even to the Gentiles, God’s given the repentance into life.’” And after the whole church had gathered, they discussed the issue and decided that, even though the uncircumcised could become members, there were still certain standards that believers needed to follow, standards that they put in a letter and distributed to the other churches. And again, according to Luke, they were universally accepted by all believers. You see, just like Peter was open to the voice of God and careful as he interpreted what God said to him and then acted based on what he heard, so did the early church. And as a result, just like Peter saw the coming of the Holy Spirit, the early church saw its unity and strength increase. 

And I’ll tell you, I believe we can follow the same example as we wrestle with the direction we should take. You see, just like both Peter and the early church, we can intentionally open ourselves up to God. In other words, we can deliberately listen to what God may be saying to us right here and right now. And to do that, well, it may mean that we’ll have to step back from what we assume he must be saying. I mean, if Peter had not done that, if he hadn’t allowed God to move him away from what he already thought, he’d have never understood the point of the vision, you know, that since God made Gentile they couldn’t be unclean, and he would have never gone to Caesarea. And if the early Christians hadn’t listened to what God had done through Peter, you know, how the Spirit descended on a bunch of uncircumcised Gentiles, they’d have split over this issue that was a deal-breaker for some of them. And for us, if we’re not open to how God has led his people for thousands of years and yet how he also has the power and the authority to speak in a new way so that his people can face new problems and issues, in other words, if we make the decision that we’re not going to listen to anything that doesn’t agree with what we already think and feel, then we just might miss the voice the God. You see, we really need to listen to God’s voice speaking through Scripture, speaking through prayer, speaking through others, in fact, speaking through whatever way God chooses to speak. Just like both Peter and the early church, to make better decisions, we may need to open ourselves up to God intentionally. That’s one, but that’s not all. 

Because I think we also need to be careful before we blindly accept what we hear. Remember, Peter needed to see the sheet and hear the voice three times before he really understood what was happening. And even after those early Christians heard Peter’s story and recognized that God might be doing something that was new and different, they still met together and discussed the issues before they reached conclusions that challenged a lot of their assumptions. And I’ll tell you, I think the same is true for us. I mean, just because we recognize that God may be doing something new and different, that doesn’t mean that everything from the past needs to be tossed out. As I’ve said before, I really believe that the church is like a tree. To be healthy it needs both leaves that are constantly changing and a root that’s secure.  Let’s face it, if it doesn’t have both, the tree is probably going to die. But be-that-as-it-may, I think the decision we have in front of us is too important, and not just for us but for our children and grandchildren, to make it without study and discussion and prayer. Following the examples of both Peter and the early church, I believe we need to be careful as we make our decisions. And that’s two.

And finally, I think we also need to be ready, and I’m talking about ready to respond, to do what God has equipped us to do and to become what God has called us to be. In other words, just like Peter went and shared and then baptized and just like the early church decided and wrote and distributed, we need to apply the word of God to our lives and to the life of our church. And we need to move in the direction that God would have us go. Now in general terms, I think we have a pretty good idea about what that is. I mean, Jesus told us both to love God and neighbor as best we can as well as to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and by teaching. In a nutshell, that’s our job, isn’t it? Of course, how we might do it, well, that has a lot to do with the decisions we end up making, and that’s not easy. But I’ve got some good news for you, and this is really good news. Remember what happened when Peter and then when the early church did what they had been called to do? Well, I believe as sure as I’m standing here, if we respond to what God is telling us, man, we’re going to see the Holy Spirit moving in ways and in directions that will stagger our imaginations. But not only that, we’ll feel a sense of unity and strength that we may never have felt before. Now, that’s going to happen, when we follow the examples of Peter and the early church and respond to the word and the will of God. And that’s three.

And in a sense, I think that’s something that Robert Frost might have realized in the poem I read a little while ago. I mean, even though the narrator wrestled with his decision, for whatever reason, by the end he decided which direction to go. And, according to the poet: 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference. 

Now that’s what he wrote. And I’ll tell you something, as the church of Jesus Christ, if we’re open and careful and responsive, we’ll know what to do when two roads diverge.