Here’s the latest from Pastor Paul

Ponderings for October 12 2017

As a child, I always was a bit afraid of Alice in Wonderland. That fanciful book had some pretty wild tales, and falling down a hole seemed like a pretty scary ordeal. The fairly recent film adaptation was very entertaining, I thought. And Johnny Depp playing the Mad Hatter was quite brilliant. 

Among the unusual things and lines in the movie, one that always amused me was when Alice tells the Hatter, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” And, of course, the Mad Hatter thinks that is an “excellent practice.”

Now, Christianity and the church is nothing if not about belief. We must be about the business of encouraging and developing each others’ faith. That which we are called to believe may seem to the natural mind quite impossible. After all—resurrecting from the dead; somebody being completely God and man at once; or even a holy God not only forgiving a slimy me but also giving me the status of being His child with all the rights and privileges therein—these are, on first glance, seemingly rather impossible things.

“With God all things are possible.” So believe them we must! And more.

This Sunday in our “Sola” message series we will be examining sola fide—the call to faith and faith alone in Christ for our hope and salvation. Faith is not a virtue or work that God rewards, but a necessary response that we are each called to make.

Before I leave you with some words on faith to ponder, let me say a couple of things:

  • Thank you for praying for my mother and her broken hip. She is presently in a rehabilitation center. Thanks for your continued prayers for her recovery and our wisdom on next steps (no pun intended). 
  • Also, I am excited for 16 prospective new members joining me in a class this Saturday.  Grateful to the Lord for his adding to our fellowship. 
  • Finally, I am hearing stories and ideas as they relate to #WeLOVELakeCounty. I know the Lord will bless our efforts and our neighbors as we prayerfully and creatively choose to tangibly bring the love of Christ to our community.
Now, as promised:  “[Faith is] a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit”  (John Calvin).
 
See you Sunday, faithful ones,
Pastor Paul

Read more...

Ponderings for September 26 2017

Do you know what October 31 is?

Halloween, right?

 Yeah, what else?

The day before All Saints Day, I think.

 What’s that? 

I don’t know; I heard it somewhere. I think I saw it on my calendar.

 Okay, let me clue you in. October 31 will be the 500th anniversary of the “Protestant Reformation.” 

That has something to do with Martin Luther, right?

 Yes, and a lot to do with you as well.

Pray tell.

 Okay, here is the short version. In 1517, Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk and university professor in Wittenberg, Germany. Fed up with some of the extravagances and biblical inconsistencies of the Roman Catholic church, he communicated his formal protest by posting his 95 grievances on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. After much debate and intense trials, Luther was eventually tossed out of the church. Though never meaning to start a new “movement,” that’s just what occurred. With a renewed emphasis on God’s grace and the sufficiency of the Scriptures, this biblical and “evangelical” awakening spread from Germany to Switzerland to England and eventually to Lake County. (Okay, that last part is a bit of a shortening of the timeline, but you get the idea.)

Of course, today, things have changed a bit and there is much more a spirit of friendship and cooperation between Catholics and Protestants (one of my better friends in ministry is a priest). And yet differences still exist between us (doctrinal and otherwise).

So in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we will spend the Sundays of October biblically and historically examining the distinctives of the Reformation as they relate to our lives and faith today. Along with my message series, our Transitions Life Group will be studying the specifics of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther. If you would like to go more in depth on this great subject, I recommend you attend this class (taught by David Durkee) starting this Sunday, October 1 at 10:45am. 

We owe so much of our faith and spiritual heritage to what Luther began 500 years ago. May the month of October be a season of gratitude and appreciation to the Lord for what he did and continues to do in our lives through his grace and truth.  

That’s all for now.
Pastor Paul

Read more...

Ponderings for September 21 2017

“The world is ending soon,” my 80-something mother glibly told me as she sat gazing at her television. Now, Mom is no doomsday dispensationalist—she doesn’t even know the names Hal Lindsey or John Hagee (look ’em up…better still, don’t!). So I am wondering: why the grim forecast?

In rapid fire succession, she points out the earthquake in Mexico City; the devastating trinity of hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and now Marie); and the American president threatening in Khrushchevian fashion (do look that up!) total destruction at the UN.

“I see what you mean,” I told her. She wasn’t expecting that answer from her usually more theologically nuanced son. I was kidding. Sort of.

That the world is presently experiencing almost unprecedented turmoil in nature and global politics is unquestionable. That the Lord Jesus predicted there would be physical disasters and turmoil as well as wars and rumors of war before The End is well documented. That this tumultuous unrest would increase like labor pains before the delivery was also how Christ described the seasons before The End.

So…Mom is right?

Well—yes and no. 

Here is what I know and will commit to:

Jesus’ Second Coming (and, by inference, The End) could happen at any moment. The theological word used is “imminent.” And though Jesus described the “signs” that would alert of his return, they have always and intentionally been part of our era since Christ ascended (returned to heaven). Our era (not just the twenty-first century but the last 2,000 years) is biblically described as the “Last Days” because Jesus’ return could always be at any moment.

So yes, these troubling events point to a world in need of its Restorer and Savior to return (“the whole creation is groaning with labor pains” for the day of redemption [Romans 8]). And yes, Christ will return and make all things right (“and then the end will come” [Matthew 24]). And yes, this final culmination of things is nearer today than ever. (I write that with a smile.)

So here’s my advice to Mom and all of us in light of these days:

Be faithful. That is, be filled with faith. First, be faithful in trusting Christ for your rescue and salvation. It is for you, believer, that he is returning and your “end” will be filled with life and resurrection just as his was. Second, be faithful in living well and uprightly. May our lifestyles and priorities be evidence of the restoration the Lord has begun and will finish upon his return.

Be dutiful. Regardless of when The End is, our lives ought to be spent serving Christ and others. The time is short, so my life and work here should be an expression of the Good News and of “acting justly, loving faithfulness and walking humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

Be prayerful. That is what the Lord called us to in “the meantime.” And there is so much to pray about and so many to pray for as the effects of this sinful world ravage the souls and physical lives of so many so often.

Be peaceful. No matter how bad the natural disasters get or how dire the geopolitical scene becomes, I can rest in knowing that the Lord is in control and is somehow working all things according to his overarching plan.

“Maranatha”: Come, Lord Jesus.
Pastor Paul

 


Read more...

Ponderings for September 14 2017

“River crossed, bridge forgotten.” 

This is a phrase we like to use on staff that reminds to look back and be grateful for the things that got us where we are. And to be grateful to the Lord, who answered our prayers and enabled us to cross the river and accomplish whatever it is that we might have done. 

This past Sunday we prayed vehemently to the Lord about Hurricane Irma and the people and damage in its wake. So many Floridians have told me that God answered the multitude of prayers and that they are safe and their “stuff” suffered minimal damage. 

One friend wrote to me:

“We read Psalm 107, Mark and Luke and prayed for the Lord to calm the storm. He did! In Ft Lauderdale there was no power nor communications because of the storm. Friends watched the weather channel and texted the status of the storm coming towards us and around us. Our family was at peace. Praise the Lord.”  

Praise the Lord indeed!  

River crossed, bridge NOT forgotten. 

That is the importance of telling stories of God’s faithfulness—to yourself, your family, your church. And the beauty of journaling our prayers and their answers. So that we may never forget the bridge that carried us over the troubled river. 

“My soul, bless the LORD,  and do not forget all his benefits.”     (Psalm 103:2)

See you Sunday!

Pastor Paul
#WeLoveLakeCounty
 

Read more...

Ponderings for September 7 2017

Greetings, Trinity peeps. (How’s that for an endearing address?) Is your week going alright? We certainly have one eye on and are praying for our friends in Florida who are in Irma’s path (and still for those in Texas and the fires out west). 

I just had an encouraging morning with a group of men who meet weekly and wrestle with the Scriptures and life issues over breakfast. Today we bantered over the difficulty of finding joy (and God’s hand) in the midst of our trials. 

I hope you have a small group where you can talk about life and Christ and all the issues therein. Remember the old Cheers TV show about a neighborhood bar where real life was always on tap? We all need a place “where everybody knows your name.” I hope you have found that place at Trinity. It is vital and we offer many options. Some beginning this Sunday morning. 

One option in particular is starting this Sunday in the library at 10:45am. It is entitled Love and Respect and will go through the materials from the Love and Respect book and marriage conference series. In addition to the material, this will be a time for married couples to connect with others on Sunday as well as times outside of Trinity. Whether you are recently married or a seasoned veteran, there is a place for you in this group—for you to learn and grow, for you to contribute to the others’ marriages, and for you to know and be known by others. After all, the importance of being in a group (just like being in a marriage) is not just about what we get from it, but what we contribute to it.

Give it a try. Your marriage will be glad you did. 

Well, I’m off to Virginia for a couple of days to discuss all things related to our India ministry and Dalit Freedom Network. I’ll pray for you and you pray for me. 

I’ll see you Sunday where we celebrate Christ and look to deepen our relationships and find a place where our names (and lives) are truly known. 

Peace,
Pastor Paul

Read more...

Ponderings for August 31 2017

Hello, Trinity. 

We’ve all been watching the heartbreaking stories of southeast Texas and Houston, and we want to know how to help and bring relief to our friends down there. That is why Trinity is giving $4,000 to the relief effort via our SBC partner, North American Mission Board (NAMB). NAMB does a wonderful job responding to disasters in our country. And this is no exception—they were one of the first on the ground, bringing relief in many forms. Thanks to the many generous givers in our own fellowship, we’re able to help others like the victims of Harvey. Many have asked, and if you would like to give to this relief effort, you can designate a gift through Trinity or go directly to NAMB’s Disaster Relief website: https://missionaries.namb.net/projects/full/hurricane-harvey-response

Stay tuned as we will be looking to send workers to join NAMB’s army of helpers in Texas in the days ahead. 

It’s a privilege serving the Lord with you. 
Pastor Paul

Read more...