To the Point | July 31, 2020

A Word about the Word

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things [Philippians 4:8].
 
I will if you do…
 
As a matter of fact, go ahead and read that entire fourth chapter. A friend of mine, a widow struggling with too much stuff, asked for a biblical reading recommendation to give her a bit of a lift and better perspective. My answer? Philippians 4. The down-the-road consequences connected to the things we think about and dwell on are huge!

 

Close to Home

Sunday morning ought to be rather interesting and fresh. The message will include a dialogue with Dr. Leah Jeunnette, a bioethicist from CWRU, about the ethics and our responsibilities during this pandemic. You didn’t know I hung out with such smart people, did you? 🙂

We are peering into the future to see when we might resume in-person worship. As human beings we need to be together. As Christian people we need to worship and fellowship together. Look for an announcement sometime next week. Look for an even stronger call for everyone to wear masks in the church building to comply with Governor DeWine’s mandate requiring them in all indoor public spaces.

To stay in touch during these COVID days, I am going to start a daily, five-minute devotional video series. “Take 5” will start this Monday and we’ll meander through the Book of James. To subscribe and join us, click here.

Remember Trinity’s high calling in these days: unity and charity. Our retiring Director of Care, Diane Steele—with her tongue firmly in her cheek—added a third: sanity. Hear, hear!

 

The World as It Is

Two giants passed away in the last week or so.

“Real spiritual growth is always growth downward, so to speak, into profounder humility, which in healthy souls will become more and more apparent as they age.”  [J.I Packer]

“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the twenty-first century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression, and war.” [John Lewis]

 

#CultureNerd

Back in late March, as COVID-19 was strengthening its quarantining grip on the world, National Geographic magazine featured a story about an Italian man named Mauro Morandi. His badly damaged catamaran limped onto the shores of a deserted island in the Mediterranean called Budelli. He has lived there pretty much alone for over thirty years.

Morandi, who reads voraciously and has become a student of biology and botany while having over 50,000 Instagram followers (@maurodabudelli), is an interesting example of flourishing while living in solitude. He has become a bit of a celebrity and even gives an occasional tour of the island.

As you navigate this pandemic’s grip on your social life, you may enjoy this piece about Mauro Morandi. There are some really beautiful pictures as well!

 

And Then There’s This…

Martin Luther experienced and lived through the bubonic plague. And he offered these wise words:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

I’ll see you on the other side.


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To The Point for July 14 2020

A Word about the Word

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. [Psa
lm 19:1–4]

The rest of this summer, let’s resolve to:
•    take the time to observe and appreciate God’s glorious creation.
•    learn what we can about the Lord from this “other” Revelation.
•    imitate the creation by using fewer words and still proclaiming glory of God.

Close to Home

A Trinity’s pastor and one of our Elders attended a forum last week during Mentor’s Racial Justice Week. They experienced some insightful dialogue and presentations. Listen, learn, apply—this is the way we learn new things and grow. May God give us wisdom to apply his gospel to the social issues of our day.

When 2020 began, Trinity designated the theme of the year as “Jesus: Knowing Him and Making Him Known.”  A lot has occurred since the year began (you think???). And yet our focus remains. As 2020 proceeds, we will continue our message series centered on our Savior. I have encouraged our staff and church family to be reading books about the person and life of Jesus. I came across this, a recommended reading list by Dallas Seminary scholar and acquaintance of mine, Dr. Darrell Bock. Good books, these.

The World as It Is

I have greatly reduced my social media exposure. How nice it’s been. But I still hear from friends about some of the bizarre things people are believing and sharing—like the ominous “cashless society plot” that Dave Ramsey was supposedly warning about (sorry, not him!). Or that we are all being duped (“primed,” I think, was the word used) by this COVID-19, quarantining, mask-wearing conspiracy. Really? Tell that to the victims or their families. Christian people, at least, ought to know better. They’ve been warned not to chase after this stuff: Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly [1 Timothy 4:7].

#CultureNerd

This seems rather unfortunate, historically and religiously. Even Pope Francis has chimed in.

And Then There’s This…

O God,
you have taught us to keep all your commandments 
by loving you and our neighbor:
Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit,
that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart,
and united to one another with pure affection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen.
[The Book of Common Prayer]

I’ll see you on the other side.
Pastor Paul

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To The Point for July 7 2020

A Word about the Word

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger [James 1:19].

It seems as though these words have faded from many people’s Bibles. (Or maybe they’ve just been relegated to the status of the genealogies: interesting words, but we’re not sure what to do with them or how to apply them to everyday life.)

A side conversation that Trinity’s Elders recently had as we met to pray had to do with the unkindness of so many (as evidenced by their words in person and on social media). One Elder, fairly new to the social media scene, was aghast at the caustic rhetoric—even from church people! I told him to quit trolling the saints. J

And yet, James’ words above are a megaphone to our present situation and our often undisciplined tongues. I know we are better than this. We need to try to be kinder and actually care that an unchurched world is watching and listening to us. Per the Apostle James, we need to listen better, speak (and write) much less, and control our anger. We need to be the best possible versions of ourselves. Your positions, opinions, and words are not only affecting your life—they are affecting many others as well.

As I mentioned on Sunday morning, our time as Elders ended with a desire to summon the church to walk in step with the Holy Spirit and pursue the Fruit of the Spirit. Let’s start making these beautiful “fruit” our signature:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things [Galatians 5:22–23].

Close to Home and The World as It Is

As the world wrings its hands and awaits the next wave of dire news, the Church can offer real hope. It often has. And our model is the first-century Church. It, too, was confronted with pandemics—notice the plural. While our pandemics today look like COVID-19, economic crisis, and racial unrest, the first Church’s looked a little different…and yet eerily similar.

The Book of Acts recounts how the early Christians responded during a famine (Acts 11). Instead of denying its reality, playing the blame game, or proclaiming the End of the World—the Christian people CARED and sought to help those affected by the natural disaster. When economic troubles spread among the people, the early church dug deep into its pockets and SHARED what they had with those in need (Acts 4). And when the many of one race (the Jews) were offended by the potential intrusion of another (the Gentiles), the Lord reminded his followers that he “so loved the world.” They responded and DARED to imagine what being one People together would look like (Acts 10). And those Christians turned the world upside down.

Fast forward: In the throes of these current pandemics, what would happen if Christians today looked beyond themselves to CARE and SHARE and DARE. Wow! The world is waiting.

#CultureNerd

Ennio Morricone, one of the greatest musical geniuses of our age, passed away on Monday. What a repertoire of great music and film soundtracks he leaves behind! My favorite was his soundtrack of The Mission. Powerful movie, too! And he always composed in pencil—without a piano! His music has been the background of much of my studying and sermon preparation through the years.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/obituaries/ennio-morricone-dead.html

Here, Maestro conducts his own beautiful piece. My favorite! Give it a watch and listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oag1Dfa1e_E

And sometimes we just need a little common sense. Thanks, Tom.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/jul/06/tom-hanks-on-surviving-coronavirus-i-had-crippling-body-aches-fatigue-and-couldnt-concentrate

And Then There’s This…

Out of the mouths of babes: Pastor David’s son, Josiah, told his parents at dinner tonight that the food was kalos. “Pastor Paul told us that word means ‘good’ in Greek,” he proclaimed. I love it!

I’ll see you on the other side.
Pastor Paul

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To The Point for June 4 2020

A Word about the Word

Who is my neighbor?
 

This was a fairly simple question posed to Jesus from a lawyer who asked him about the most important Law. 

Neighbor? The one right next door. For me, that would Mike and Kelly. And then, on the other side, Ron and Carol. While Trinity has made it our strategic plan and motto to “love Lake County” and beyond, I would love to see us reach our neighbors that live adjacent to our campus.

“Loving your neighbor” means the person right near you, right now, at the store or at work or this Sunday at Trinity. This includes everything from being courteous to still wearing a mask. It really is about loving my neighbor and being Christlike and “looking not to my own interests but to the interests of others” (Philippians 4). 

Jesus told the inquiring lawyer that the second big “Law” was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And then he responded to his follow-up question, “Who is my neighbor?” by telling the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. My neighbor is the one whom I encounter along “my way” and who has a need. In this volatile day, my neighbor is also the African American, the oppressed, the one who needs my voice and my love. 

Close to Home

Okay, this Sunday, June 7, Trinity is very excited to reopen her doors for worship! The amount of deliberation and prayer and hard work that has gone into this decision and in preparing the building for the in-person Sunday experience cannot be overstated.

Here’s what to expect as you return: The worship times will be as they were before (9:30am and 11:00am). We will be following the Level 1 protocol in our re-entry plan (see chart here). The entire experience will be designed for social distancing. You will find separate entrances and exits. The seating in the Worship Center (all renovated and shiny new!) will be arranged with this in mind and the capacity will be reduced as well. Families will worship together (since there’s no kids’ ministry yet). There will be a venue in the Fellowship Hall and the screens in the Gathering Space will be on if parents of little ones want that option.

Sanitizing stations galore! All staff and ministry leaders will wear masks and all attenders are strongly encouraged to do the same (see above). A huge tent will be set up outside for wonderful yet appropriately distanced fellowship. It will be great to see many Trinity family members again! And, of course, if for any reason you don’t feel ready to return quite yet, our livestream worship at 9:30am is still available and a great option. Remember our call for this re-entry: unity and charity.

The World as It Is

When I went to first grade, I entered a new school. In those first scary, unfamiliar days, my best friends were Frank Jarrett and Derek White. We did everything together. Frank and Derek were African American boys. Even way back then, I saw the pain of bigotry and racism. In my young adulthood, I had a black friend tell me, “You don’t know what it’s like to be walking down the street and hear automatic car locks being engaged by people in the car because I am walking by.” Ouch! I could tell you more. You probably could, too.

Some have asked what they can do in these days of racial awareness and unrest. I want to develop a thoughtful plan for us, but for now, let’s profoundly and simply begin with prayer…and a movie.

Pray diligently and without ceasing for:

  • Your own heart—that God may reveal “if there is any offensive way in me.” And that the Lord may break your heart for the evil that racism is and for our friends of color who know it too well. 
  • For victims’ families—that they may find justice and be comforted.
  • For the police officers of our communities—that they may be God’s instruments of peace and justice and mercy.
  • For our extremely divided nation—that we may find peace and unity as we try to move toward “liberty and justice for all.”
  • For churches (Trinity included)—that they not become complacent but be instruments of peace seeking to be vessels of racial reconciliation.

And about the movie: Just Mercy is an excellent 2019 drama based on a true story of a contemporary death penalty “abolitionist.” This story of bigotry, justice system corruption, and brutality will break your heart and make you mad. I would love it if my entire church and other friends watched this film and embraced its cause. All of June, you can watch Just Mercy for free on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and Google+. Read more about it here

#CultureNerd

Do you need a break from all of the stress right here and right now? Do you wish you could just leave this planet? Well, you can, sort of. In honor of the first crewed space launch from U.S. soil in nine years, check out this trailer for an amazing documentary about the Apollo missions (you can watch the entire documentary on Disney+ or Amazon Prime).And Then There’s This…

The Church and the world lost a brilliant apologist recently. Ravi Zacharias’ body succumbed to cancer and he went to be with his Savior on May 19. Ravi consistently fulfilled his mission and purpose to “make thinkers believe and believers think.” If you have never listened to him, or if you want to hear him again, here is a conversation that he had in 2019 with Dave Rubin, a secular Jew who hosts a popular talk show called The Rubin Report. Enjoy. Thank you, Ravi.

I’ll see you on the other side—in person or on the live-stream.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for November 4 2019

On a chilly fall Monday, I am pondering about:
 
  • The holiday season—and, among other things, weight gain. A few weeks ago the scale demanded I lose seven pounds. By Thanksgiving. No problem. Then Halloween and Reese Cups and Snickers bars all appeared. I have been trying to work out even more than usual…but then weddings and regular breakfast and lunch appointments keep getting in the way. I find myself deep within the tension between the joy of food and friendship and the discipline of eating wisely. A wise Apostle once wrote: “I buffet my body to make it my slave.” No tension there: I am in charge of my will and my appetite.
 
  • Kanye—Until last week and his new album dropped, I can’t say I ever paid Kanye West much mind. But when Jesus Is King released last week, suddenly everybody (young and old, Christian and non) is talking about it, and several have asked me what I as a pastor think about his conversion (e.g., is it legit?). First, let me say I am in no place to evaluate another person’s conversion, especially from thousands of miles away and of someone I’ve never met. But I also know that such a question comes from a very skeptical “keeper of the keys” mentality that thinks Kanye has to be a fraud. How sad. I was looking at some of his lyrics and these words from the song “Hands On” jumped out at me: What have you been hearin’ from the Christians? / They’ll be the first one to judge me. / Make it feel like nobody love me. Ouch. And sadly, I am afraid that is true.
Secondly, though I don’t know Kanye, I do know Christ. I know that the Lord is in the business of wooing those who have lived their lives without him and who have made idols of themselves (Kanye sang in the past, “I am a God”). And, like many of us reading this, Christ powerfully changed us. Maybe it will happen to Kanye.
 
This phenomenon has certainly gotten many people’s attention. Here’s a way to pray and speak about this to those at school or work who are wondering or even spiritually curious about what Kanye is singing about: Let them know that every Sunday at Trinity we speak and sing about Jesus. It would be just fine if some young people made their way to Trinity to hear more about Christ because Kanye’s music awakened them to God. Thirdly, I and the three other Trinity pastors dialogued about this very topic on the Trinity Equip podcast. You can find it here: www.trinitymentor.com/podcast
 
Okay, more later.
 
In the meantime, don’t forget to read the Book of Ruth. For this week, we will be walking through the second chapter—a “chance” meeting, or the providence of God?
 
Hope your week gets off to a good start.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for December 7 2018

So I was welcomed into my office this morning with an inflatable Grinch, adorned with a sign playfully calling me a scrooge. Very cute. He’s actually a pretty good office mate.
 
Now, just to clarify, I’m not anti–Christmas “stuff”—the front yard inflatables and Christmas sweaters (ugly or otherwise) are a matter of personal freedom and taste (insert joke here). And still, the more significant and “heroic” display that we can give this Christmas is a beautiful spirit full of generosity and humility and reconciliation. (If you haven’t heard the Advent sermons yet, you can go and listen to them here: https://www.trinitymentor.com/sermons-2/)
 
My sincere hope for you as Christmas approaches is that the character of Christ and the fruit of his Spirit shine through you amid all of your regular and irregular relationships.
 
We are coming down the Christmas homestretch here at Trinity.
 
One more Sunday, the fourth one of Advent, and we are reminded again of the heroism of our Lord. Though he hardly looked like a hero (a vulnerable baby; “he had no appearance that attracts us to him”), he certainly acted like one. Christ, who will one day carry “the government on his shoulders,” strongly carries our burdens and sins—as he once carried his heavy cross on those shoulders. A hero like none other. This Sunday we worship and sing carols to our Hero!
 
Christmas Eve! A concert, a time of candlelight reflection, and very much an outreach and opportunity to show how #WeLOVELakeCounty as we invite many others to enjoy the spirit of the holidays and perhaps take a step closer to following our Lord and embracing our Hero. Choose 4:00pm or 6:00pm, whichever time works best for you and your family. And as Christmas comes rushing in, a word of thanks to all who, so far, have helped “make unseen heroes” through our Dalit Freedom ministry. Our tangible love toward the Untouchable women and children brings a bit of reality to the carol lyric: “…and all oppression shall cease.” There will be two more opportunities to give a gift and help make a “hero” (Sunday and Christmas Eve). May this season flourish with heroes—because of the Hero.
 
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son… The Hero arrived, just in time!
 
See you around the corner.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for August 7 2018

The angst was dripping off the “As You Wish” request card: 
 
Why doesn’t the Lord answer my prayers? The healing of the cancer…the salvation of the lost friend…the repair of the fractured marriage…the return of the prodigal…are not these “good” things within the will of God? Why does he seem to be so quiet as I bring these matters to his attention?
 
Jesus prayed that his future followers would be as unified as he and his Father are. Talk about an unanswered prayer. It would not be an exaggeration to say that rarely, if ever, has the church of Jesus Christ been completely unified—locally, globally, denominationally, historically, or theologically. Did the Lord not hear his Son clearly?
 
Unanswered prayer can be examined from a number of different angles. This coming Sunday, as we continue our “As You Wish” message series, we will probe the theme of unanswered prayer while also looking at John 17 (Jesus’ “high priestly prayer”).  
 
As we approach Sunday and anticipate the things that we may grapple with concerning prayer and God’s responses, I leave you with Isaiah’s words (you’re still reading Isaiah, right?): “…those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (49:23). I may be called to wait patiently amid the Lord’s silence, but I can be confident that I will not be embarrassed because of my faith and trust in him. Or, as Jeremiah says, “The Lord is good to those who wait of him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25). 
 
Hard—but important: Despite the disappointment of unanswered prayers, I must bank on the Lord’s goodness amid my confusion and heavy heart. My praying and my waiting are not in vain. He will be good to me.
 
See you Sunday,
Pastor Paul

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Erlandson Family Update

Below is a list of support the Erlandson family would benefit from in the coming weeks.
 
The following is from Sarah:

Right now, we are waiting on the insurance to hopefully approve 6 weeks of proton therapy radiation. This will start sometime in the next 3 weeks. Whatever the answer/outcome, we are trusting that God knows exactly what type of treatments I need and will work accordingly. If everything goes through, I will need drivers to commit to taking me downtown to the UH Sideman Cancer Center for treatments. I am asking that one person commits to one day a week for 6 weeks. I am unsure at the moment how many drivers I will need, but it could likely be up to four total (David would take me on Fridays). I will be able to give you more information in the next couple of weeks, until then, we wait. If you willing to drive, please email David at davide@trinitymentor.com.

Weather permitting, we are going to have a work day on Saturday, August 26th at our house. People can show up at 10:00 a.m. It’s mostly going to be weed pulling, branch trimming, dirt hauling, grass seeding and “sprucing” up the back yard. Afterwards, people are more than invited to stay and swim in the pool and have a pizza party! We are definitely providing food!!! I’m not expecting perfection here, but it will be super helpful to get some of the overgrowth under control.

For now, we continue to wait on God to provide for our needs. He has brought us this far, and I know he will continue to carry us. I am so grateful beyond words for all of the love and care and support through this journey. It’s not my first choice… The entire plans for my fall have been completely turned upside down, but I am hopeful that this will be life changing for my future!

Let me know if you have any questions. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Sarah

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New Signage

How we believe signage will help us love Lake County:
It is a common saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” A sign is a communication device, but it is more than that as there are many things that are intrinsically and extrinsically communicated in signage. Signage is also a first impression, and like it or not people will make assumptions based on their first impressions. Those impressions and assumptions can either hinder them or help them from taking a step in our doors. If they never step in our doors, we will not be the agents that God will use to bring the peace of Christ into their lives. In our effort to love Lake County, we want to do our best to eliminate any hindrance that would prevent people from hearing about the peace that Christ brings to all our lives and to the world. This is why as staff we have made a concerted effort to work on our signage and communication, from our website, to our main sign, to clear signage throughout the building. These areas are our first impression and believe they must provide three important things:
Signage must provide consistency.
We believe God calls us to do all things with a level of excellence. We also believe that attention to detail is noticed by people and helps demonstrate that we take our mission seriously. As we think of the people we want to reach, we know that most people will first visit our website before they visit our address. After that, they will drive by our church and see our sign out front. Then, they will see our signage that leads them all through the building. We recognized that we needed a consistent font pattern, style, and color palette throughout these areas. Have you ever been to a place or received a flyer that was a mix of fonts and looks like it was put together by different people? It’s a distraction that we want to avoid. From our website, to our interior and exterior signage we knew we needed a change so that we could have unique and consistent signage throughout.
Signage must provide clarity.
There was a time when it made sense for churches to be called “First Methodist Church of____” or “Park Street Baptist Church.” The culture had a largely Christian background and knew what the difference was between Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc. When people were looking for a church, it made sense to include denominational badges because people had a theological base of knowledge even if they were not converted. It provided clarity to those seeking a church home. That is no longer the world we live in. The people we want to reach do not have a biblical or theological foundation of information. What they do have is perceptions, assumptions and stereotypes. They see Westboro Baptist picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers and think that is what Baptists must be about. For them, “Baptist” does not provide clarity, but confusion. We are unfairly getting associated with things we are not about. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention asked on Twitter what came to people’s mind when they heard the word “Baptist.” The number one response was “legalism.” Other responses that made the top ten were: “outdated,” “southern” and “boring.” If we want to reach and love Lake County and beyond, we must understand who they are, how they think and what might hinder them from entering our doors. The largest religious group in our community identify as Catholic (23.8% of Lake County). The second largest religious affiliation in Lake County is “none/no religious preference” (21.1%). “None” is the largest growing percentage (up 4.5% over ten years) and Catholic is the largest shrinking percentage (down 4.6% in ten years). Yet, 64.8% of people in our community believe Jesus rose from the dead as the Bible teaches, 65.1% believe that Jesus is both divine and human and 55.3% believe that Jesus is the only way for human salvation from sin. For the most part, our community is not closed off to Jesus, but they have either been burned or are skeptical about organized religion. Our community desperately needs to see a community of people who live out the peace of Christ in every area of life. It seems like this is what they are genuinely seeking, it is what we desire and want to work to put on display, and we must remove any barriers that might hinder them from seeing that.
Signage must show we care.
Updating and continuing to improve our facilities, graphics, web presence and signage are all a demonstration that we care enough about our mission that we want everything to constantly be moving forward and improving. Perhaps you have had a similar experience to me: you visit a home of someone who has lived in the same home for 20 years, and you feel like you have entered a time warp and been transported back 20 years. Nothing has changed, but they don’t notice the difference because they have always lived there. But when new eyes see it, they see all kinds of things that the homeowner overlooks. Every guest we have has “new eyes.” We can get used to the way things look, but we must not. We must continue to try to look at things with “new eyes” and make sure we are making the kind of impression we want. It shows that we care. You have probably seen that we removed our old guest parking signs and have begun using new A-frame signs. This is not just for our guests. This is to remind all of us as we enter that this Sunday might be someone’s first Sunday. All of these things are not done just for us, but to remind us of them: that our primary calling is to love them and to remove barriers that might hinder them from coming and hearing about the Gospel that brings us peace with God. 


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