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 30 2020

A Word about the Word

 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice… I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me.

If these crazy days of COVID-19 and social unrest have demonstrated anything, it is our screaming need for a Good Shepherd. This season may be the most taxing and challenging time of my 36 years as a pastoral leader (surpassing even the days after 9/11). Strange new decisions to be made on very short notice; previously unimagined directions to go in; woefully insufficient data upon which to decide big things; and on and on… You get the point.

And it’s not as if our landscape is brimming with wise leaders that model leadership and point to a better way.

Then, in a fleeting moment, one realizes that having another leader, a Shepherd—actually, a Good Shepherd—to lead and be the real leader of your life and the church is an extremely good and comforting thing.

And you realize that this Good Shepherd is truly leading you into beautiful and green pastures and even beside refreshing and still waters if you’ll only have the faith to believe and experience them. One must hear his voice above the cacophony of noise and trust in his care despite the doomsday rants that see no purpose or hope in this season.

“Savior, like a shepherd lead us.”

For a preview of Sunday, check out this splendid video of sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e45dVgWgV64&t=2s

Close to Home

“A community of people that deliberately lives out the peace of Christ.”

That is the vision of Trinity Church. That is who we want, strive, and pray to be. Read it again.

And so, when we put on a fun golf outing, the camaraderie is good and meaningful (even if the score of one particular pastor is embarrassingly high). Even in this we seek to promote Christ’s peace. More than drives and chips and putts, the event on August 15 will also generate money to give to the ministry of Erika and Jon Tello. They are creating a “safe house” for trafficked women in Italy. That’s living out the peace of Christ. We want to be a part of that.

If you’re interested in knowing about the Tello’s work, look here.

https://www.tesoriraggianti.com/

On September 26, Trinity is sponsoring our third annual Heart + Home 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run. Along with all of the fun and training that goes into that day, a bigger ripple effect is that the race benefits Hannah’s Home. This “crisis pregnancy center” is a maternity home for single, pregnant young women. Hannah’s Home provides an environment that is safe and nurturing, caring in emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual ways. Find out more about that and the race itself here.

https://heartandhome5k.com/hannahshome/

In a world broken in so many hurtful ways, it is our calling to address both the root of the problem (human sin) and the ugly fruit of the problem. So we seek to live out the peace of Christ, in word and in deed.

The World as It Is

Sue and I met our daughter Sara and her family at the Columbus Zoo on Friday. It’s been six months since we were together and loved on our granddaughter. Wow! What an overdue experience!

We’ve missed all the relational things during this season of upheaval. How vital it is to take care of ourselves and others physically, emotionally, and relationally. There is no substitute for literal presence.

Though truly necessary, the emotional and psychological void that social distancing has created is also very real. We are grateful for technology and ingenuity that gives us FaceTime and Zoom meetings and virtual game nights. But there is no substitute for real, person-to-person contact and interaction.

The recovery from these turbulent days could be long and tricky. There is no vaccine for isolation and separation from the ones we love.

#CultureNerd

Here is an exalted moment of pause in your reading of this blog. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (Diadem version). (Takes me back. This is my alma mater’s anthem.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgQ9ER-fdWQ&app=desktop

And Then There’s This…

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and all life itself is grace.” [Frederick Buechner]

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

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To The Point for June 25 2020

A Word about the Word

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

The names of our Lord give us a glimpse of the vast array of his glorious character. No one name or title could do him justice or capture the infinite perfections of his Being. On Sunday mornings, we are exploring the “I Am”s of Jesus, wherein Christ not only equates himself with the LORD who revealed himself to Moses by that name but also describes many facets of his character (e.g., Bread of Life, Light of the World, Good Shepherd, etc.).

But what about the names that God calls you? These are the ones that ought to shape your self-image and that you should be answering to. Names like Forgiven, Adopted, Loved, Child, Accepted, Chosen, Free, Redeemed (add to this list as you will). Talk about security-producing names! That is you and me in Christ!

Now, God’s “names” for us really tell us more about him than they do about us. What he calls us stems from his character and grace and love. They are not elicited from our essence or inherent worthiness. That alone is both humbling and assuring. As God’s character never changes, so what he calls us never wavers. In a similar way, what we call others says more about us than it does about them. 

Close to Home

Speaking of Sunday mornings, we are beginning to get the hang of meeting on campus with many new protocols in place. We are now deliberately looking forward to leading and worshiping with our dual community—the one on campus and the one watching at home on livestream. We have improved our livestreaming capabilities in order to decrease the possibility of technical difficulties and to offer it on other platforms. This video (“BoxCast on Your TV”) explains how easy it is to get our livestream now.

During these unique days of pandemic/non-meeting, our regular Sunday morning routine of giving our tithes and offerings has been somewhat interrupted. And yet, because of your faithful generosity and strong loyalty to Trinity, our “income” has been quite healthy (roughly 90% of what we expected). This has enabled us to continue to fund our ministries (locally and globally) and meet all of our administrative requirements. And though we qualified and were in the queue for the government payroll assistance, we opted out. After some discussion, we concluded that this was the wise thing to do because of our healthy financial position and because we believe that it is our responsibility to take care of the church family and trust the Lord for our needs. Thank you for your tangible display of spiritual maturity and faithfulness.

The World as It Is

“Up in the air.” That’s the phrase of the day, isn’t it? Whether it’s the plans for school in the fall or the major sports leagues or your summer vacation, so many things are up in the air. It can be rather unnerving, can’t it, when your plans can be so unsure?

Since I’m rather tired of so much noise and opinions and general hostility on social media these days, I have stopped following and even unfriended my share of “friends.” I guess that makes me part of what is now referred to as the “cancel culture.” And while I can justify my reasoning for not wanting to expose my eyes to particular people’s rants and tones, the cancel culture of dismissing and ignoring others who have been offensive can expose another problem. It can freeze them forever in our minds and judgments—that “one” forever will be categorized as ________ (you name the scandal or offense). Banned for life. That’s not good either. We have to work through that. Jesus did. Christ loved, moved toward, and redeemed the “cancelled” people. He forgave the scandalous and hypocritical and wayward, called them his friends, and empowered them to do better. [Christ] having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross [Col. 2:14].

Now, having said that, I have also purposely backed away from most of my social media accounts lately. It was getting too taxing on my time and psyche. And I feel most people have become too caught up in the stench of social media, and much too given to polarization, and much too addicted to hostile political rhetoric and arguments. No thanks.

File this under “Do What You Can”: With the COVID numbers spiking in Florida, Sue and I cancelled a trip there this week. Instead we enjoyed several days on an island in Lake Erie, and on Friday we finally get to see our granddaughter (and daughter and son-in-law) at the Columbus Zoo! Keep those numbers down, Ohio!

#CultureNerd

For all of you kids and parents and, well…Beatles lovers.

And Then There’s This…

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore thee,
a heart to delight in thee,
to follow and to enjoy thee,
for Christ’s sake.

[Ambrose of Milan, fourth-century Bishop]

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

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To The Point for June 19 2020

A Word about the Word

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment [2 Timothy 1:7].

Timely words indeed. Matt, one of Trinity’s elders, has been helping our Elder team think through the issue of fear and how it pertains to these days.
 
I find the “spirit” of fear an interesting concept. Fear can come over us like a wind or a wave of panic. I remember learning that I had to play Tim Conlan in the first round of a tennis tournament. A spirit of fear (read: trepidation) encompassed my body.
 
God—as our focal point and as the resource of something better (power, love, and sound judgment)—is why fear should not be our predominant or paralyzing spirit in these or any days.
 
Read this heady article on what fear does to us physically and mentally, if you’re interested.

Close to Home

“What a cool thing you’ve done to your Worship Center!” a friend exclaimed while watching our Sunday live-stream from New York. One of the silver linings of our COVID/quarantine time was the liberty to renovate Trinity’s worship room without the disruption of public services.
 
My vision for Trinity and the generations to come is that we understand and apply the Gospel to three areas of life and justice. Let us embrace the sanctity of life as it relates to the blight of abortion, to the issue of poverty, and to the injustice of racial inequality. These topics are very interrelated, you know.
 
Watch a youth pastor simply explain “white privilege” to his students. Then grab a cup of coffee and listen to the originator of Veggie Tales give us a history lesson on race in America.
Some of you have told me that you have seen the film Just Mercy. It made a huge impact on me and Sue some months ago. Here is a brilliant discussion between Pastor Tim Keller and attorney Bryan Stevenson that helps us process the movie. You’ll need two cups of coffee for this one.
 
And if you haven’t taken a look at Trinity’s racial reconciliation resource guide, download it here. Eventually we will have ones dealing with poverty and abortion as well.

The World as It Is

The global span, rapid spread, and universal impact of COVID-19 on the world’s health and economy is truly historic. Where is it going from here? What will things be like next month? This fall? To hear some talk, COVID-19 is so yesterday. Others are concerned that there are still dangerous days yet to come. Let’s pray for the former while still being careful. The coming weeks of summer will be interesting and revealing.

#CultureNerd

Below is a picture of Germany’s parliament building. Sue and I saw it when we were in Berlin a few years ago. This government building and its redesign makes a very clear point. Modern Germany neither neutrally commemorates their evil recent past (no swastikas or statues of the Führer and his henchmen in sight) nor do they pretend the Third Reich and Nazi-ism didn’t happen. They want to learn from it.
 
Upon the reunification of West and East Germany, they took the bombed-out “Reichstag” building and repurposed it. Instead of bulldozing the Nazi HQ, they renovated it with a glass dome. The public can now climb the spiral staircase and look down through a glass ceiling over the shoulders of their government workers—a symbolic statement that though previously they were ill-served by their politicians, now everyone can keep an eye on their leaders in Germany’s parliament.

And Then There’s This…

If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.

[Scottish Blessing]

I’ll see you on the other side.
Paul

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To The Point for June 11 2020

A Word about the Word

Who is my neighbor?

 A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. [Proverbs 17:27]

Is there no limit to windy words? [Job 16:3]

Sometimes the best words are the fewest. The wisest answer is silence. Try it. I will, too. Here we go.

Close to Home

Sunday was our first day back with in-person worship. We were nervous. We didn’t know what or how many to expect. But it was so good to see people again! Those who came were treated to the new Worship Center! One day, when we are all back together, we will give thanks to the Lord and celebrate the new worship space properly.

On Father’s Day, June 21, we will move to Level 2 of our social distancing protocol. With all of the openings that Governor DeWine is announcing, we feel confident that this the right move at this time. This change will allow for a bit more seating in the Worship Center; the Gathering Space (and coffee!) will join the outdoor tent as a venue for fellowship; and student ministry will restart some summer ministries as well. It feels good to be moving in this direction. Of course, we don’t know yet when we will implement Level 3. In the meantime, we will carefully enjoy the added freedoms.

The World as It Is

One of things I observe about this important historical moment of racial tension and call for equality is the seeming lack of one (or several) articulate champions (think Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X or Robert Kennedy). And yet there are a whole host of voices bringing the need and injustice to light.

One such voice is Lecrae. Pastor David calls him the most popular Christian rapper. He shared with me this clear and very biblical perspective from Lecrae.

 https://www.instagram.com/p/CBRBYi6pQhy/?igshid=1bl8xm52hhrr9&fbclid=IwAR2bahqwq_epi1-YJVbfAEcRRFAx6wLR0IrjLgrFLQ2kStMYV3ZNwTxsnzg

As I was rather unfamiliar with Lecrae, I went looking around for other posts of his. I found this interview with him which is rather good. Here’s his “Tell the World” video.

https://qideas.org/qtalks/race-righteous-anger-resolution/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc8x33lAnAk

I promised Trinity a strategy on racial reconciliation. Please give it a look. In the weeks and months ahead, I will unwrap it for us.

https://www.trinitymentor.com/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/racial-reconciliation.pdf

#CultureNerd

COVID-19’s silver lining: Beauty and song emerging from far and farther. Pick your country of choice, Ireland or Russia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TascsWZPj8U&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=priEE70iGPM&feature=youtu.be

And Then There’s This…

Four questions to chew on:

  • When you pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” what images come to your mind?
  • Which of our popular spectator sports will work best without fans in the stands?
  • Does your faith inform your politics, or your politics inform your faith? If the latter, what informs your politics?
  • What did you learn during this pandemic/quarantine about yourself?
I’ll see you on the other side—in person or on the livestream.
Pastor Paul

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To The Point for May 28 2020

A Word about the Word

Unless the LORD builds the house, they who build it labor in vain. [Psalm 127:1]

Numerous contemporary things dance in my brain as I read these words. 

I watch and hear the final building work going on in the renovated Worship Center. It will be ready to give us a bright and shiny new welcome as we return on June 7.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. On that day almost 2,000 years ago, the Lord began building his house, the Church, in powerful and beautiful ways! The original disciples, instead of taking matters into their own hands, retreated and prayed and waited expectantly for the Lord to move and begin building his Church. And you know the amazing rest of the story!

The risen Christ is still building his Church. And as we plan our re-entry into public worship on June 7, we labor with delicate care, bathing every decision in prayer, waiting expectantly for the Lord to fill this place and his people once again with hope and power.

Close to Home

Last Sunday, Sue and I were part of a high school graduation party caravan wherein we all drove far and wide to congratulate Trinity’s many graduating seniors. I came away with a couple things:

Many families come long distances to be a part of the Trinity community. I am grateful for all of them, and what they add to the Trinity family is vital and beautiful. 

And still, the neighborhoods adjacent to our campus… Pray and envision with me what it will take to make meaningful inroads to our dear neighbors next door. The Lord has our campus right where it is for a good purpose.
 

The World as It Is: George Floyd

I watched the entire video of his arrest and inhumane detainment. “I can’t breathe!” How do you not stop what you’re doing to him? How do you keep your knee on his throat for all that time until he goes lifeless?

Racism is destroying our country, still. Since our inception, it is clearly America’s horrible Achilles heel. The message that the African Americans in our land repeatedly hear is that their lives are inferior—in significance, in value, in consequence. And that breaks their Creator’s heart. We need to take a serious look at the state of America right now!

Maybe it’s because I am white, but I have said far too little about this evil. When we pray “thy kingdom come,” we are praying for racial unity. This is not a political issue—it’s a humanity issue, a spiritual issue. And it must be a church issue. Pray and envision with me what it will take for us individually and as a church to address and act so that the ungodly injustice of racism may be curbed in our lifetime. America has a very serious problem and we must be part of the solution.

I have a friend—a former intern of mine—who is now a pastor in Hudson. Mike is white. He and his wife have a dear son that they adopted (he is black). Their grief and heartbreak over such hatred and racism is very real. This most recent tragedy turned Mike into a lamenting poet. You can read his poem “I Wish I Never Saw That Knee” below.
 

#CultureNerd

I recently came across this virtual tour. Do you know who Corrie ten Boom is? Her family are Dutch Christians who hid Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust in their home and watch shop. Eventually they were all caught and arrested. Her parents and sister did not survive concentration camp. Only Corrie did. For her work of helping Jews escape the Nazis, she is recognized in the American Holocaust Museum and at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as “one of the righteous among the Nations.” Corrie ten Boom wrote The Hiding Place, which tells the heroic story. 

And Then There’s This…


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

==

“I Wish I Never Saw That Knee”
Mike Holwerda

I wish I never saw that knee
Pushing in his neck for all to plainly see

I wish I never saw that knee
As a bending final blow to his image-bearing humanity 

I wish I never saw that knee
Not letting go until he could not breathe

I wish I never saw that knee
Which again highlights how all are not seen equally

I wish I never saw that knee
As yet another deadly fruit of white supremacy

I wish I never saw that knee
As it exposes the racism that is also within me

I wish I never saw that knee
For I feel helpless and only able to grieve

I wish I never saw that knee
It leaves me wondering what change we will ever see

I wish I never saw that knee
Oh, Lord my God, how can this still be? 

I wish I never saw that knee
When will your church fight for our Jesus-bought unity?

I wish I never saw that knee
Oh, God my Refuge, we need your help immediately

I wish I never saw that knee
Please, oh Lord, be near and comfort George Floyd’s family

I wish I never saw that knee
May you bring your pure justice to the Twin Cities

I wish I never saw that knee
Oh, Jesus my Savior, please come quickly

I wish I never saw that knee
Until then, let that be the last video we ever see

I wish I never saw that knee


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To The Point for May 15 2020

A Word about the Word

By Babylon’s streams, 
   there we sat, oh we wept, 
   when we recalled Zion. 
On the poplars there
   we hung up our lyres.  
For there our captors had asked of us words of songs, 
   and our plunderers—rejoicing:
   “Sing us from Zion’s songs!”
 How can we sing a song of the LORD
   on foreign soil? 
Should I forget you, Jerusalem, 
   may my right hand wither.
 May my tongue cleave to my palate
   if I do not recall you,
   if I do not set Jerusalem above my chief joy!
[Psalm 137:1–6]


Those words were emotionally eked out by a worship leader in the Babylonian captivity. The pain and heartache of trying to live and worship in exile is as clear as the running waters by which he wrote them. 

I have coined this time as our “COVID exile.” The people have been held captive by an invisible virus. In exile, we cannot live or worship or fellowship as we used to. We long for our Lord and our fellowship during this captivity. We make sure we “recall” our God and his Church as we adjust and make connections in new and different ways. 

In Babylon, God’s people didn’t have the temple, yet they were faithful and creative in their remembering the LORD. The prophet Daniel is a great example of this. In New Testament times, the apostle Paul was imprisoned and he very much longed for his friends and churches, so much so that he regularly corresponded with them.

So we, too, in our COVID exile, long for our fellowship with each other and what we share with our God. We miss the Body of Christ, the “where two or three are gathered…” And still, we creatively adapt in a number of ways to stay connected and nourish our souls. On Sunday, May 24, we will creatively and appropriately celebrate Communion in a similar manner as the early, persecuted church did. They practiced “spiritual Communion” as they were in hiding, even away from one another. We will, too.

We make do. And yet, like the psalmist, we honestly lament and reflect, longing for a better time. 

Close to Home in the World as It Is

This Sunday we will examine and discuss the yoke that Christ offers us. Yes, we will literally “discuss” as we try a new way of interacting during the livestream. Jesus calls his yoke “easy” and promises that it will give us our necessary rest. 

On Sunday we will also talk about Trinity’s “re-entry” plan. I cannot tell you how much learning and praying and discussing has been going into the decisions of re-opening our doors. Thanks for your patience and prayers. Here are some wise and timely words from Russell Moore on the topic of churches re-opening their doors (from this article): 

“Some people will want to re-gather immediately and will think their churches are ‘giving in to fear’ if they take longer to re-open than the businesses around them. Some will think that the church is insane for re-opening whenever it does, and will be tempted to say that their leaders don’t care about public health. In almost every case I have seen, though, pastors and leaders in this emergency are exercising wisdom and prudence. They are seeking to do the best they can, to make the best decisions they can. Let’s pray for one another, and impute the best of motives to one another.”
 
This COVID exile time is extending longer than any of us imagined. When we took the break from public worship, we said it would be for three weeks and then we’d evaluate. It seems as if our plane is still in a holding pattern, circling the airport. And just like on our metaphorical plane, I feel that a bit of impatience is setting in and many of our moods are getting somewhat prickly. I can sense it by some emails I am getting, and by general comments I am hearing, and by the hole in my cheek that I am creating instead of giving my first response. Let’s be careful and kind with our words and thoughts.

In one of my first entries of To the Point when this exile began, I charged us not to waste this imposed “Sabbath” from the Lord, but to allow him to use it to make us more like Christ. I mentioned the words of Jeremiah, hoping they would not be true of any of us when it’s all said and done. “The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone,” the people cry, “yet we are not saved!” (Jeremiah 8:20). Am I personally experiencing in this season what God wants me to experience? Am I hearing what he wants me to hear? Am I “being still and knowing that he is God”? Sometimes I wonder.

I piqued some interest with my comments about conspiracy theories last Sunday. Some even said they read the articles that I posted which examine why many Christians are so drawn to believing conspiracy theories and even sharing them as if they were gospel. You can find the articles here. One video that is making the rounds is called “Plandemic,” which accuses Dr. Fauci, pharmaceutical companies, and a slew of others of “planning” the COVID epidemic for their gain. I spoke my peace on the topic last Sunday, so I won’t say any more. But I will point you to a civil and well documented article that interacts with “Plandemic” if you are interested.

Speaking of videos that are making the rounds, I found this one from the UK and totally loved it. Enjoy!

 #CultureNerd

If you are tired of Zoom meetings or not quite sure what all of this Zooming is about, you will get a kick out of this “dogs on zoom.”

Okay, I came across this painting of musicians from the Middle Ages. Prophetic? It sure seems to predict the Beatles. Look, three “guitarists” and even the bass player is left-handed! Just wondering…

And Then There’s This…
Jesus’ words for us…for Sunday…for this exile…forever:

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28–30]

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

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To The Point for May 8 2020

A Word about the Word

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1–2]

44 days and counting. That’s my take for how long Ohio has been in “stay-at-home” mode. Our word for this Sunday, as we seek to follow the way of Christ, is “perseverance.” It’s an appropriate word for Mother’s Day as well. For who is more persevering than our mothers?

Also, notice what the passage above says about “shame.” Trinity does quite a bit of ministry with the Church in India. India is known as a “shame culture.” (We are more of a “guilt culture,” though we do a good bit of shaming as well.) Anyway, we are all aware of the pain and negativity of shame. We avoid it and shouldn’t pass it on. Good strategy. And yet when we look at Jesus, we see that he too “scorned the shame.” But he didn’t avoid it—he accepted it. Our Lord allowed himself to be mocked and publicly humiliated and violently beaten…in essence, to be shamed—for us!

Close to Home

You will be receiving a “re-entry” letter from me soon via snail mail. Thanks for reading it. With Governor DeWine extending the “stay-at-home” order through May 29 and his beginning to reopen Ohio a bit, we are developing our re-entry strategy. We are looking forward to re-opening the doors, knowing full well it will be gradual and quite some time till things are back to “normal.” In the livestream worship service on May 17, we will talk at length about Trinity’s strategy. We are thinking possibly about Sunday, June 7 (or maybe May 31) as the day we open the doors to in-person worship again. Read the letter. And stay tuned!

The World as It Is

Of the 8,105,513 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (345,742 conducted since yesterday), 15.5 percent have come back positive.

If it weren’t for the timely and important updates which Trinity regularly posts on social media, I would pastorally urge you to stop wasting your time on those platforms. Between fear mongers and conspiracy theories and downright hateful rhetoric, there is little redeeming at all on this medium right now.

Speaking of un-redemptive rhetoric, if I have to hear one more sermon or article on how all of this COVID-19 is a sure sign of the end of the world, I will throw my Late, Great Planet Earth out the window. Actually, I already did, years ago—like when Osama bin Laden was killed; or when the Shah of Iran was ousted; or the year Leonid Brezhnev died; or when Henry Kissinger left power; or when Hitler committed suicide, and so on, and so on.

#CultureNerd

Okay, parents, how many of you have experienced this when trying to get a good family picture?

 And Then There’s This…

Maybe the greatest and hardest words ever spoken by a mother:

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” [Luke 1:38]

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

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To The Point for April 29 2020

A Word about the Word and Close to Home 

Hearing Pastor Ty challenge us last Sunday not just to hear Christ’s words but to do them got me thinking—about another Scripture passage and about our responsibility as we move into the future as a post–COVID-19 people and church:

 “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.” [Hebrews 5:11–6:1]

Strong words, I know. But they are essentially a call for each of us to strive for maturity. Who doesn’t want that? And the writer tells us how to move toward maturity: It’s not by constant Bible study or constant sermon-hearing. Maturity comes by intentionally and regularly applying what we are hearing and learning. By being able “to distinguish good from evil.” By hearing God’s Word AND doing it.

According to this passage, then, if you are regularly doing what you are hearing, then it’s time for you to start teaching and leading others. This is how to grow in spiritual maturity. You don’t need to be a biblical know-it-all. You just need to be available and willing.

Let me challenge you with 3 things:

  1. Open up your Bible. Start reading it at least 15 minutes a day. Begin with the Gospel of John. That’s where Trinity will be this summer.
  2. Receive the Scriptures that you are reading as authoritative in your life. Start doing what they say. Maturity comes through obeying and making right choices.
  3. Prayerfully consider joining and/or leading a small group in the future (it can be for adults, teens, or kids). Text LETSGO to 97000 to start the process. The future will be here soon.

As you begin this, you will experience the maturity and joy of Christ’s words: Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The World as It Is

Just some random numbers and thoughts and quotes in our new world:

More Americans have died of COVID-19 than in the Vietnam War.

Here’s a question about Mother’s Day (coming up on May 10): In a world where hugs and in-person visits are presently ill-advised, how are you planning on celebrating the mom(s) in your life?

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” [Queen Elizabeth, speaking recently to the British people]

I learned a new phrase that is connected to these pandemic days: ”excarnational living.” It’s obviously the opposite of incarnational living that Christ modeled and called us to. The world of Zoom meetings and quarantine has necessarily spawned “excarnational” living. But I must say that I am getting a bit tired of this “defleshing” of life. We are all longing for incarnational interaction and relationships again.

”Face coverings will be needed at large gatherings after states reopen.” [Dr. Birx]

#CultureNerd

During this season, many of us are watching movies, going on long nature hikes, listening to our favorite music, and taking pictures of beautiful skies and sunsets over the lake. Innately, we have a longing to interact with God’s creation, with beauty, and with art.

Especially at a time like this, when so much is out of our control and irregular, the need for a transcendent experience—one that is not utilitarian or contributing to the “bottom line”—is truly vital. When our minds can take no more of the juggling and uncertainty, when our psyches are on overload with stress and concerns, we need to turn to that which feeds the “soul” and pleases the eye.

Augustine put it this way: “Please do not be ungrateful to the one who made you able to see; this is why you are able to believe what you are not yet able to see. God gave you eyes in your head, reason in your heart. Arouse the reason in your heart, get the inner inhabitant behind your inner eyes on his feet, let him take to his windows, let him inspect God’s creation.”

Here is a splendid article that expounds on this thought. https://tifwe.org/works-of-art-tangible-evidence-of-gods-beauty-glory/

And Then There’s This…

The other day, my iPod (am I old?) was on shuffle and lyrics by that great theologian, Elton John, came on: “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” Why is it that most people, even Christian people, find it so hard to put up their hands and simply say, “Sorry, I blew that”?

Especially in this time of potential relational tensions, “sorry” is a must in our vocabularies and hearts! I am not sure why Sir Elton is so right, but he is spot on, isn’t he? Is it simply old-fashioned pride? Having to admit that I am wrong puts a knot in my stomach. It hurts. And yet, better to swallow my pride and say “sorry” than the devilish alternative. It was pride, after all, that reduced God’s glorious angel to the prince of demons.

So, as hard a word as it is to say, let it be part of our vocabulary: “Sorry.”

I’ll see you on Sunday (virtually).
Pastor Paul

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