To the Point | September 24, 2020

A Word about the Word
“There was evening, and there was morning: one day…” [Genesis 1:5]
 
Rest is our theme this Sunday—God willing. 🙂 It culminates in this beautiful and poetic description of the Creation in Genesis 1. Rest.
 
But even before the narrative gets to the gracious day of rest, we find this rhythm of grace—“evening and morning, one day.” God works, evening comes, we go to sleep, and God continues to work. While we sleep, the Lord watches over us. He is providentially caring for us. Then we wake up to a new day and in a world that we did not make.
 
Evening then morning. This is the habit of many Jews today. Their Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and continues throughout Saturday.
 
This is also a vivid picture of the Christian’s salvation. By grace God works when we are unable; “asleep,” as it were. And by faith we wake up into a salvation that we didn’t earn.
 
Close to Home
There’s an outlandish statistic somewhere that gives the percentage of us who have been directly affected by cancer in one way or another. It’s huge! I have a few friends that are cancer survivors. And I lost my dad and my sister to cancer. I believe that our church could become a place where those struggling with the reality of cancer could find love and support. Would you pray with me for that? I foresee that, just as God raised up people in our midst who had a passion for those working through the issues of divorce or grief, there may be some presently in the Trinity family whom God could use to facilitate real support and love through a similar type of group here.
 
The last few days, many more people have been making their way onto Trinity’s campus and into our building, still respectful of COVID protocols (thank you!), and experiencing the life and ministries of fellowship and the Word. It’s men and women and it will be kids on Friday. Man, I miss the in-person fellowship and camaraderie of people!
 
The World as It Is
I’m still regularly interacting and involved with our ministry in India (Dignity Freedom Network). The national plight of the Indians is dire (especially among the Dalit and lower castes) because of COVID-19. Recently, India reported the highest number of COVID cases in a day (90,000). DFN and its ministries are bringing the compassion and care of Christ to many at the bottom of the caste system.
 
The Book of Common Prayer is a collection of prayers and devotionals from the sixteenth century. It calls us to ponder and pray about a variety of themes and subjects. For example, we are led to pray for a “peaceably ordered governance” so that we may live in “godly quietness.” The first one, I’m pretty sure, could use a ton of our prayers (maybe some prolonged fasting too :). The second—“godly quietness”—someone will have to tell me what that is. No clue. I’m sure I haven’t experienced it on the news or social media.
We need to hear all the good stories we possibly can. Here’s one for you.
 
And Then There’s This…
I’ve always appreciated these words from Teddy Roosevelt. They are part of a speech that he gave in Paris a year after his presidency ended. Given in 1910 and during a particularly difficult time in the world, this speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic” verbalizes Roosevelt’s frustration with cynics who incessantly criticized others who were trying hard to make the world a better place. Not unlike our world.
 
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Since we began this with the wonder of God’s creation, I leave you with worship around “Wonder.”
 
I’ll catch you on the other side.
 

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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 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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