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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