Ponderings for July 25 2018

Okay, here’s a real #FirstWorldProblem: Sue and I are on a remote island off the coast of North Carolina for a week of vacation with our family. Poor cell phone reception, very limited WiFi, and no cars. You can only get ‘round by bicycle or golf cart. Talk about unplugging!
So, back to my problem: My fancy golf cart pretty much died. The battery wasn’t charging. There must be something wrong with the charger, the means through which the cart gets power and runs well. Drat. 
Long story short—after much finagling of the charger, we have determined that the heart of the problem lies in the cart itself. It was not able to take a charge and was left to run out of power.
Okay, now for the application. The Lord reminds us time and time again of the condition of our hearts when it comes to hearing and receiving his Word. Used by the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are truth and power for our lives when we read them and hear them taught. And yet so often, like my golf cart, I lose power and life when I should be being charged. There is nothing wrong with the charger (or the Scriptures), the problem is with me—my heart.
Jesus teaches a parable about soils and their receptivity to the planted seeds (the soils represent my heart; the seeds, God’s Word). Three soils find no benefit in the seeds. The charger doesn’t seem to work. Everything from worry to trials to shallowness to ego will keep the heart from receiving the necessary spiritual benefit from the Word. Those three soils remind me of what the psalmist says about Israel and their lack of power: “…a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Psalm 78:8).
Like my faulty golf cart, we need to have receptive hearts when we encounter the power source (the Scriptures applied by the Holy Spirit). These words from James tell us how to have a receptive heart to the Lord and his Word:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listenslow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you (James 1:18–21).

Here are five marks of a receptive heart. Use them as your troubleshooting checklist:
1. An eager listener
2. A measured talker
3. A controlled anger
4. A deliberate avoiding of sin
5. A humble openness to the Word

Hopefully the power and life will be back in our lives soon! It starts with a receptive heart!  

Okay, that’s all for now. I have to get back to troubleshooting the golf cart.
See you on the other side.
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for July 19 2018

“I thank my God upon my every remembrance of you…”  Words from the Apostle Paul to one of the many churches to which he loved and ministered. It reminds me that, even in the summer days when many of the Trinity community are out of town, we can still remember each other and thank the Lord for our fellowship together–the fellowship and baptism at the beach was great! And we can pray for one another.

The staff meets weekly to pray for the people and needs of our church community. A lot of cancer, a lot of pain…and still a lot of hope and encouragement as we hold each other up and ask our Father for his will and for good things to be done. And as we pray, we speak of how encouraged we are by the faith and perseverance and even joy that we see in many whom we diligently lift up each week. You make us think of James’ words: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

It is still July and yet we are imagining and making plans for the fall. Be on the lookout for new ways to connect in fellowship groups this fall—from home groups to women’s discipleship groups to men’s fellowship. The goal is spiritual growth as we seek to know and do life together around Christ and his Word. You will hear a lot about Destiny, a discussion oriented “class” for those who are unsure of their faith or have questions about Christ and life. We are praying that the Holy Spirit powerfully uses Destiny and Trinity to assist many in their spiritual journey. Your Leadership Council approved the proposed 2019 budget this week. I am so grateful to them for their faithfulness and hard work in handling all the details.

Sunday will be a wonderful time of worship as we celebrate our Lord in song and appreciate his plan to restore all things one day! You will also hear of a few community outreach opportunities that will allow us to love others as Christ would.

Whether you here or there in the days ahead, I am grateful for you and the Trinity community. And I thank my God upon my every remembrance of you.”

See you around the bend.
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for July 12 2018

The Cleveland Indians have been blessed with some of the best shortstops baseball has ever known (stay with me on this). Today Francisco Lindor is arguably the best shortstop in the American League. Many of us remember the magic hands of Omar Vizquel on those great Tribe rosters of the 90s. And did you know that back in the 1940s, the Indians had the best shortstop in the game? His name was Lou Boudreau. He said that playing shortstop well was all about anticipating. Here are his words: “Playing shortstop is 75-to-80 percent anticipation, knowing the hitter and the pitch being thrown.”
That’s pretty true in life, too. Do you enjoy anticipating things? No, not the waiting…You know I am not a big fan of waiting either. But anticipating. Anticipating how beautiful Sue will look in her new outfit as we go out for our anniversary. Or anticipating how a friend will respond when I recommend a hard and biblical solution to his dilemma. Or even anticipating how much fun our family will have on vacation in the summer.
Are you good at anticipating? 
The next two Sunday mornings we will look at passages in Isaiah (chapters 60 and 66) that are rich with anticipation. The people in Isaiah’s day, living amid the dreary consequences of forsaking their God, are told to anticipate the One who will come and usher in the “favorable year of the Lord.”  It will be a future where hope comes to the hopeless, liberty to the enslaved, and healing to the broken. Jesus began the fulfillment of those promises in his first coming. And we anticipate the future day when Christ will finish what was started and all things will be made new. In the meantime, we allow the anticipation of “that day” to motivate us to live well in light of Christ’s return—in light of eternity.
A few items: Not to be trite, but I am eagerly anticipating this coming Sunday. We will have a great time of worship in the morning. And then, at 5:00pm at Mentor Headlands Beach Park, we will be enjoying the church cookout (bring a dessert) and celebrating the baptism of our peers. If you are new to Trinity, please come and join the fun. It will be a great chance to meet new friends in a relaxed setting.
And I am very much anticipating the intriguing and timely themes (and biblical passages) that you will be submitting for “As You Wish,” our message series in August. You can submit a request by filling out a card (found in the Worship Center seatbacks) or by messaging Trinity’s Facebook page. 
That’s all for now. I’ll see you around the bend (and at the beach) on Sunday.
 Pastor Paul


Ponderings for June 28 2018

Did you see the truly splendid video of Paul McCartney and James Corden that’s gone viral? It’s a wonderfully warm Carpool Karaoke skit. Jillianne Waardenburg sent it to me, and I loved it—not just because I’m a Beatles fan but because the great, universal human qualities the video exudes make it an instant classic. 
You CAN go home! And, deep in our hearts, we all long to. McCartney takes us with him back to Liverpool, England. We love to see the familiar places not only because they remind us of Beatles songs but because they remind us of our special places growing up. The barber shop, the well-known streets, the fire department, our favorite rooms in our old house…they’re all there in the video and in our personal memories as well. 
There is something about music, isn’t there? The camaraderie and fellowship that music generates is tangibly real. A whole group of fans join Paul in singing and laughing (and tearing up) over familiar Beatles songs. We do it at Trinity, too! Our seniors gather for lunch once a month and enjoy a warm time of singing their favorite hymns together. 
At one point, James Cordon wipes away a few tears as a particular song (“Let It Be”) reminds him of his deceased grandfather. We learn that McCartney’s mom inspired that famous song. Who among us doesn’t think of loved ones past and present when “their” song comes on? 
This is a video full of life and laughter and commonality and mutual memories: a welcome watch, not just for a Beatles fan like me, but maybe for all of us who are living in an uncivil day of polarization that we’d much rather forget. 
Thanks, Paul and James! Your kindness and humor and grace are a wonderful breath of fresh air. We needed that!
Pastor Paul
 (If you haven’t seen the video, you should—it is well worth the watch. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjvzCTqkBDQ)


Ponderings for June 27 2018

Hi, Trinity family—I’m finishing some random ponderings as Sue and I begin to wrap up our time in Milan and look toward our journey home on Friday.

I left Ohio desiring to create something that would present the Good News of Christ in a clear and attractive fashion to others. While here in Italy, I have designed a six-week course called Destiny. It is meant to explain in various formats—through teaching, discussion, and videos—the simplicity and beauty of God’s love and desire for us. I’ve chosen the title “Destiny” because we are all made to know our Creator as we find our ultimate meaning and joy (our human destiny) by trusting in Christ and following him. You’ll be hearing more about this course soon. In the meantime, I would like you to begin praying about a friend or acquaintance that you can invite to Destiny this fall. It will be a wonderful and worthy time for them. I designed it for the mildly religious and the cynic alike. Maybe it’s even for you. 
As different as churches are around the world (culturally, linguistically, and traditionally), they are also the same. Just like Trinity, the churches that Sue and I work with in Italy are trying to figure out how to effectively reach unbelieving people; they are trying to raise up and equip the next generation of leaders; they are trying to understand how to respond to and live well in this morally upside-down age; they are trying to make their families a high priority in church planning and programming; and they are trying to effectively reach and relate to men.
I just read an interesting statistic: If churches reach women, there is a 30% chance their families will follow them to church. If churches reach men, there is a 70% chance their families will follow them to church. Hmmm…
Here in Italy, I’ve noticed that while cultural Christianity may carry with it an underlying Christian ethic, it is still void of life-change and deep, authentic spirituality. Many American evangelicals are vying for an empty prize, I’m afraid.
Though Sue and I have been in communication with John and Erika Tello, we have unfortunately not had the opportunity to get together with them. They are in Bologna, a few hours south of us. Their ministries of rescue and art are going strong. They are grateful for Trinity Church’s support, especially by means of the men’s golf outing next month! 
Sue and I look forward to seeing you and the entire Trinity community on Sunday. We’ll give a brief report on our ministries over here. Alex Wilson will fill us in on the work being done in Oaxaca, Mexico, as well.
On Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Table together as we hear and study Isaiah’s words: “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength…”
We are eager to fellowship with you this weekend. It will be great to see you.
On Sunday—God willing!
Pastor Paul