Ponderings for February 15 2018

“Children, it is the last hour…” 

We read that phrase from John’s first letter at our men’s breakfast study this morning.

“The last hour”: It conjures up all kinds of ideas and images, doesn’t it? All were on center stage Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

Wednesday was Valentine’s Day. A day where we take our spouses or significant others out to dinner or buy them a bouquet of roses or do something else thoughtful and nice. A day of love! In the Last Hour (between Christ’s first coming and his return) we are called to love like never before and even allow the Holy Spirit to manifest his character through us. (“The fruit of the Spirit is love…”)

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. It was the first day of Lent (Easter is coming!). And everywhere we went, you could see the foreheads of worshipers marked with ashes in the shape of a cross. This custom that dates back to the seventh century is meant to be a symbol of repentance and mourning for one’s sin. It is to be a foreshadowing of Good Friday, where Christ died for our sins. The Last Hour began on that Friday of judgment (Christ condemned in my place) and will continue until the “summing up of all things” in Christ, when he reverses the curse forever.

Wednesday was a day of infamy. Seventeen students and adults were murdered in their high school in Parkland, Florida. Sadness and shock and anger grip us as Americans one more time. Like me, I am sure you stopped and prayed for the victims’ families, for their classmates and school, and for the police and authorities as they deal with this horrendous evil. The Last Hour will be filled with wickedness and death as godless humans turn death and power into their demanding and monstrous idol.

So how are we to live in the Last Hour? 

We are to remain firm in our hope (Hope with an “!” not a “?”—listen to February 4’s message.). “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). 

We are to be wise and not surprised by the evil we see. This somewhat obscure verse from 1 Chronicles gives us insight into how to live in these days, “…the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Let’s not be surprised by the senseless violence. But let’s not be callous either. As Christ followers, we need to be wise and know what to do, which must include being caring and prayerful and offering tangible help where we can. 

Speaking of last hour days, it says this in Daniel: “The people who know their God will display strength and take action” (Daniel 11:32). May our actions be Christlike and strong and loving in an hour such as this.

“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

I’ll see you this weekend.
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for February 2 2018

Pastor David Erlandson and I are reading a book together on leadership. It’s not the typical leadership perspective that either the Wharton School of Business or Bill Hybels would strongly recommend. It says little about being smart, currently relevant, visionary, and accomplished. It says a lot about being irrelevant and humble and other-centered and finely tuned to Jesus’ style.

The book is, In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen, a successful leader in his own right having taught the brightest and sharpest future leaders at Harvard, writes this little gem from a different chair. He speaks of true leaders of the future being willing to be “irrelevant.” Whoa, now that is a different animal than the one that roars of leadership having to be powerful, domineering and trend setting! I mean, what leader sets out to be an “inapplicable, unsuitable, misplaced” leader?

Nouwen left Harvard and was assigned to lead and pastor the mentally handicapped in L’Arche, a community of broken and marginalized people.  It was here among these humble, unpretentiousness, and mentally challenged people that Nouwen began to get what the Lord was saying to him about his life and leadership. It was among the people at L’Arche that Nouwen found the presence and “voice” of God in his life in a profound, new way. Eventually Nouwen was able to dismiss the highly accomplished leader, his relevant self; “the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things,” the one who feels he must be in charge and “change stones into bread and do the spectacular.”

In a new way, Nouwen developed a capacity to love and be loved in real and unconditional ways that have nothing to do with accomplishments or titles.  No longer seeking to lead as a famous, published professional (the residents of L’Arche neither knew nor cared for such things), Nouwen realized that a Christ-like leader must be a vulnerable servant who confesses one’s own brokenness and weaknesses; who needs others as much as they need him; who takes his example from Jesus not the latest trends.  I am afraid that is often not the case with what I see and read today. Instead, most leaders work hard at honing their vision and establishing their lofty goals while keeping their distance and hiding their brokenness from those they lead. The people don’t need an implacable, powerful and perfect leader, one who keeps his distance and believes his press releases. I have known too well the mess that Nouwen writes against. And I have, far too often, seen the casualties.

 As David and I read In the Name of Jesus, we are reminded that leadership is about powerlessness and humility and Christ-likeness. It doesn’t mean that leaders are weak or wishy-washy or spineless. But rather, they are so in love with Christ that they are willing and eagerly ready to follow Him wherever He calls. Ready even to become “irrelevant” for the sake of Christ and the love of others.

By the way, David passed his ordination board “exam” on Wednesday! We will be celebrating his ordination and giving thanks to his Lord in a service on Sunday, February 11 at 4:00pm. You are all invited!

I’ll see you Sunday! (And some of you tomorrow at the Critical Incident/Active Shooter training at 8:30am.)
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for January 26 2018

Happy Friday Trinity Nation. I trust you are enjoying this beautiful and sunny end to our week. 

I am very much looking forward to this Sunday. We will be starting a new message series called “Stand Firm”, wherein we will be learning and applying the words of First Peter to our lives and culture today. We will hear Peter tell us how to live effective and fruitful lives in the midst of our society and its ever-increasing antagonism toward Christ and his followers. Though at times we feel like outsiders who don’t belong around here; in Christ, we very much belong to the Lord and his family and Kingdom. From Peter’s letter, we will be given hope and encouraged, as Christ followers, to live out purposeful and “missional” lives; lives that exude love, kindness, call for justice, model compassion, and share the gospel as we flourish in our calling to #WeLOVELakeCounty.

Can’t wait for Sunday!

Some reminders for Sunday:

  • The two main restrooms are under construction-
        Everyone will be redirected to the restrooms by the kitchen. Sorry for the inconvenience. (Because of this construction, the cafe will be  
        temporarily closed, and coffee will be back in the hallway.) This is all part of an on-going facility update which will fold into a beautiful 
        new “Gathering Space”.  In March, we will be presenting this new project to you in detail. Stay tuned…and don’t forget about the restrooms the
        next several weeks.
  • Valentine’s Banquet in February-
         Though registrations will continue online next week, this will be the last Sunday to register in person. The $30 “young-family” discount still  
         applies. We have a decent number of openings left. The evening of February 9 promises to be a fun and meaningful “date-night” for all.
That’s it for now. Hope your weekend starts out positively.
I’ll see you on Sunday as we worship our Lord and hear from his Word.
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for January 18 2018

A guy by the name of Kierkegaard who wrote many lofty things (Christian philosophy stuff) once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

I kind of like both sides of his equation. When I don’t look back and reflect, I lose sight of where I’ve been and how far the Lord has taken me. Appreciation and meaning itself come from looking back and reflecting over the journey. 

Don’t forget to reflect and meaningfully look back—alone, with your spouse and loved ones, even with your co-workers. I guarantee it will bring perspective and appreciation for what has been accomplished and experienced. You will see God’s fingerprints all over your past.

But don’t get stuck there. You must move forward. The good ol’ days were great but must remain memories as we work hard and pray diligently to live well in the present and future—for the glory of Christ and the good of others.

As we were discussing future building plans for Trinity (which you will hear a lot about in the near future), we were looking at pictures of the original work and people who built the facility in which we now work and worship. The vision and hard work of those faithful pioneers comes into clear focus all these many years later. And as we think of the future, the requirement for forward thinking to create a place that meets the needs of ministry for today and tomorrow is also vital.

Speaking of building plans, I must tell you that next week construction will begin on the necessary renovation of our main restrooms. In several weeks we will be enjoying beautiful and updated facilities. What that also means is that for three weeks starting Sunday, January 28 we will have to use the smaller restrooms next to the kitchen/fellowship hall. 

On Friday evening, February 9, we will again be hosting a Valentine’s Banquet at the very classy NOAH’s Event Venue in Mentor. For those with young kids needing babysitters, we are now offering a $30 “discount” to encourage your coming and defray the cost of childcare. If you want to take advantage of this deal, just let us know when you sign up at the ticket table this Sunday morning.

Finally, speaking of reflecting, I invite all men to join me this Saturday morning at Trinity (8:00am). Along with a nice breakfast and good conversation, I will be challenging all men to reflect on their lives as God calls them to heroism and holiness in the stage of the journey they find themselves.

Well, that’s all for now. Stay warm.  And see you around the bend.
Pastor Paul



Ponderings for December 21 2018

Christmas and 2017’s end is coming fast! So much still to do. So much to remember to do. So much to not forget to do…

That reminds me of a title of an early Beatles song: “I Forgot to Remember to Forget You.” 

But I digress.

As I write this last Ponderings before Christmas, there are so many things I need to remember to have us not forget.

I need to remember to tell you some detail stuff. Like that Christmas in Lake County is our Christmas Eve service/concert and is intended as both an outreach and candlelight service. And that the service times will be at 11:00AM, 4:00PM and 6:00PM. If you are undecided as to which of the three to attend, I may suggest the 6:00PM one. And don’t forget that on New Year’s Eve we will have only one worship service and that will be at 11:00AM. It will be a meaningful time to worship and have fellowship around the Scriptures and the Communion Table.

And I need to remember to say thank you to you, Trinity Church, and say how proud I am of all of us. The overwhelmingly generous response to our DFN “Hope for Dalit Women” Advent outreach has left me speechless and Sue tearful. In three weeks we have given over $15,000 to assist Dalit women and we have blown the doors off our goal of freeing 50 women from trafficking (to date, we have freed 92)! Christmas Eve services will give one more opportunity for us and our guests to participate in this good and godly endeavor.

And finally, I need to remember that, in all the events and gift-giving and remembering not to forget, this Christmas season is all about God remembering us and our plight of guilt and loneliness and even pointlessness. Christmas is remembering that God really loves and gifts us with what we really need.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). This is how John reminds us of the Christ event. Remember that Christmas is all about God’s Son leaving heaven to become human to provide salvation and real life for all of us who believe in Him.

And still many feel lonely and unloved and forgotten during the Christmas season. All the hubbub of the events and concerts and lights are for everybody else but them. If you are sad or lonely or feel unloved this Christmas, I am sorry. And with loving sincerity I wish that I could get you to truly remember that this season is about God’s extreme and unconditional love for you. His love is wrapped in swaddling cloths and ends up on a cross…that you may know peace and spiritual life and have fellowship with your heavenly Father forever. Please don’t forget that.

I’ll see you Christmas Eve.

Pastor Paul