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

 


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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

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Ponderings for December 1 2017

Hello, Trinity, it’s me again!  🙂

One more Pondering this week. Actually, it’s less of a Pondering and more of a bulletin board. (I’m really supposed to be in India and don’t quite know what to do with myself, being stateside after Thanksgiving.)

So here goes:
I love it that we are consistently loving on Lake County (#WeLOVELakeCounty)! Please pray for the Christmas tree giveaway Saturday morning. May the Lord use these trees and the faithful hearts of Trinity people to bless and bring a little joy in the Christmas season to 200 families. And may the Holy Spirit help them connect the dots from the free gift of a tree to the free gift of Christ. Thanks for praying.

Though I’ve broken my annual rhythm of being in India this time of year, my heart is still with that great ministry and the people whom we serve there. This Sunday, our Dalit ministry is “open for business.” There are a number of ways to give a gift in our “Hope for Dalit Women” project. You can check it out Sunday in our new “café” (the recently refurbished Room 100—designed to meet guests and introduce new people to Trinity after worship services). Thanks for participating in this vital ministry.

In case you haven’t noticed, our second service has been pretty crowded lately. We are going to do a couple of things to help balance the worship service attendance and assist guests and latecomers in finding seats:

1. We are going to be roping off the last two rows of each section until after the service starts. Thanks for respecting the rope as this is for those who are new or came in late and need to quickly find a seat. And thanks (in advance) for sitting up closer to the front and for being on time.

2. In January, we are going to return to our worship service times of 9:30 and 11:00AM. We hope that this may make the early service a bit more attractive to some (and to guests). Thanks for adjusting with us and letting others know of the service time changes in January.

I look forward to worshiping our Lord with you in a few days on this first Sunday of Advent. I have been plumbing the depths of John’s prologue all week (“In the beginning was the Word…”) and hope to clearly present his profound exposition of the eternality of our Lord Christ. And believe me, it has a great effect on how we live today.

That’s all for this week. I promise.

Oh, and GO CARDS!

See you Sunday,

Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for November 28 2017

2-Part Pondering
Part 1
Let’s face it—we are primarily creatures of habit. Whether it’s what we order at our favorite restaurant, or the route we take to get there, we usually do the same thing. Maybe it gives us security or even a sense of identity. That’s who I am and that’s what I do. We don’t say that, but perhaps it lurks somewhere in the nooks and crannies of our psyche.

Even where we sit for worship in church…pretty much always the same spot, isn’t it? That’s how I can tell if you are absent on a given Sunday: you are not in your “assigned” seat. (Just kidding!) 

Now, when we start speaking of habits and routines in the church setting, our terminology switches and we call it “tradition.” For some, that is a sacred word. Just ask Tevye. (That’s from Fiddler on the Roof, if you’re not aware of this timeless and delightful story and movie.) For others, like us “Free Church Protestant” people (read Evangelicals or even Baptists), tradition is quite taboo and spiritually stifling. It is what “they” do, those who continue in their rote and almost-dead religion. 

Not so, I contend. Traditions can be life-giving memories and practices that call to mind the activity and faithfulness of God among his people. As a matter of fact, the Lord himself instituted not a few traditions for his people to practice on a regular basis to remind them of the story of Redemption. Think of the Passover meals, the baptism of new converts, and the Communion table, just to a name a few.

Now certainly, religious practices can devolve into meaningless rote activities. But it behooves the faithful to not allow that to happen. It takes deliberate thought and action to make the traditions of the faith meaningful to each generation.“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”  Christian historian Jaroslav Pelikan hits the nail on the head.

So, with that in mind, I give you the Tradition of Advent. Never meant to fall into the category of “traditionalism” but instead, if you choose, it can become a living part of your personal and family Christmas practices, for generations to come. 

As a reminder: Advent comes from a Latin term meaning “arrival” or “coming.” Christians have observed Advent for thirteen hundred years as a time of thoughtful preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ “arrival.” The Advent tradition honors the birth of Christ and recognizes the impact of his life and love throughout history and into the future. The specific practices of the Advent tradition (lighting of candles, etc.) have been experienced in church worship settings and privately in family homes.

Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas—so, this coming Sunday. Each week is marked with a new candle that is lit every day. As each candle is added, it is lit with the candles from the previous week. The five candles in an advent wreath represent prophecy, Bethlehem, shepherds, angels, and Christ.

I encourage you and your family to set aside a special time each day for lighting the Advent candles, accompanied by family prayers and the daily reading (Trinity has made books available). Traditionally, the Advent candles consist of three purple and one pink candle with a larger white candle placed in their center of the wreath. During the first week, light the first candle each day; during the second week, light the first two candles; and so on, for the full four weeks. Parents, you can best judge how your children are able to participate, but keep in mind that children learn best by doing (and the Journey to the Manger book provides great ideas here).

The traditions of Advent can provide a shelter of meaning and rest for you and your family amid the hectic pace of this season. And, as I watch my granddaughter looking though her Advent book, I am reminded that Advent, like all good traditions, are meant to be passed on from generation to generation. 

It will be quite a joy sharing the traditions and meaning of Christmas with you this holiday season. 
 
Part 2
Wow! My e-mail box is getting blasted by a million non-profits to give to them today because it’s “Giving Tuesday”! Now, I may endorse and even support the mission of many of them. But I am getting a little overwhelmed by the bombardment of requests today.

So I thought I’d write to you, the Trinity Church community, and (firstly) thank you for your generous regular giving. And (secondly) give you three reasons NOT to give to Trinity on Giving Tuesday:

  1. Because it’s a hyped-up day called “Giving Tuesday.”
  2. Because you want to be part of the trendy people who are giving today.
  3. Because you feel guilty for not giving a gift on Giving Tuesday.

This is not to say that your church does not need all of our regular tithes and offerings. Or that your giving is not a huge part of changed lives and beautiful ministries. Or even that December is not a good time to give so you can take advantage of a year-end tax break. But it is to say that the giving of our hard-earned money to the Lord’s work is meant to be a thoughtful act of worship and not a knee-jerk reaction to some trendy, impassioned plea like “Giving Tuesday.”

So indeed, give generously to Trinity and the work of the Lord here at your church. And here are three good reasons:

  1. Because it is an act of worship and obedience to the Lord who calls us to support his work in the fellowship we call home.
  2. Because it enables your ministry leaders to prayerfully plan and even dream about ministries that will present the life-changing Good News in word and action to many people.
  3. Because you are allowing the Lord to develop in you a generous spirit as you cheerfully give back to him a portion of what he has entrusted to you for his eternal purposes.

Again, thank you for giving of your tithes and offerings to Trinity—not because it’s “Giving Tuesday,” but because you love Christ and the Body he has placed you in at this time.

I’ll see you Sunday.
Pastor Paul
 
 

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Ponderings for November 21 2017

A few years ago, I took Sue for our anniversary dinner to the Oasis gas station in Ashland right off I-71. I had a Taco Bell burrito; Sue had a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. I am not proud of that fact. 😊

Somehow, the occasion was lacking in class…to say the least.

Celebrating the many years of marriage and intimacy calls for a bit of forethought and joyful consideration. And a touch of class.

So too, all that surrounds and encompasses another important occasion and Meal: the celebration of the Lord’s Table. “The body and blood of Christ, given for you…” An intimate promise and holy rite that calls for forethought and joyful consideration as well. And just a bit of class.

This Sunday we will be celebrating Communion. A number of preparations will be made (externally and internally) to give the occasion its proper due. A team of deacons will prepare the tables (with proper tablecloths and trays). Loaves of bread will be lovingly and prayerfully baked for the occasion. The entire worship service will be a prelude to the receiving of the symbols of Christ’s body and blood. 

But there must be internal preparations for the taking of the Bread and Cup as well. Christian people are told to “examine themselves” prior to their partaking of the Sacraments. This is a “self-examination” whereby we each do some soul searching to slow ourselves down and to apply Christ’s grace to our revealed sin. We are then prepared to approach the table rightly with joy and gratitude.

On this Sunday after Thanksgiving, how good it is to celebrate the “Eucharist” of the Lord.

Eucharist is one of several designations used for the Lord’s Table and it depicts the joy and gratitude that we express to the Lord for Christ and his eternal provision for us!  “Jesus took the bread [and the cup] and he gave thanks…”

And we will too. With joy and forethought…and a touch of class.

Here’s hoping you and your family and friends have a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.  

See you Sunday.
Pastor Paul

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