Ponderings for October 26 2017

Hello, Trinity family and friends. Time to dust off my trusty pen. I trust you are well as we watch the warm days finally succumb to the inevitable cold and dampness that is fall in northeast Ohio.

Today I’m pondering about church attendance and culture and excited about this Sunday.

Sunday is coming. For many, that means attending a church worship service. And yet, in the latest trends, it may not be as many as we might think. I recently read that the regular churchgoer now attends weekend services about 1.7 times per month. Recent Pew Research data tells us that roughly 50% of Americans attend church (but it seems like less than that some of the time). In the busyness of lives and family schedules, and with the many cultural options and distractions, many are too busy or disinterested to come or attend regularly. 

And yet, we still must compel each other to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” And we must be a church community that longs to reach “unchurched” or “de-churched” people. In order to do that, we must continue to work on our Sunday morning culture and become even better inviters.

Let’s face it: The church attendance statistics are neither new nor surprising. But they should make us take notice. Like most evangelical churches, we are not atypical on a Sunday morning. We love Christ and his Word and his people, and we try to express that. Hopefully our joy is contagious and our message compelling. 

And still, we also need to be mindful and very deliberate in what we do on Sunday (like other churches). It is easy to become “routine” and even stale with predictable church lingo and culture. And it is easy to not notice guests who have nervously “tried us out.” Or maybe we do notice them as they embarrassingly have to find a place toward the front and end up sitting in spots that most of us avoid. Sometimes it seems like the first three rows have the appearance of reserved seating. But I digress.

All that to say: I want us to be the best Trinity we can be on Sundays—for the Lord (he deserves it) and for guests and newcomers (they need it). That means being very friendly and gracious. Welcoming guests and making it easy for them to not stand out. It also means arriving on time and sitting up near the front. (I’d rather have those seats “reserved” for members and regular attenders than for guests.) As we worship and pray and hear the Scriptures taught, God is our audience and he solicits all of us as his church to be his open arms to all.

Now on to this Sunday. Along with being Reformation Sunday and including an exposition of “Christ Alone,” we will hear a few opportunities of how #WeLOVELakeCounty in these days. We will be commissioning our friends John and Ruth Bollman as we send them to their next ministry assignment. And we will be hearing from Erika Tello (one of our Trinity-supported missionaries in Italy—check out the video we just posted on Trinity’s Facebook page). Erika will be sharing how the Lord is using the Gospel and their ministry to rescue ladies from the evils of human trafficking.  

See you Sunday as we celebrate Christ as the great Mediator!

Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for October 12 2017

As a child, I always was a bit afraid of Alice in Wonderland. That fanciful book had some pretty wild tales, and falling down a hole seemed like a pretty scary ordeal. The fairly recent film adaptation was very entertaining, I thought. And Johnny Depp playing the Mad Hatter was quite brilliant. 

Among the unusual things and lines in the movie, one that always amused me was when Alice tells the Hatter, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” And, of course, the Mad Hatter thinks that is an “excellent practice.”

Now, Christianity and the church is nothing if not about belief. We must be about the business of encouraging and developing each others’ faith. That which we are called to believe may seem to the natural mind quite impossible. After all—resurrecting from the dead; somebody being completely God and man at once; or even a holy God not only forgiving a slimy me but also giving me the status of being His child with all the rights and privileges therein—these are, on first glance, seemingly rather impossible things.

“With God all things are possible.” So believe them we must! And more.

This Sunday in our “Sola” message series we will be examining sola fide—the call to faith and faith alone in Christ for our hope and salvation. Faith is not a virtue or work that God rewards, but a necessary response that we are each called to make.

Before I leave you with some words on faith to ponder, let me say a couple of things:

  • Thank you for praying for my mother and her broken hip. She is presently in a rehabilitation center. Thanks for your continued prayers for her recovery and our wisdom on next steps (no pun intended). 
  • Also, I am excited for 16 prospective new members joining me in a class this Saturday.  Grateful to the Lord for his adding to our fellowship. 
  • Finally, I am hearing stories and ideas as they relate to #WeLOVELakeCounty. I know the Lord will bless our efforts and our neighbors as we prayerfully and creatively choose to tangibly bring the love of Christ to our community.
Now, as promised:  “[Faith is] a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit”  (John Calvin).
 
See you Sunday, faithful ones,
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for September 26 2017

Do you know what October 31 is?

Halloween, right?

 Yeah, what else?

The day before All Saints Day, I think.

 What’s that? 

I don’t know; I heard it somewhere. I think I saw it on my calendar.

 Okay, let me clue you in. October 31 will be the 500th anniversary of the “Protestant Reformation.” 

That has something to do with Martin Luther, right?

 Yes, and a lot to do with you as well.

Pray tell.

 Okay, here is the short version. In 1517, Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk and university professor in Wittenberg, Germany. Fed up with some of the extravagances and biblical inconsistencies of the Roman Catholic church, he communicated his formal protest by posting his 95 grievances on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. After much debate and intense trials, Luther was eventually tossed out of the church. Though never meaning to start a new “movement,” that’s just what occurred. With a renewed emphasis on God’s grace and the sufficiency of the Scriptures, this biblical and “evangelical” awakening spread from Germany to Switzerland to England and eventually to Lake County. (Okay, that last part is a bit of a shortening of the timeline, but you get the idea.)

Of course, today, things have changed a bit and there is much more a spirit of friendship and cooperation between Catholics and Protestants (one of my better friends in ministry is a priest). And yet differences still exist between us (doctrinal and otherwise).

So in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we will spend the Sundays of October biblically and historically examining the distinctives of the Reformation as they relate to our lives and faith today. Along with my message series, our Transitions Life Group will be studying the specifics of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther. If you would like to go more in depth on this great subject, I recommend you attend this class (taught by David Durkee) starting this Sunday, October 1 at 10:45am. 

We owe so much of our faith and spiritual heritage to what Luther began 500 years ago. May the month of October be a season of gratitude and appreciation to the Lord for what he did and continues to do in our lives through his grace and truth.  

That’s all for now.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for September 21 2017

“The world is ending soon,” my 80-something mother glibly told me as she sat gazing at her television. Now, Mom is no doomsday dispensationalist—she doesn’t even know the names Hal Lindsey or John Hagee (look ’em up…better still, don’t!). So I am wondering: why the grim forecast?

In rapid fire succession, she points out the earthquake in Mexico City; the devastating trinity of hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and now Marie); and the American president threatening in Khrushchevian fashion (do look that up!) total destruction at the UN.

“I see what you mean,” I told her. She wasn’t expecting that answer from her usually more theologically nuanced son. I was kidding. Sort of.

That the world is presently experiencing almost unprecedented turmoil in nature and global politics is unquestionable. That the Lord Jesus predicted there would be physical disasters and turmoil as well as wars and rumors of war before The End is well documented. That this tumultuous unrest would increase like labor pains before the delivery was also how Christ described the seasons before The End.

So…Mom is right?

Well—yes and no. 

Here is what I know and will commit to:

Jesus’ Second Coming (and, by inference, The End) could happen at any moment. The theological word used is “imminent.” And though Jesus described the “signs” that would alert of his return, they have always and intentionally been part of our era since Christ ascended (returned to heaven). Our era (not just the twenty-first century but the last 2,000 years) is biblically described as the “Last Days” because Jesus’ return could always be at any moment.

So yes, these troubling events point to a world in need of its Restorer and Savior to return (“the whole creation is groaning with labor pains” for the day of redemption [Romans 8]). And yes, Christ will return and make all things right (“and then the end will come” [Matthew 24]). And yes, this final culmination of things is nearer today than ever. (I write that with a smile.)

So here’s my advice to Mom and all of us in light of these days:

Be faithful. That is, be filled with faith. First, be faithful in trusting Christ for your rescue and salvation. It is for you, believer, that he is returning and your “end” will be filled with life and resurrection just as his was. Second, be faithful in living well and uprightly. May our lifestyles and priorities be evidence of the restoration the Lord has begun and will finish upon his return.

Be dutiful. Regardless of when The End is, our lives ought to be spent serving Christ and others. The time is short, so my life and work here should be an expression of the Good News and of “acting justly, loving faithfulness and walking humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

Be prayerful. That is what the Lord called us to in “the meantime.” And there is so much to pray about and so many to pray for as the effects of this sinful world ravage the souls and physical lives of so many so often.

Be peaceful. No matter how bad the natural disasters get or how dire the geopolitical scene becomes, I can rest in knowing that the Lord is in control and is somehow working all things according to his overarching plan.

“Maranatha”: Come, Lord Jesus.
Pastor Paul

 


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Ponderings for September 14 2017

“River crossed, bridge forgotten.” 

This is a phrase we like to use on staff that reminds to look back and be grateful for the things that got us where we are. And to be grateful to the Lord, who answered our prayers and enabled us to cross the river and accomplish whatever it is that we might have done. 

This past Sunday we prayed vehemently to the Lord about Hurricane Irma and the people and damage in its wake. So many Floridians have told me that God answered the multitude of prayers and that they are safe and their “stuff” suffered minimal damage. 

One friend wrote to me:

“We read Psalm 107, Mark and Luke and prayed for the Lord to calm the storm. He did! In Ft Lauderdale there was no power nor communications because of the storm. Friends watched the weather channel and texted the status of the storm coming towards us and around us. Our family was at peace. Praise the Lord.”  

Praise the Lord indeed!  

River crossed, bridge NOT forgotten. 

That is the importance of telling stories of God’s faithfulness—to yourself, your family, your church. And the beauty of journaling our prayers and their answers. So that we may never forget the bridge that carried us over the troubled river. 

“My soul, bless the LORD,  and do not forget all his benefits.”     (Psalm 103:2)

See you Sunday!

Pastor Paul
#WeLoveLakeCounty
 

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