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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To The Point for June 11 2020

A Word about the Word

Who is my neighbor?

 A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. [Proverbs 17:27]

Is there no limit to windy words? [Job 16:3]

Sometimes the best words are the fewest. The wisest answer is silence. Try it. I will, too. Here we go.

Close to Home

Sunday was our first day back with in-person worship. We were nervous. We didn’t know what or how many to expect. But it was so good to see people again! Those who came were treated to the new Worship Center! One day, when we are all back together, we will give thanks to the Lord and celebrate the new worship space properly.

On Father’s Day, June 21, we will move to Level 2 of our social distancing protocol. With all of the openings that Governor DeWine is announcing, we feel confident that this the right move at this time. This change will allow for a bit more seating in the Worship Center; the Gathering Space (and coffee!) will join the outdoor tent as a venue for fellowship; and student ministry will restart some summer ministries as well. It feels good to be moving in this direction. Of course, we don’t know yet when we will implement Level 3. In the meantime, we will carefully enjoy the added freedoms.

The World as It Is

One of things I observe about this important historical moment of racial tension and call for equality is the seeming lack of one (or several) articulate champions (think Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X or Robert Kennedy). And yet there are a whole host of voices bringing the need and injustice to light.

One such voice is Lecrae. Pastor David calls him the most popular Christian rapper. He shared with me this clear and very biblical perspective from Lecrae.

 https://www.instagram.com/p/CBRBYi6pQhy/?igshid=1bl8xm52hhrr9&fbclid=IwAR2bahqwq_epi1-YJVbfAEcRRFAx6wLR0IrjLgrFLQ2kStMYV3ZNwTxsnzg

As I was rather unfamiliar with Lecrae, I went looking around for other posts of his. I found this interview with him which is rather good. Here’s his “Tell the World” video.

https://qideas.org/qtalks/race-righteous-anger-resolution/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc8x33lAnAk

I promised Trinity a strategy on racial reconciliation. Please give it a look. In the weeks and months ahead, I will unwrap it for us.

https://www.trinitymentor.com/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/racial-reconciliation.pdf

#CultureNerd

COVID-19’s silver lining: Beauty and song emerging from far and farther. Pick your country of choice, Ireland or Russia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TascsWZPj8U&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=priEE70iGPM&feature=youtu.be

And Then There’s This…

Four questions to chew on:

  • When you pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” what images come to your mind?
  • Which of our popular spectator sports will work best without fans in the stands?
  • Does your faith inform your politics, or your politics inform your faith? If the latter, what informs your politics?
  • What did you learn during this pandemic/quarantine about yourself?
I’ll see you on the other side—in person or on the livestream.
Pastor Paul

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To The Point for May 28 2020

A Word about the Word

Unless the LORD builds the house, they who build it labor in vain. [Psalm 127:1]

Numerous contemporary things dance in my brain as I read these words. 

I watch and hear the final building work going on in the renovated Worship Center. It will be ready to give us a bright and shiny new welcome as we return on June 7.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. On that day almost 2,000 years ago, the Lord began building his house, the Church, in powerful and beautiful ways! The original disciples, instead of taking matters into their own hands, retreated and prayed and waited expectantly for the Lord to move and begin building his Church. And you know the amazing rest of the story!

The risen Christ is still building his Church. And as we plan our re-entry into public worship on June 7, we labor with delicate care, bathing every decision in prayer, waiting expectantly for the Lord to fill this place and his people once again with hope and power.

Close to Home

Last Sunday, Sue and I were part of a high school graduation party caravan wherein we all drove far and wide to congratulate Trinity’s many graduating seniors. I came away with a couple things:

Many families come long distances to be a part of the Trinity community. I am grateful for all of them, and what they add to the Trinity family is vital and beautiful. 

And still, the neighborhoods adjacent to our campus… Pray and envision with me what it will take to make meaningful inroads to our dear neighbors next door. The Lord has our campus right where it is for a good purpose.
 

The World as It Is: George Floyd

I watched the entire video of his arrest and inhumane detainment. “I can’t breathe!” How do you not stop what you’re doing to him? How do you keep your knee on his throat for all that time until he goes lifeless?

Racism is destroying our country, still. Since our inception, it is clearly America’s horrible Achilles heel. The message that the African Americans in our land repeatedly hear is that their lives are inferior—in significance, in value, in consequence. And that breaks their Creator’s heart. We need to take a serious look at the state of America right now!

Maybe it’s because I am white, but I have said far too little about this evil. When we pray “thy kingdom come,” we are praying for racial unity. This is not a political issue—it’s a humanity issue, a spiritual issue. And it must be a church issue. Pray and envision with me what it will take for us individually and as a church to address and act so that the ungodly injustice of racism may be curbed in our lifetime. America has a very serious problem and we must be part of the solution.

I have a friend—a former intern of mine—who is now a pastor in Hudson. Mike is white. He and his wife have a dear son that they adopted (he is black). Their grief and heartbreak over such hatred and racism is very real. This most recent tragedy turned Mike into a lamenting poet. You can read his poem “I Wish I Never Saw That Knee” below.
 

#CultureNerd

I recently came across this virtual tour. Do you know who Corrie ten Boom is? Her family are Dutch Christians who hid Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust in their home and watch shop. Eventually they were all caught and arrested. Her parents and sister did not survive concentration camp. Only Corrie did. For her work of helping Jews escape the Nazis, she is recognized in the American Holocaust Museum and at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as “one of the righteous among the Nations.” Corrie ten Boom wrote The Hiding Place, which tells the heroic story. 

And Then There’s This…


I’ll see you on the other side (virtually).
Pastor Paul

==

“I Wish I Never Saw That Knee”
Mike Holwerda

I wish I never saw that knee
Pushing in his neck for all to plainly see

I wish I never saw that knee
As a bending final blow to his image-bearing humanity 

I wish I never saw that knee
Not letting go until he could not breathe

I wish I never saw that knee
Which again highlights how all are not seen equally

I wish I never saw that knee
As yet another deadly fruit of white supremacy

I wish I never saw that knee
As it exposes the racism that is also within me

I wish I never saw that knee
For I feel helpless and only able to grieve

I wish I never saw that knee
It leaves me wondering what change we will ever see

I wish I never saw that knee
Oh, Lord my God, how can this still be? 

I wish I never saw that knee
When will your church fight for our Jesus-bought unity?

I wish I never saw that knee
Oh, God my Refuge, we need your help immediately

I wish I never saw that knee
Please, oh Lord, be near and comfort George Floyd’s family

I wish I never saw that knee
May you bring your pure justice to the Twin Cities

I wish I never saw that knee
Oh, Jesus my Savior, please come quickly

I wish I never saw that knee
Until then, let that be the last video we ever see

I wish I never saw that knee


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To The Point for May 15 2020

A Word about the Word

By Babylon’s streams, 
   there we sat, oh we wept, 
   when we recalled Zion. 
On the poplars there
   we hung up our lyres.  
For there our captors had asked of us words of songs, 
   and our plunderers—rejoicing:
   “Sing us from Zion’s songs!”
 How can we sing a song of the LORD
   on foreign soil? 
Should I forget you, Jerusalem, 
   may my right hand wither.
 May my tongue cleave to my palate
   if I do not recall you,
   if I do not set Jerusalem above my chief joy!
[Psalm 137:1–6]


Those words were emotionally eked out by a worship leader in the Babylonian captivity. The pain and heartache of trying to live and worship in exile is as clear as the running waters by which he wrote them. 

I have coined this time as our “COVID exile.” The people have been held captive by an invisible virus. In exile, we cannot live or worship or fellowship as we used to. We long for our Lord and our fellowship during this captivity. We make sure we “recall” our God and his Church as we adjust and make connections in new and different ways. 

In Babylon, God’s people didn’t have the temple, yet they were faithful and creative in their remembering the LORD. The prophet Daniel is a great example of this. In New Testament times, the apostle Paul was imprisoned and he very much longed for his friends and churches, so much so that he regularly corresponded with them.

So we, too, in our COVID exile, long for our fellowship with each other and what we share with our God. We miss the Body of Christ, the “where two or three are gathered…” And still, we creatively adapt in a number of ways to stay connected and nourish our souls. On Sunday, May 24, we will creatively and appropriately celebrate Communion in a similar manner as the early, persecuted church did. They practiced “spiritual Communion” as they were in hiding, even away from one another. We will, too.

We make do. And yet, like the psalmist, we honestly lament and reflect, longing for a better time. 

Close to Home in the World as It Is

This Sunday we will examine and discuss the yoke that Christ offers us. Yes, we will literally “discuss” as we try a new way of interacting during the livestream. Jesus calls his yoke “easy” and promises that it will give us our necessary rest. 

On Sunday we will also talk about Trinity’s “re-entry” plan. I cannot tell you how much learning and praying and discussing has been going into the decisions of re-opening our doors. Thanks for your patience and prayers. Here are some wise and timely words from Russell Moore on the topic of churches re-opening their doors (from this article): 

“Some people will want to re-gather immediately and will think their churches are ‘giving in to fear’ if they take longer to re-open than the businesses around them. Some will think that the church is insane for re-opening whenever it does, and will be tempted to say that their leaders don’t care about public health. In almost every case I have seen, though, pastors and leaders in this emergency are exercising wisdom and prudence. They are seeking to do the best they can, to make the best decisions they can. Let’s pray for one another, and impute the best of motives to one another.”
 
This COVID exile time is extending longer than any of us imagined. When we took the break from public worship, we said it would be for three weeks and then we’d evaluate. It seems as if our plane is still in a holding pattern, circling the airport. And just like on our metaphorical plane, I feel that a bit of impatience is setting in and many of our moods are getting somewhat prickly. I can sense it by some emails I am getting, and by general comments I am hearing, and by the hole in my cheek that I am creating instead of giving my first response. Let’s be careful and kind with our words and thoughts.

In one of my first entries of To the Point when this exile began, I charged us not to waste this imposed “Sabbath” from the Lord, but to allow him to use it to make us more like Christ. I mentioned the words of Jeremiah, hoping they would not be true of any of us when it’s all said and done. “The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone,” the people cry, “yet we are not saved!” (Jeremiah 8:20). Am I personally experiencing in this season what God wants me to experience? Am I hearing what he wants me to hear? Am I “being still and knowing that he is God”? Sometimes I wonder.

I piqued some interest with my comments about conspiracy theories last Sunday. Some even said they read the articles that I posted which examine why many Christians are so drawn to believing conspiracy theories and even sharing them as if they were gospel. You can find the articles here. One video that is making the rounds is called “Plandemic,” which accuses Dr. Fauci, pharmaceutical companies, and a slew of others of “planning” the COVID epidemic for their gain. I spoke my peace on the topic last Sunday, so I won’t say any more. But I will point you to a civil and well documented article that interacts with “Plandemic” if you are interested.

Speaking of videos that are making the rounds, I found this one from the UK and totally loved it. Enjoy!

 #CultureNerd

If you are tired of Zoom meetings or not quite sure what all of this Zooming is about, you will get a kick out of this “dogs on zoom.”

Okay, I came across this painting of musicians from the Middle Ages. Prophetic? It sure seems to predict the Beatles. Look, three “guitarists” and even the bass player is left-handed! Just wondering…

And Then There’s This…
Jesus’ words for us…for Sunday…for this exile…forever:

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28–30]

I’ll see you on the other side (virtually).
Pastor Paul

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