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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To The Point for May 8 2020

A Word about the Word

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1–2]

44 days and counting. That’s my take for how long Ohio has been in “stay-at-home” mode. Our word for this Sunday, as we seek to follow the way of Christ, is “perseverance.” It’s an appropriate word for Mother’s Day as well. For who is more persevering than our mothers?

Also, notice what the passage above says about “shame.” Trinity does quite a bit of ministry with the Church in India. India is known as a “shame culture.” (We are more of a “guilt culture,” though we do a good bit of shaming as well.) Anyway, we are all aware of the pain and negativity of shame. We avoid it and shouldn’t pass it on. Good strategy. And yet when we look at Jesus, we see that he too “scorned the shame.” But he didn’t avoid it—he accepted it. Our Lord allowed himself to be mocked and publicly humiliated and violently beaten…in essence, to be shamed—for us!

Close to Home

You will be receiving a “re-entry” letter from me soon via snail mail. Thanks for reading it. With Governor DeWine extending the “stay-at-home” order through May 29 and his beginning to reopen Ohio a bit, we are developing our re-entry strategy. We are looking forward to re-opening the doors, knowing full well it will be gradual and quite some time till things are back to “normal.” In the livestream worship service on May 17, we will talk at length about Trinity’s strategy. We are thinking possibly about Sunday, June 7 (or maybe May 31) as the day we open the doors to in-person worship again. Read the letter. And stay tuned!

The World as It Is

Of the 8,105,513 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (345,742 conducted since yesterday), 15.5 percent have come back positive.

If it weren’t for the timely and important updates which Trinity regularly posts on social media, I would pastorally urge you to stop wasting your time on those platforms. Between fear mongers and conspiracy theories and downright hateful rhetoric, there is little redeeming at all on this medium right now.

Speaking of un-redemptive rhetoric, if I have to hear one more sermon or article on how all of this COVID-19 is a sure sign of the end of the world, I will throw my Late, Great Planet Earth out the window. Actually, I already did, years ago—like when Osama bin Laden was killed; or when the Shah of Iran was ousted; or the year Leonid Brezhnev died; or when Henry Kissinger left power; or when Hitler committed suicide, and so on, and so on.

#CultureNerd

Okay, parents, how many of you have experienced this when trying to get a good family picture?

 And Then There’s This…

Maybe the greatest and hardest words ever spoken by a mother:

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” [Luke 1:38]

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

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To The Point for April 29 2020

A Word about the Word and Close to Home 

Hearing Pastor Ty challenge us last Sunday not just to hear Christ’s words but to do them got me thinking—about another Scripture passage and about our responsibility as we move into the future as a post–COVID-19 people and church:

 “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.” [Hebrews 5:11–6:1]

Strong words, I know. But they are essentially a call for each of us to strive for maturity. Who doesn’t want that? And the writer tells us how to move toward maturity: It’s not by constant Bible study or constant sermon-hearing. Maturity comes by intentionally and regularly applying what we are hearing and learning. By being able “to distinguish good from evil.” By hearing God’s Word AND doing it.

According to this passage, then, if you are regularly doing what you are hearing, then it’s time for you to start teaching and leading others. This is how to grow in spiritual maturity. You don’t need to be a biblical know-it-all. You just need to be available and willing.

Let me challenge you with 3 things:

  1. Open up your Bible. Start reading it at least 15 minutes a day. Begin with the Gospel of John. That’s where Trinity will be this summer.
  2. Receive the Scriptures that you are reading as authoritative in your life. Start doing what they say. Maturity comes through obeying and making right choices.
  3. Prayerfully consider joining and/or leading a small group in the future (it can be for adults, teens, or kids). Text LETSGO to 97000 to start the process. The future will be here soon.

As you begin this, you will experience the maturity and joy of Christ’s words: Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The World as It Is

Just some random numbers and thoughts and quotes in our new world:

More Americans have died of COVID-19 than in the Vietnam War.

Here’s a question about Mother’s Day (coming up on May 10): In a world where hugs and in-person visits are presently ill-advised, how are you planning on celebrating the mom(s) in your life?

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” [Queen Elizabeth, speaking recently to the British people]

I learned a new phrase that is connected to these pandemic days: ”excarnational living.” It’s obviously the opposite of incarnational living that Christ modeled and called us to. The world of Zoom meetings and quarantine has necessarily spawned “excarnational” living. But I must say that I am getting a bit tired of this “defleshing” of life. We are all longing for incarnational interaction and relationships again.

”Face coverings will be needed at large gatherings after states reopen.” [Dr. Birx]

#CultureNerd

During this season, many of us are watching movies, going on long nature hikes, listening to our favorite music, and taking pictures of beautiful skies and sunsets over the lake. Innately, we have a longing to interact with God’s creation, with beauty, and with art.

Especially at a time like this, when so much is out of our control and irregular, the need for a transcendent experience—one that is not utilitarian or contributing to the “bottom line”—is truly vital. When our minds can take no more of the juggling and uncertainty, when our psyches are on overload with stress and concerns, we need to turn to that which feeds the “soul” and pleases the eye.

Augustine put it this way: “Please do not be ungrateful to the one who made you able to see; this is why you are able to believe what you are not yet able to see. God gave you eyes in your head, reason in your heart. Arouse the reason in your heart, get the inner inhabitant behind your inner eyes on his feet, let him take to his windows, let him inspect God’s creation.”

Here is a splendid article that expounds on this thought. https://tifwe.org/works-of-art-tangible-evidence-of-gods-beauty-glory/

And Then There’s This…

The other day, my iPod (am I old?) was on shuffle and lyrics by that great theologian, Elton John, came on: “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” Why is it that most people, even Christian people, find it so hard to put up their hands and simply say, “Sorry, I blew that”?

Especially in this time of potential relational tensions, “sorry” is a must in our vocabularies and hearts! I am not sure why Sir Elton is so right, but he is spot on, isn’t he? Is it simply old-fashioned pride? Having to admit that I am wrong puts a knot in my stomach. It hurts. And yet, better to swallow my pride and say “sorry” than the devilish alternative. It was pride, after all, that reduced God’s glorious angel to the prince of demons.

So, as hard a word as it is to say, let it be part of our vocabulary: “Sorry.”

I’ll see you on Sunday (virtually).
Pastor Paul

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