Ponderings for June 15 2017

 Happy Thursday Trinity Community. It is good back to be back among you in Northeast Ohio. Sue and I flew in late last night after a couple of weeks of positive ministry in Italy. It is nice to be home. And it will be nice to be with you and our church family this Sunday as we worship Christ and celebrate Father’s Day together.

As a bit of a different Pondering this week, I am including three things for you. They are meant to spiritually challenge you and to prepare you for Sunday.

You will find, as a part of this e-mail, a text of Scripture (Luke 15-the Parable of the Prodigal Son); a painting (the Return of the Prodigal by Rembrandt); and a brief “message” by me on this great story.

Please give each a good look in the above order. It will take a bit longer than a normal Pondering. So, grab a cup of coffee or schedule a time to be alone with the Lord and be encouraged by the story of God’s compassionate grace.

See you Sunday.
Pastor Paul

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16

And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32
It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Click on the Prodigal Son picture to read Pastor Paul’s message.


Ponderings for June 2 2017

Greetings again Trinity Community. I trust your week is going well and June is off to a good start.

Last Sunday and this coming one, we are being reminded that the Christian life is not just an assent to some beliefs nor simply the growing attainment of more Bible knowledge. It is a living “relationship” with our Great God who desires us to live a particular way and through his Holy Spirit he empowers us to do so.

Many of us do not realize that the Holy Spirit indwells us, and that He desires to “fill us” in order that we can live our lives in joyful obedience. This is also called “walking in the Spirit.”

So how is the filling of the Holy Spirit received? It is certainly a matter of faith that includes my yielding to God’s will. This yielding includes confession of known sin in my life and submission to God’s Word and commands. As the Spirit prompts me, I choose to obey and live in a manner pleasing to him and beneficial to others. So, we receive the filling of the Holy Spirit by faith. “As you received Christ Jesus [by faith] so walk in Him [by faith]” (Colossians 2:6). 

Through his filling, the Holy Spirit guides us, convicts us, and empowers us to live Christ-like lives as we live and walk by faith.

During last Sunday’s morning services, I led us in a prayer for the Holy Spirit to fill each of us; that we may better serve our spouses and love the “other” as Christ would. Not just for married people :), all of us need the Spirit’s power to live as we should in whatever state we are in.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is a temporary thing (unlike the permanent indwelling of the Spirit). By faith, we ought to seek to be filled regularly as we daily confess and submit ourselves anew to his will and guidance.

This coming Sunday we will hear the Lord calling us to “Come!” as we reflect on Isaiah 55 together. Another reminder of the participatory nature of our Christian faith. In response to the Lord’s call, there will be opportunity to come and pray and be prayed for in each of our services this week.

No religious people of a cold, dead faith are we…But living, joyful participants of the divine favor and power that is ours through our faith in Christ.

 May your week be one of joy and spiritual fruit in our lives and relationships.

Thanks for being the church!

Pastor Paul


Ponderings for May 30 2017

On this day after Memorial Day I want to share with you Pastor Ty’s clear reasoning regarding our new signage (which is simply a continuation of the official abbreviated name we have been using since I arrived to Trinity). Please give this a full read as Ty has expressed both the practical and strategy reasons our new sign out front:

 It is a common saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” A sign is a communication device, but it is more than that as there are many things that are intrinsically and extrinsically communicated in signage. Signage is also a first impression, and like it or not people will make assumptions based on their first impressions. Those impressions and assumptions can either hinder them or help them from taking a step in our doors. If they never step in our doors, we will not be the agents that God will use to bring the peace of Christ into their lives. In our effort to love Lake County, we want to do our best to eliminate any hindrance that would prevent people from hearing about the peace that Christ brings to all our lives and to the world. This is why as staff we have made a concerted effort to work on our signage and communication, from our website, to our main sign, to clear signage throughout the building. These areas are our first impression and believe they must provide three important things:

Signage must provide consistency.
We believe God calls us to do all things with a level of excellence. We also believe that attention to detail is noticed by people and helps demonstrate that we take our mission seriously. As we think of the people we want to reach, we know that most people will first visit our website before they visit our address. After that, they will drive by our church and see our sign out front. Then, they will see our signage that leads them all through the building. We recognized that we needed a consistent font pattern, style, and color palette throughout these areas. Have you ever been to a place or received a flyer that was a mix of fonts and looks like it was put together by different people? It’s a distraction that we want to avoid. From our website, to our interior and exterior signage we knew we needed a change so that we could have unique and consistent signage throughout.

Signage must provide clarity.
There was a time when it made sense for churches to be called “First Methodist Church of____” or “Park Street Baptist Church.” The culture had a largely Christian background and knew what the difference was between Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc. When people were looking for a church, it made sense to include denominational badges because people had a theological base of knowledge even if they were not converted. It provided clarity to those seeking a church home. That is no longer the world we live in. The people we want to reach do not have a biblical or theological foundation of information. What they do have is perceptions, assumptions and stereotypes. They see Westboro Baptist picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers and think that is what Baptists must be about. For them, “Baptist” does not provide clarity, but confusion. We are unfairly getting associated with things we are not about. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention asked on Twitter what came to people’s mind when they heard the word “Baptist.” The number one response was “legalism.” Other responses that made the top ten were: “outdated,” “southern” and “boring.” If we want to reach and love Lake County and beyond, we must understand who they are, how they think and what might hinder them from entering our doors. The largest religious group in our community identify as Catholic (23.8% of Lake County). The second largest religious affiliation in Lake County is “none/no religious preference” (21.1%). “None” is the largest growing percentage (up 4.5% over ten years) and Catholic is the largest shrinking percentage (down 4.6% in ten years). Yet, 64.8% of people in our community believe Jesus rose from the dead as the Bible teaches, 65.1% believe that Jesus is both divine and human and 55.3% believe that Jesus is the only way for human salvation from sin. For the most part, our community is not closed off to Jesus, but they have either been burned or are skeptical about organized religion. Our community desperately needs to see a community of people who live out the peace of Christ in every area of life. It seems like this is what they are genuinely seeking, it is what we desire and want to work to put on display, and we must remove any barriers that might hinder them from seeing that.

Signage must show we care.
Updating and continuing to improve our facilities, graphics, web presence and signage are all a demonstration that we care enough about our mission that we want everything to constantly be moving forward and improving. Perhaps you have had a similar experience to me: you visit a home of someone who has lived in the same home for 20 years, and you feel like you have entered a time warp and been transported back 20 years. Nothing has changed, but they don’t notice the difference because they have always lived there. But when new eyes see it, they see all kinds of things that the homeowner overlooks. Every guest we have has “new eyes.” We can get used to the way things look, but we must not. We must continue to try to look at things with “new eyes” and make sure we are making the kind of impression we want. It shows that we care. You have probably seen that we removed our old guest parking signs and have begun using new A-frame signs. This is not just for our guests. This is to remind all of us as we enter that this Sunday might be someone’s first Sunday. All of these things are not done just for us, but to remind us of them: that our primary calling is to love them and to remove barriers that might hinder them from coming and hearing about the Gospel that brings us peace with God.

Pastor Paul


Ponderings for May 26 2017

Happy Friday Trinity Community. Are you ready for Memorial Day weekend? The Gateway to the summer!

With that in mind, this summer is a very important one. Not only will we honor the memory of those we know who have served and fallen in the cause of our nation. We will also reflect on the fact that for 1600 plus years, Christians have remembered this 7th Sunday after Easter as Ascension Sunday. (The ascended Lord Jesus is interceding for you right now!)

As the gateway to the summer, we will be reminded throughout the summer of many Church family plans and events:

  • We have many among us who are graduating from school (on June 11th we celebrate their achievements).
  • We will again offer a children’s More Than Sports Camp as an outreach to many (week of June 26th). Registration is currently underway.
  • Several new men’s options will be offered. Starting with a breakfast this Saturday, May 27th.

Then throughout the summer months:

  • We will celebrate beach baptism and a church-wide picnic on Sunday, July 16th
  • We will send of a team of teenagers to serve at a children’s home south of the border
  • On Sundays, we will study each of the Ten Commandments, applying every one of them to our lives today
  • We will see a number of things happening around our facility as well–plans to update the bathrooms, improve the lighting in the existing (albeit      tight) foyer and install our new exterior sign (which I will explain further on Sunday).

Speaking of Sunday, we will conclude our “Us” series with Defending Us, calling us to work hard in warding off the threats to our marriages and relationships.

Let’s enjoy this great weekend. And as our schedules start calling us temporarily in different directions, we will remember to continue to pray for, support and be a part of Trinity’s ministries and life throughout the summer months.

See you Sunday.
Pastor Paul


Ponderings for May 18 2017

“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness

     and then they are angry at the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:3)

Since I first heard that proverb I have loved it.
Maybe because I’ve seen it bit by bit in my life, and an awful lot in others’ lives as well.

The single guy who is mad at God because his girlfriend said she was pregnant.
The speeder who blames the Lord for the ticket they just received.
The distracted parents who barrage heaven’s doors with accusatory questions as to why their kids are turning out this way…

Okay, that is a bit convicting isn’t it?
My point(s) were to point out the sometimes painful truth of those words. And to suggest a continuation plan now that Community Bible Experience is winding down. Since many of us have gotten in the healthy habit of regular Bible reading (and even if you haven’t) I am urging us to keep up the good thing. There are 31 chapters in the Book of Proverbs. And unlike other books, they don’t necessarily progress in a tight sequential order. Here’s my challenge: Let’s keep on reading the Bible daily. And on whatever day you start, read that Proverb. So, if you start on Monday the 22nd, you would read Proverbs 22. And then if you miss a day down the road, simply read the Proverb that aligns with the day of the month you read again. Continuing the discipline of Bible reading will be good. And the wisdom (like above) that you will encounter will be more than good.

This Sunday at Trinity will be a really positive and important day. We will introduce new members. We celebrate the Lord’s Table. In my message I will walk us through the delightful story of Isaac and Rebekah meeting and marrying as we continue our “Us” message series with “Choosing Us.”

Pastor Ty Waardenburg is holding a lunch for high school grads and students home from college to discuss summer ideas for ministry and spiritual things. It will be right after the second service. Please come and come hungry—pizza, you know!

And on Sunday evening, our Youth Director Al Wilson will be leading an important presentation hinging off of the disturbing show 13 Reasons Why. Several presenters (including me) will address various ideas as they relate to teen suicide and related issues. Pray for that if you would. Come if you are a teen or even a parent of one.

Enjoy the rest of your week and sunshine.
Pass the peace of Christ to whomever comes your way!
And I’ll see you around the corner.

Pastor Paul