Ponderings for December 18 2019

I sit in the Gathering Space trying to write something meaningful and creative to you, my Trinity friends and spiritual family.
 
I am in here because the room is so nice. And because I just needed a change of venue. From now till Christmas my office (and my to-do list) is a dungeon of duties that must get done! 
 
Full. That is the status of my mind and calendar and the horizon as I look to the New Year. That’s pretty common among the staff team here and probably you, too.
 
It seems only right, but I just read that the most downloaded Bible verse among YouVersion’s 400 million users this year is Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Draw your own conclusions.
 
Full of anxiety everywhere. Tornadoes and fatalities in New Orleans. Not to mention now a major cyber attack on that beautiful city. Anxiety indeed. The House voting to impeach. Israel can’t form a government. Hong Kong and France have massive rioting and violence. I could go on (about India, North Korea, Brexit, and more) but I won’t. And still: “Be anxious for nothing…”
 
By the way, I am also full of joy and pride as our entire church community has been so kind and generous this season. Christmas trees and ornaments; food and extras for those in need; and oh, yeah—we are buying a BUS! More than just a bus; we now have the means to pay for the driver and annual maintenance. And we still have one Sunday and three Christmas Eve services to go! I love what happens when we all pray, “Lord, make me a more loving person.” 
 
Speaking of Christmas Eve, I am eager to be a part of this musical celebration of our Savior. Have you chosen which of the three services you will attend? I am also looking forward to seeing you and many of our friends and relatives and neighbors who don’t normally frequent our church home. Part of the fun of Christmas Eve here will include a photo “booth” that we have set up in the Gathering Space. You and yours can be at your photogenic best as you experience this festive addition.
 
So anyway, I was just finishing up my J Term notes on the uniqueness of Christ. Beautiful and heavy stuff. The entire J Term will be a great way to launch Trinity into 2020, where our prime focus as a church will be our Lord Jesus—knowing him and making him known.
 
Let these words from one of my favorite theologians (Don Carson) fill your heart and mind. They are a good preparation for the year ahead and for the Person of Christmas we are about to celebrate. 
 
Do you want to know what the character of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the holiness of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the wrath of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the forgiveness of God is like? Study Jesus. Do you want to know what the glory of God is like? Study Jesus all the way to that wretched cross. Study Jesus.
 
I’ll catch you on the other side,
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for December 11 2019

I have always been intrigued by the Apostle Paul’s words highly commending the believers in Macedonia for the outward display of their faith and their genuine generosity. He is almost proud, boasting about his association with them:
 
“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:1–3).
 
Powerful words. A powerful example.
 
I recently read something from Tim Keller (a writer and pastor that I admire) which resonated with my experiences: “In 2,000 years, we’ve never learned how to do mission in a place that was post-Christian rather than pre-Christian.”
 
When I am in somewhat “pre-Christian” places (like parts of Africa or India), I see the power of the Gospel in abundance and the movement of the Spirit at almost breakneck speed. As a guest there, it’s almost impossible to keep up. The stories of Christ changing lives and the massive numbers of brand-new churches cropping up everywhere is so exhilarating. 
 
While here in the West, both in America and in Europe (the “post-Christian” world), there is almost a “been there, done that” mentality toward Christ and his Church and the Gospel. So much of ministry and leading the church and even being an effective Christ-follower is trying to figure out how to overcome this spiritual “malaise” and effectively tell the Story, reflect the love of the Savior, and portray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
 
Which is why I regularly remind us at Trinity of The Starry Night painting by Vincent van Gogh (at the top of this Pondering). Our urgent calling is to make sure our light is never off in the darkness of our community and society.
 
Which is why we are thinking through and reflecting on 1 Corinthians 13 throughout Advent. My prayer and charge for Trinity is that we are a body of believers who regularly live out the characteristics and actions of love depicted in the “Love” chapter.
 
Which is why I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s pride that he expressed toward the Macedonian Christians. A similar pride wells up in me as I see the Trinity family pour out their love in such tangible and generous portions. This past weekend we gave away 150 Christmas trees to those in our area. The generosity and hard work of the team who gave the trees away made me so proud. And so many gave tree lights, bulbs, and other holiday items for our friends to have! Thank you!
 
And so much pride wells up in me as I see us give so generously to buy a school bus to transport Indian children out of the cesspool of trafficking and temple prostitution. “$40K for 40 Kids” was nothing short of an ambitious, faith-stretching project. After the second week of this initiative, we have already secured 35 “seats on the bus”! Wow! We are rushing headlong toward the finish line of buying that bus! Thank you. The young lives that will be changed through our love and through receiving a Christ-centered education are a wonderful gift!
 
So, pride? Yes—in my friends and “flock” who express their love and faith so abundantly and generously. Figuring out how minister in our “post-Christian” day? Indeed! And working very hard and creatively so that our light shines before others that they see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. Proud indeed! And grateful!
 
See you on the other side,
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for November 27 2019

So what’s the big deal about Thanksgiving? I mean, think about it: Most people are generally very stoked about this holiday. We talk about Thanksgiving long before it’s here. The highways and airports are jam-packed with delays everywhere. We rehearse what we are eating, who is coming, when your dad will loosen his belt at the table. So much hype. And, to be honest, I am just not sure why.
 
Are we that interested in the culinary practices of bunch of Pilgrims from 400 years ago? I have my doubts.
 
Is it the football games? (Maybe the Dallas Cowboys a little. Certainly not the Lions, right?)
 
The turkey?! Really? Come on, be honest—you’re not that crazy about turkey, are you? Now, if the traditional fare was Alaskan King Crab legs or filet mignon, then let’s go! Even lasagna or baby back ribs, but turkey?
 
And, of course, the pies…ahh, the pies. But I digress.
 
I do think that the break from the normal routines and habits of family (even extended) are key to the popularity of this day. With us all sitting down to a slow meal together; perhaps even carrying on meaningful table conversation; and thinking through and even saying aloud the specific things that we are each thankful for: We seldom do these important and healthy things together. And the fact that we set aside a national holiday to attempt these significant rituals speaks of their latent importance to us. It is good and healthy to give thanks. And it is right and good to slow down and share a meal with loved ones and have thoughtful discussions. Deep down, that is what makes Thanksgiving so popular, in my opinion. (That and the pies. Especially the coconut cream. 🙂
 
We’ll see you on Sunday when we begin Advent by worshiping together, reminding ourselves that Love is the best while we also light a candle to begin the Christmas season. (We’ll celebrate the Lord’s Table on the 22nd of December.)
 
Happy Thanksgiving, beloveds.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for November 25 2019

Are you ready for a short week? Probably lots of family…and food! That will be true for me and Sue as well. 
 
Coming right on the heels of Thanksgiving this year is the beginning of Advent. Our church, like the historical church, makes a big deal out of Advent. I learned recently that the observing of Advent is a commemorating of the three “Comings” of Christ. (You will see a video on Facebook this Saturday where a friend and I discuss this at length.) 
 
 
Our practices during Advent are meant to remind us of the Lord’s First Coming in Bethlehem; his Personal Coming into our lives by faith; and his Second Coming at the end of the age. These “Comings” act as perspectives in light of which we live our lives: Because of the Coming of Christ, I believe and behave differently.
 
As I mentioned in the worship services yesterday, this Advent at Trinity we are being called to act Christ-like and lovingly in three ways: personally, locally, and globally.
 
Personally: Your church staff has come up with 25 deliberate acts of kindness and love that you can choose to do throughout the month of December. Already yesterday several have told me what they intend to do from the roster of ideas that we provided.
 
Locally: We are called to reach out to our community (#WeLOVELakeCounty) by providing food to students in need in our area. Through December 15, we will be collecting food items (no perishable food) and food gift cards that will benefit those who will not have access to their school cafeteria while on break.
 
Globally: We are buying a bus in India! This bus is to transport the children of women trapped in temple prostitution and sex trade (they are called Jogini or devadasi). Providing these children with a Christ-centered education (and the means of getting to school) is crucial in getting them out of this system. “$40K for 40 Kids” is what we are calling this project (as the bus with a capacity of 40 seats costs $40,000). To learn more about these children, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qq6V9d9rw4
 
Our theme this Christmas season is Love Came Down. This is a call to embrace and emulate the love of God on display for us in the Coming of Christ. These three areas of action represent Trinity’s plan for our active and loving Advent season.
 
That’s it for now,
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for November 19 2019

Blessed are the feet that bring Good News…
 
As the holidays approach, we will all have numerous opportunities to engage people in spiritual conversations and Christian “experiences” (like receiving a free tree or hearing some sacred music). Whether it’s interacting with people at your office or in your neighborhood or taking advantage of the outreaching nature of so many of Trinity’s December activities, our hope is that many of us here will broach the subject of Christ or God with others in the coming season.
 
I know that can seem scary or forced, but it doesn’t have to be. Many of us feel unprepared to simply “give the answer to the hope” that we have in Christ. That is why I thought the words of Professor Rick Richardson from Wheaton College are so timely today. He writes that the way to have meaningful spiritual conversations with others is to learn “to ask good questions of people about God, and good questions to God about people.” Here are Dr. Richardson’s suggestions:
  • Questions to Ask People: 1) Do you have any religious background and does it mean anything to you today? 2) Have you ever had what you would consider a spiritual experience? What was that like? 3) Do you think there is a God, and what do you think God is like? and 4) Would you say you ever pray? And what do you think that does?
  • Questions to Ask God: 1) Jesus, where are you already at work? Please lead me to those who are receptive. 2) Is there someone you want me to talk to, or care for, or pray with? Is there someone here who is hurting? And what are you doing? and 3) Do I notice anything about this person that you might notice? What might you say to them in this moment?
 
Let’s pray for each other about these conversations during the holiday season. And let’s pray that Trinity’s ministries this Advent are used by God to introduce many people to the Gospel and the beautiful person of Jesus Christ.
 
It is a joy and privilege to lead and pastor you in the things of God.
 
See you down the road.
Pastor Paul

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