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Ready or not

With Thanksgiving fast approaching and the first talk of winter weather, it is safe to say 2018 is quickly coming to an end. What a crazy and quick year this has been. You know when your kids start saying how fast the time is going by, it really is going fast. As a church, our plans are set for the holidays, and we are now moving into the plans for the start of 2019. We believe 2019 is going to be one of the most pivotal years for Trinity Community Church. We have seen the Lord work this year preparing us in many ways, from changes in ministries and leadership to just His more powerful presence and leading in every service and event.

We really need to hit the ground running in 2019. I want to ask you to be praying and leaning into the power of His Holy Spirit now. As a church, we will begin our time of prayer and fasting on Sunday, January 6th. This will include special times of corporate prayer, praise, and teaching. On a special note, please keep the evening of Saturday, January 12th open for a time of worship and prayer. 2019 is pivotal for many reasons. Moving into the Coffee Run campus is a big part of 2019, but what God is doing in us and how His presence is ushering in a new season of our lives is even more exciting!

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Just so sad.

The mass shooting at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last week has once again left us with shock and sadness. Details beyond the horror always seem to hit me hard. For example, the fact that one of those killed was a Holocaust survivor and to now be taken the way that he was after all he endured. The Jewish doctors administering aid to the gunman in the hospital after he was spewing anti-Semitic hate-filled words amazed me. Maybe all of these things help us process the overall fear and grief that such acts cause. Regardless, this tight-knit Jewish community is now distraught and mourning.

Thank God there are always examples where we see good responding to such evil. There were a number of interfaith efforts to support The Tree of Life community. One that really struck me was the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh raising money for funeral expenses. Obviously, an attack on people from one religion is an attack on people of all faiths in this country, and we are thankful when those who believe differently can come together.

As a church, we are praying and doing our best to be prepared to prevent anything like this from happening at Trinity.

Be on guard

Sadly, it looks like the final straw has come for Sears and Kmart department stores. After closing a substantial number of stores and working for years to improve their bottom line, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week. Some modest relief was given to get a few stores through the holiday shopping season, but for all intents and purposes, it is over. Growing up in this area we would go to Sears for everything but groceries. It was the place to be. We could even buy candy to eat while we shopped. We can point to many issues, but it was their lack of vision to embrace           E-commerce principals and business practices that started their downfall. For example, look at a comparison to Walmart. They have the same kind of initial big box feel, but they have been aggressive in expanding their vision to include online shopping, delivery and many other ways to impact the shopping experience.

Churches are obviously not an industry, but we do need to be evaluating how we do things regularly. Our vision starts with the Lord giving us the Great Commission, and from there we get to work. The gospel has not changed but the way we present it and reach those who don’t know Christ has changed over the years. We have access to many ways to serve people and tell them about Jesus like never before. So, let’s keep an open mind and look for new ideas. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is not an option for us!

This I know:

The recent Supreme Court nomination hearings and subsequent events have left me with a wide range of perspectives. That’s probably an understatement. When the hearings and personal testimonies concluded I was disgusted with many aspects of how it all went. As the week went on, I stepped back and asked the Lord what I should feel and how should I use this in a way that helps others or even makes any sense. So, I came up with a few lessons learned that really have nothing to do with who our next Supreme Court Judge will be:

w  First, at every level, any form a sexual assault is wrong and cannot be ignored

w  Second, even when we have done nothing wrong being in environments where wrong things happen complicates our lives and can hurt our witness

w  And lastly, lying to discredit and damage someone’s reputation is a very destructive thing to do

I pray as we move forward events like this will end and can follow a more honest and forthright path. It is not easy, but I am trying to have faith in a country and process that I still believe is one of the strongest in the world. Great time to close with “In God We Trust!”

Good news. Bad news.

One of the things we say as a church, and for all the right reasons, is that we need to “proclaim the gospel.” That is an admirable mission especially as the “worldview” on so many topics changes. Differing worldviews have always impacted how we communicate God’s Word. Even in the New Testament, this is apparent. In Acts 2, Peter preaches to the Jews, while in Acts 17, Paul preaches to the Greeks. Their approach was different based on the worldview of their audiences. The Jews had a perspective based on God’s Word in the Old Testament. The Greeks had no real understanding of creation, sin or other biblical truths. The point is, we must know and understand God’s Word to proclaim the gospel correctly to people who think differently.

Ask someone what the gospel is and they will often say it’s the “Good News.” This is true. However, it’s only the “Good News” if one has a firm grip on why. It takes an understanding of the “bad news” of Genesis to realize how to communicate what Jesus dying on the cross truly means for us. As a church, we want to build upon foundational knowledge and see it develop. We don’t start building a house with the roof. So, let’s continue to dig deep into God’s Word, lay the right foundation, begin to build, and then see how God uses us.

Position still pretty much the same.

The question usually comes up this time of the year, “Should pastors endorse politicians from the pulpit?” Well, first the obvious: Federal law forbids tax-exempt organizations, including churches, to “participate in, or to intervene in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. This is based on an amendment that then Senator Lyndon Johnson led the effort to pass in 1964. So it has been around for a long time. Many people feel this amendment should be repealed for many reasons. One being that pastors are teachers and leaders that should speak to issues facing their churches. Second, the political and partisan climate that led to Johnson introducing the amendment makes it flawed. So there is solid ground to challenge this.

The other very valid side of the coin is that pastors are called to preach the “Word of God”. The Great Commission calls us to “make disciples of all nations,” and endorsing candidates can be counter-productive to this. Some say it undermines pastoral authority. I can see the validity to this. We live in such a polarized world that doing something in a sermon that could add to this is risky.

So where does that leave us? Well for Trinity and this election cycle, we will not be preaching sermons that include an endorsement of candidates. However if you want to sit and pray with us and discuss issues that impact us, we are ready. We pray God’s will be done. For now we need to abide by federal law.

Not easy but……

Nothing sets up a Washington DC battle more than the nominee of a Supreme Court Judge. Right now, the process is well underway for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. These hearings usually bring up many contentious issues and a tremendous amount of speeches on the Senate floor, and without question, they should. The court is where real issues that shape a generation are decided. Usually, there is some sort of balance to the court that gives it a fair representation of the country. However maybe like never before this highest court in our country needs our prayers. So many issues hang in the balance, and if we look down the road just a little bit, we can see so many things on the horizon. Many of our existing rights and privileges could be in jeopardy. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, hearings can be a grueling responsibility but to have the right Supreme Court Judge to navigate the precarious waters we are in is worth every second. Let’s remember to pray for wisdom and leadership for all involved.