Trinitarian Congregational Church

Pastor’s Note: The Great Betrayal

Have you ever been betrayed by anyone? If you have spent any amount of time with people, you know you have. The story of Easter is of course the triumph of Jesus over death (John 21:1-10). God can be trusted because He has conquered death, the most persistent and powerful of enemies against humankind and everything that stands for what is good. But this narrative of triumph is also one of betrayal. Roman Law betrayed Jesus; the spiritual authorities in place, including the high priest, betrayed Him; Judas famously betrayed Jesus; even His inner circle ended up betraying Him. Peter, before the rooster crowed, betrayed Jesus three times (John 18:15-27).

The Gospel of John has a special place for Peter in particular as a part of the Easter narrative. John carefully documents the number of times Jesus appeared to the disciples and to Mary after the resurrection (John 21:1-14). It is on the third appearance to the disciples (John 21:14) that Jesus circles back to Peter and asks him whether Peter really loves Jesus (the word “love” is expressed through affection-love and friendship-love). Peter, three times (the number of times he had betrayed Jesus) responds in the same way, “you know that I love you.” The setting of this wonderful restoration of a betrayed friendship is similar to the scene of Peter’s betrayal: around a “charcoal fire” (same word in John 18:18 and John 21:9). John wants us to have this image in our mind: the One who was betrayed now commissions this untrustworthy Peter character to become a shepherd of God’s people! What a powerful picture of rehabilitation!

With this early morning third encounter (John 20:1; 21:4), John makes it clear Jesus’ relationship with Peter ends just where it started: in Galilee and with the call to “follow me” (John 21:20) But now the “follow me” has reached its full significance. There is a ‘follow me’ “now” (prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection) and there is a ‘follow me’ “afterward” (after the resurrection; John 13:36). Peter thought he could follow Jesus then, but in fact he couldn’t (John 13:38). But after the resurrection and his own blatant betrayal, Peter has come to that place of real understanding. He knows what it means to follow Jesus, even if it means dying like Jesus did (John 21:18). Early church tradition confirms that Peter in fact did die crucified. The “truly, truly (= amen, amen) announcing Peter’s betrayal (John 13:38) is now traded for the “truly, truly” of his loyalty to Jesus unto death (John 21:18).

So the big idea is that to follow “him” becomes an essential part of the command. John had put it this way earlier: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Paul chimes in and says that we do nothing of ourselves. Everything we do and are is “in Him.” In fact, Paul actually uses the language of the cross and resurrection of Christ, without which you and I cannot truly follow Jesus:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” To live out our lives and to follow Him is to die to self (our betrayal of Him) and to live in Him. This is what it means to follow Him for Peter and for all of us.

Thoughts for the week:

In our story of betrayals (as the betrayed and as the betrayer), it is time to figuratively “have breakfast with Jesus” just like Peter did. This week, take an inventory of all those times you have been betrayed and those times when you have betrayed others. It’s time to allow Jesus to rehabilitate us and put us on the right footing to truly follow Him.

Pastor’s Note: When our best is not good enough

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When our Best is Not Good Enough

Josiah (read 2 Chronicles 33-35) is a fitting conclusion to our quest to “start well and finish well!” He is the superlative king, equal to David and as good as Moses. Other kings developed the keystone habit of seeking the Lord and devotion to the house of God, but he was a real stand out. He didn’t only ‘cleanse’ the land from idols in a massive spring cleaning effort, he applied the equivalent of turpentine to a culture stained by chronic rebellion against God’s Word (“purging” is the word). He was precocious in his devotion to God, a 3rd grader who turned king. While a sophomore in High School he began to seek the Lord his God and embarked on a great reform to turn God’s people back to Him. When he was a sophomore in college, he led a nationwide capital campaign to restore the building of the temple. Due to rampant idolatry, the house of God had been neglected and was in urgent needs of repair. He intended to fix that.

It’s in the context of this renovation project that the turning point in his life occurred. In the midst of the repairs, a scroll (the Bible App of ancient times) was found. This document contained Deuteronomy, God’s prescription for wholesome living in His land in the Old Testament. When the book is read to him, his reaction is startling: he tears his clothes in a sign of deep repentance. This heart attitude reminds us of David whose heart was contrite when confronted with the conviction of the Word of God in his life (Psalm 51:17). As a result, he had everyone gathered (“great and small”) for a reading of the Scroll and made the people commit to serving the Lord (just like Moses had done before him). He did all he could to turn God’s people around to love God and serve Him. In fact, he loved God and His Word “with all his heart and soul.” He was just about perfect.

But then, after many years of great success and faithfulness, something went wrong. He interfered in matters he shouldn’t have. The Bible is so brutally honest about this. He didn’t listen to the voice of God and paid the ultimate price for his disobedience (2 Chronicles 35:22). So even a guy like Josiah didn’t finish well! The obvious conclusion is the experiment of having human kings run God’s people has failed. Even the best king’s best effort fell short. God knew that and so He decided to come Himself to run our affairs. He Himself came as the King of Kings to rule over us with righteousness and full obedience to the voice of God. Even Josiah couldn’t pull it off, but Jesus does. This is why we worship Him and follow Him. Our best will never be good enough but His will be. He is the author and finisher of our faith. As we set our eyes on Him, by faith we abide in the One who has run the race and succeeded. He lives forever. Through His death and resurrection, He has conquered sin, death and the devil, overcoming on our behalf our innate inability to obey God (Isaiah 53:4-6; Isaiah 53:12; Romans 8:1-4).

Reflection for the week:

As we approach Holy Week, we turn to Him and Him alone. He is The One who will never leave us nor forsake us. Maybe we delude ourselves into thinking our best will be good enough. The life of Josiah is a stark and brutal reality check that even the darling golden boy couldn’t cut it in the end. Paul puts it this way: “we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” The sooner you and I realize we won’t have a perfect record, the sooner we will turn our eyes to the One who does and join in singing, “Not the labor of my hands can fulfill thy Law’s demands, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.” This is how you and I will finish well. Nothing will separate us from the love of God, not even death, nor anything that life throws at us, including our own shortcomings (Romans 8:31-39).


Sunday Recap: April 7th, 2019

Hello church! We post these Sunday recaps to highlight the awesome things God did each Sunday at TCC. Here’s a recap of our Sunday services and programs last weekend.

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Pastor’s Note: When Our Best is Not Good Enough

As we approach Holy Week, we turn to Him and Him alone. He is The One who will never leave us nor forsake us. Maybe we delude ourselves into thinking our best will be good enough. The life of Josiah is a stark and brutal reality check that even the darling golden boy couldn’t cut it in the end. Paul puts it this way: “we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” The sooner you and I realize we won’t have a perfect record, the sooner we will turn our eyes to the One who does and join in singing, “Not the labor of my hands can fulfill thy Law’s demands, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.” This is how you and I will finish well. Nothing will separate us from the love of God, not even death, nor anything that life throws at us, including our own shortcomings (Romans 8:31-39).

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First Sundays Together

Our “First Sunday’s Together” are wonderful celebration Sundays where our children, students, and adults worship together for the first 20 minutes. Our student band continues to bring amazing music to enrich our worship service, leading us in some of their favorite worship songs such as “This is Amazing Grace” and “All My Ways“. Our children love the hand motions to “My Lighthouse.” “Build My Life“, a new song introduced this year in our student service, is a simple yet profound expression of worship and a prayer for God to lead us. So awesome to see our students and children growing a heart for worship!

“Holy, there is no one like you / there is none besides you / open up my eyes in wonder / Show me who you are and fill me with your heart, and lead me in your love to those around me.

The chorus of “Build My Life” from Housefires worship.

Living the Adventure

This week, our K/1 small groups had a blast acting out the story of Lazarus from the Gospel of John. Acting out the story really helps kids catch the message of God’s love within the narrative, while having fun and making friends. Check out the LTA bulletin board (2nd floor lobby) to see how our kids are learning about hope – “Being confident in God’s eternal plan”

Sunday Recap: March 31, 2019

Hello church! We post these Sunday recaps to highlight the awesome things God did each Sunday at TCC. Here’s a recap of our Sunday services and programs last weekend.

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Pastor’s Note: Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over

Paul the Apostle himself has a few things in common with King Manasseh. Prior to his turn arount moment, he was a “worst offender” type guy (1 Timothy 1:15) and he was addicted to violence against God’s people. God’s reach is amazing! Isaiah puts it all in context for us: All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned –everyone– to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). All of a sudden, we see ourselves in Manasseh and Paul: Sinners in great need of redemption and repentance. Maybe we need to start embracing the “exile” of this life on earth. In this exile, the Lord has all kinds of ways to get our attention. It may be geographical dislocation, confinement (shut in) or more metaphorical disruptions. These are attention getters all the same. Let’s embrace these times of distress/confinement because out of them, the Lord is able to turn anyone around, the most hardened of souls, even our own. Read More from Pastor Tom

Pastor of Family Ministries

On Sunday we announced Pastor Kyle transitioning into a role that he has been functioning in for some time now. As Pastor of Family Ministries, Kyle is providing pastoral leadership to our children’s ministry team, student ministry team, and the different programs of the church related to families such as Mom to Mom. This is a role that Kyle is uniquely gifted for and we are excited to see how the Lord uses Kyle in this new role.

This week in LTA…

Our 2nd and 3rd grade boys led by Rob Mellon were having awesome conversations about what it means to follow Jesus. It means, quite simply, to love God, and love others. Rob was helping the small group navigate tough questions such as “why does God give laws?”, and helping them see that even though sin is real, if we trust in Jesus we don’t need to be afraid of God’s righteousness. Great stuff, Rob!

The Life of Manasseh: Ain’t over til it’s over

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The life story of King Manasseh is one for the books. He started his reign young (12) and lasted 55 years (the longest of all the kings of Israel). To sum up his life, he paid zero attention to God. As shepherd over God’s people, that is tantamount to an atheist pastor who promotes atheism and actively suppresses any argument for the existence of God. Manasseh’s life record is devastating (2 Chronicles 33:1-13; see also 2 Kings 21). His addiction to violence and suppression stands in contrast to his father Hezekiah who faithfully promoted the worship of the Lord (though he did grow proud at the end, 2 Chronicles 32:25). Manasseh undid all the good work of his father. No wonder he receives F- for his performance as steward of the worship of God! A bad apple doesn’t even begin to describe Manasseh (see 2 Chronicles 33:6). He lived life his way, in blatant disobedience to God’s Word.

But even a bad boy like Manasseh isn’t beyond God’s reach, even if it means using the ‘hooks and chains of bronze’ approach to get his attention. God physically removed him from his surrounding and took him into exile to Babylon. And it worked. In his “distress,” Manasseh “entreated the favor of the Lord” (= seeking His face). God had been a foreign concept to Manasseh. Now God is “the Lord his God” and the “God of His fathers.” Nothing quite like a dislocation to make the most hardened atheist into an ardent theist! Manasseh, in his confinement, “humbled himself greatly,” and actually prayed (2 Chronicles 33:11-13).

Here comes the surprising twist: very much like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), the Lord paid attention to Manasseh’s plight. The dislocation of exile led him to repentance: “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.”

This sort of end-of-life turn tells that yes, you can in fact teach an old dog a new trick. It also gives hope to the rest of us. We may not have a long record of offenses like Manasseh, but we all have our issues. We don’t always pay attention to God and His Word. We may not all be active atheists but we’re very good at ignoring His presence and avoiding Him and His Word in our decision-making process. Of course we don’t wish this sort of metaphorical “hooks and chains of bronze” treatment on anyone, least of all us. But if it does happen, we know that God will use the dislocation of exile* to get our attention, draw us closer to him in repentance, which then brings restoration. In God’s amazing grace, Manasseh was in fact restored “to his kingdom.” And out of this restoration, he became intimately acquainted with the Lord as his God. What a powerful image of true repentance! It’s after God restores us that we can come to a place of true heartfelt repentance.**

Reflection for the week

Paul the Apostle himself has a few things in common with King Manasseh. Prior to his turn arount moment, he was a “worst offender” type guy (1 Timothy 1:15) and he was addicted to violence against God’s people. God’s reach is amazing! Isaiah puts it all in context for us: All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned –everyone– to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). All of a sudden, we see ourselves in Manasseh and Paul: Sinners in great need of redemption and repentance. Maybe we need to start embracing the “exile” of this life on earth. In this exile, the Lord has all kinds of ways to get our attention. It may be geographical dislocation, confinement (shut in) or more metaphorical disruptions. These are attention getters all the same. Let’s embrace these times of distress/confinement because out of them, the Lord is able to turn anyone around, the most hardened of souls, even our own.

*Followers of Christ are in “exile” on this earth (James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 11:16)

** I owe this insight to my wife, Dr. Donna Petter from her research in the book of Ezekiel.