Writing about love in this age of “Trumpillary” would be like writing about the comforts of heaven while sitting amidst the fiery flames of hell.

The negativity and bitterness, the shouting and coarse language, the empty rhetoric and rancorous debate — these things have so much dominated the news cycle that one would almost be forced to conclude that this is just how “normal” people behave in this neo-Judges age when “every man and woman does what’s right in his/her eyes.”

But that conclusion would be wrong. This is not “normal.” We shouldn’t let this display of carnality and immaturity be the standard bearer of what we used to call “civil discourse.” Go ahead and say it: It is NOT okay to ascend to power by lying, cheating and trying to completely annihilate your opponent. The “take no prisoners” philosophy should have no room in the fabric of this country we love so much.

But when it comes to the individual souls, it is a different story. Our main duty as followers of Christ is to pray faithfully for Hillary, Trump and others like them.

Last night I heard Hillary say that in order to be saved you need both faith and good works. Wrong… She needs to understand “salvation by grace through faith.” A while back Trump said he didn’t need to ask God for forgiveness because he doesn’t make mistakes. Wrong… He needs to understand the meaning of “in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Many of Hillary’s and Trump’s positions simply outrage me, but as a follower of Christ I have no right to personally lash out against these two individuals. I have a duty to pray for them and ask God to transform their hearts so they can think and act like Jesus some day. And in that sense, my heart is so filled with love and compassion for them that it brings me to the point of tears. Yes, when did you cry last for the souls of people like Donald and Hillary?

Let me illustrate. There is nothing that comes even close to provoking more outrage in me than the issue of protecting the life of the unborn. When I hear Hillary talk about it, that’s the only time I would be tempted to smash my T.V. to pieces, if my wife would let me… And yet, even at that moment when something so raw wants to come out of me and do damage, I look at the human being making that statement and am filled with compassion for her — she’s been blinded and she needs to see the light. I have tears for the millions of little ones vanished by violence and I have tears for the millions of grownups who will appear before God one day and give an account for their actions. May God have mercy on them!

But remember: We too will give an account to God some day. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He didn’t give us an exception clause that would apply to certain people, like former Cleveland Brown’s owner Art Modell, for example!

Now, obviously, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will become best friends with these two. Neither does it mean that I have to agree with all or any of their ideas and policies. Quite the contrary; I must remain vigilant and speak out against ideas that are contrary to God’s standards, but I must be careful that in the process of doing it I don’t act uncharitably toward them or their supporters and thus become just like them. We are not called to hate, we are called to love. We must find a way to love even people like these two. And if I need to be convinced of that, all I have to do is to look at myself in the mirror and repeat after me: “God loved ME!!”

The only time that it would be okay not to love those who disagree with me and behave radically differently from me would be the time that God would cease to love me. But that, I know, is not going to happen, so I might as well start learning to love the unlovable. God did it with me. But this is only possible by divine enabling. We can’t do it on our own power.

Looking at the foot of the cross, Jesus saw his tormentors and forgave them. Lifting his eyes unto heaven, as the first stone hit his body, Stephen followed in Jesus’ footsteps and forgave the stone throwers. He also prayed for them. That was and is supposed to be the norm for the disciple of Christ, not the exception.

While we lament the loss of civil discourse and dread having to walk into the polling place with our hearts torn by the choices afforded us, one thing we must not do — we must not let bitterness steal the joy we have in Christ and we must never forget that the sovereign God is still large and in charge.

Let’s look to our standard bearer, the One who, according to Matthew, “… causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

And let’s remember that all of us, without exception, also had to be forgiven of something that would be enough to send us to hell. Come to think of it, my need for forgiveness does tend to emerge, like daily. Thank God for the reconciliation and restoration He provides us in Christ!

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Bill Burk, the man God used to bring my dad to Christ, used to employ a simple litmus test to determine if a man was truly interested in the Gospel or not. He would schedule a day to come and study the Bible with the man. On the appointed day, if the man was there waiting for him, he would take it as a sign of interest; if he was out tending his field or hunting his game, he would go on to the next house. End of conversation.

Bill was a big believer in the binding nature of words and in the fact that words truly reveal the intent of a person’s heart. And I know that approach worked well with my dad, who was somewhat methodical from the day I was aware of his existence. Not sure how well it would work with an illiterate fisherman who hadn’t even seen a calendar his whole life, let alone made an appointment with someone. But that’s for another day. One has somehow to prioritize feeding his family as well…

Bill’s practice derived from an application of Jesus’ words, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.'”

In this day and age when truth is like an endangered species, this is a great reminder to all of us. The religious leaders of the day had come up with all sorts of creative ways to get around the obligation of an oath. To speak in today’s terms, they could be seen with their fingers crossed, if the camera turned to show their backs, whenever they were promising to do something of significance. Their words became meaningless and they did all of this while sounding extremely pious.

In rebuking their misuse of oaths, Jesus reaffirmed the pervasive nature of God’s presence in all of our transactions, since He said that any kind of oath was ultimately invoking the Creator, because He owns everything. His rebuke also declared once and for all that the integrity of one’s inner being is infinitely more important than keeping appearance. One can get around promises in clever ways but one can never get clever enough to fool the Creator.

But instead of pondering the meaning of this teaching, we find ourselves arguing about whether Jesus was talking about taking an oath in a court of law, cursing or taking the Lord’s Name in vain — interesting topics, but not the subject of this text.

Here, Jesus is concerned with what we told our school teacher when we failed to bring our homework, after promising her “it will be done by tomorrow.” He wants to know if “the check is the mail” when we say it is. He cares about our failures to come to our kid’s soccer games, after we said you would be there for the umpteenth time. The applications are endless.

The world would be a better place even if only those who call themselves Christians spoke “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Jesus expected nothing less and nothing more from His disciples. And Bill Burk apparently understood that.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18).

Some people have read the end of this verse and concluded that Christians today are still obligated to follow the Law of Moses. They take the “until everything is accomplished” to mean “until the end of the world,” meaning until then the Law is still in effect.

Think about the practical implications of that, especially for guys who were not circumcised at birth. Ask Timothy, Paul’s protégé, about it. He was already an adult when Paul circumcised him. I think it’s safe to say that if we are concerned about men being AWOL in the church now, the situation would be exponentially worse if discipleship required “defleshship.” Think about sharing the gospel with another guy and having to transition from “God has a wonderful plan for your life” to “and that plan includes circumcision.” Not even the JW’s could sweeten that deal!

Okay, let’s get serious now. That expression must mean something else. Paul gives us a clue in Romans 10:4 when he said, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Notice, Paul did not say “Christ is the end of the Law,” as so many incorrectly quote this passage. The text says, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness.” The Law didn’t end with Christ, for even today it still serves a purpose of showing us our sinfulness and our need of a Savior. But the Law took on a new meaning after Christ.

Here is what I mean. The Law was no more than a pointer, reminding us that we need God’s righteousness. And in this sense, Christ is the “end” (Greek “telos,”) to which the Law pointed. He was like the red dot on your GPS display signaling your destination.

So, with that in mind, it’s safe to say that “until everything is accomplished” refers to the Messianic age, beginning with the advent of Christ outside of Bethlehem, all the way to His future coming in glory to set up the new heavens and the new earth. In Christ the purpose of the Law was painted in high definition, ultra 4d resolution type of screen. He disclosed the full meaning and purpose of the Law.

But the best is yet to come. God will bring every little detail that Moses and the prophets wrote about to fruition. His justice will cover the earth. His dominion will have no limits. His enemies will be conquered and His Son will reign supreme for eternity. And that’s His story and He’s sticking to it.

And my friend, if that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will!

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

In 312 A.D. something really consequential happened to the Church. It was the year the emperor Constantine embraced Christianity. Whether he actually converted or not is a debate for the ages, but he did manage to bring Christianity from the shadows to the spotlight. His vision to conquer under the sign of the Cross became associated with the Church for a very long time.

The immediate effect of Constantine’s conversion, in addition to making every Pope and prelate rich, was that a religion that had been marked for extinction was suddenly elevated to the status of state religion, whether officially or not. The Church moved from the margins to the center and gradually Jesus and His teachings moved from the center to the margins.

From that day forward Christians have looked to a “savior” from the seats of power. The Church has been associated with power and wealth; the cross, which was an instrument of humiliation before, now became a banner under which Christian armies fought to conquer other people.

Jesus’ teachings on the ethics of the Kingdom, which is embodied in the sermon on the mount, were sanitized and domesticated to fit the narrative of a dynastic Messiah. They were no longer for the regular follower, only for a selected few. Or maybe they were only for the age to come; or perhaps given as an ideal to make the very point that we can’t really get there.

It is time for us to reclaim Jesus and His teachings to their place of preeminence in our lives. Let’s recognize that while there is still an aspect of the Kingdom that has yet to be realized, Jesus meant for His followers to live the ethics of the sermon on the mount in the here and now.

Constantine, and all the great minds of Church theology that legitimized his view of Christianity, managed to transform Jesus into this iconic figure that must be feared and revered, but from a safe distance, of course. He became much like the Catholic Church’s many saints at the time.

As a result of that, it was very possible to worship Jesus but not necessarily follow Him. They bowed in humble adoration but when it came to the stuff about praying for those who persecute you, they bowed out. They lingered by the train of His kingly robes but when the King stripped down His royal garb and touched lepers, they were no longer willing to hang around.

And if we are not careful, we too can let the same thing happen to us today — we can leave Jesus on the altar instead of carrying Him into the road with us; we can make Him possible but not portable. And God forbid we should go looking for somebody else, maybe another Constantine, to help us feel safe as we practice our faith. That would only detract us from the mandate to be salt and light to people who desperately need to know that Jesus has the answers to all their perplexing questions.

Time to un-radicalize the sermon on the mount and let Jesus be king again, not in a palace but in our hearts, not in an altar but in the daily decisions we make about living for Him and engaging Christ’s other friends.


Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

“Faith is the substance of what we hope for, the conviction of what we do not see.” This is how I think Hebrews 11:1 should be translated. A lot of modern translations prefer to render the Greek word ὑπόστασις (hypostasis) as “assurance,” but I think that is already the force of the second part of the verse, namely, that through faith we are “convinced” that some things we do not see will come to pass.

But the first part of the verse tells a different story. The author of Hebrews had already used “hypostasis” in 1:3 in that sense, when he said that the Son is the “substance” (NIV “exact representation”) of the Father. In other words, what the Father is, in essence, is what the Son is. “Like Father, like Son.”

So the text would then be understood as faith giving substance to our hopes. Faith provides a platform for hope. Through faith, we can “see” things that only exist as promises from God. Faith allows the “not yet” to move into the column of the “here and now.” The task in the “to do list” gets a “done” check.

And this is the main point of the “parade of heroes” in Hebrews 11. They all lived in faith but faith for them was not a leap in the dark. It moved them to act as if what had been promised to them was already realized. Faith gave feet to their confidence and wings to their God given dreams.

And what was the promise? It was none other than the coming of the Redeemer, the Messiah-Savior who would reconcile us to our Maker once and for all. But none of them saw the star in the east announcing the birth of Christ outside of Bethlehem. None of them held the baby Jesus in their arms like old Simeon did. But that didn’t stop them from living as if the Messiah was already there. “They were all commended for their faith,” he says, “yet none of them received what had been promised” (11:39).

As proof of this way of life, the author gives a whole list of hardships God’s people had to endure because they treated the “not yet” as “here and now” (11:35b-40). In fact, like so many of our brothers and sisters today, especially in atheist and religiously totalitarian regimes, many had the option of being released, if they were willing to reject this faith of substance (11:36.) But no, they preferred to die, because they knew and believed beyond any doubt the day of their liberation was a sure date on the calendar. No wonder the author says that “the world was not worthy of them” (11:38a).

Which brings me to the nature of God’s promises. They are not like a blank check, one that you may fill with whatever amount that suits your fancy. God is still in charge of writing and signing the check. They are not like a “rain check.” God never runs out of supply. His stock is always overflowing and He gives us good and perfect gifts. God’s promises are more like a certified check, except He is at once the bank and the signatory. He determines the amount, verifies that the supply is there, and transfers it to a secure account so it will be there when the check is cashed in. And His Son offered Himself as a guarantor. Air tight case.

And that’s the reason those the saints of old could live with the reality of Christ in the here and now even though it was “not yet.” Sadly, however, many Christians today prefer to inhabit a reverse universe: they live with the here and now reality of the resurrected Messiah but act as if it were “not yet” here. May it not be said of us that “the world was just fine with the way they lived.”

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Language is a map to a culture. It opens the door for us to understand people. It gives us clues about what we value, shun, fear, and love.

“Wasting” is a fairly common word in the English language. We say, for example, “I wasted my time,” as in waiting for an audience with a judge and not having the sentence go the way we wanted. We say, “I wasted a trip,” if we travel a certain distance to meet someone, only to find that the person was not there. And we say, “I wasted my efforts,” if we study for a test and don’t pass.

But do we ever say, “I wasted my love”? I’m sure someone will but it is not a logical phrase. And the reason is that by its own definition love is not given as a way to get something. Love is freely given. It embodies the definition of “no strings attached.” As such, therefore, it can never be wasted. It should rather be a renewable resource in the Church.

One author defines love as “… a sacrificial giving of oneself for the welfare of someone else — even if that person is unresponsive or undeserving.” (Larry E. McCall). This is exactly what Jesus did for us. The expression “He gave Himself up for us” is repeated multiple times in the New Testament. He didn’t have to but He did it anyway. That is in essence what true love is — a gift given without being procured.

Jesus’ love was marked by voluntary actions:

For the Church — He gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25-27).

For the disciples — He loved them to the end (John 13:1).

For His Father —  He abided in His love (John 15:9-17).

For us — He poured out His Spirit in us (Romans 5:5).

For the ungodly — He sends the sun and the rain to them (Matthew 5:43-45).

Biblical love, therefore, is never a means to an end. It is not an activity that is marked by quid pro quo (you scratch my back, I scratch yours). It is rather a gift that is given even if the recipient is unresponsive or insensitive. For this reason, it can never be wasted because it seeks no interest outside of itself. Plus, when I truly love, I am feeding my own soul, and what’s to waste in that?

For a Christ follower, then, it should be easy to love. His love has invaded us, it broke the walls of separation, it filled us with an inexhaustible source of love that does not depend on how others react to me. As a follower, “I love because I am.” And “I am because I’m loved.”

Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples if we have love one for another. I say to you that without an exuberant show of Christ’s love among His people, there can be no vibrant witness to Christ’s other friends (those who are still outside).

Let’s elevate Christ-like love in His Church!

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

JO cropWords. Who can deny their power? James said that the tongue has the power of life and death. The author of Proverbs says that kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

There is no doubt that scores of people have become enslaved by words that were said to them or even words they keep repeating to themselves. Among my social media contacts, I have those who are perpetually wallowing in negativity. If they are planning a day in the park with the kids and it starts raining, they don’t think of ways to make the best of it, they go to FB and whine about it.

Sure, words have power, but not magical powers. And this is my biggest objection to the teachings of people like Joel Osteen. He’s hung up on this whole idea that speaking words out loud has the power to prophesy our future. I call that “word theology.”

I find a different story in Scriptures. The concept of speaking words to create reality is foreign to Scriptures. Of course, God did it, when He spoke the world into existence. Jesus did it, when He commanded Spirits to leave and calmed storms, but where in the Bible are we taught to repeat certain things in order to bring them about in our lives?

Jesus said “ask, seek, knock,” and it will be given to you. He didn’t say, “Repeat these words every day until they become reality in your life.” Joel says that what comes after the “I am” is the trigger point. So, if you say, “I am prosperous,” even if you are dirt poor, eventually wealth will come calling your name. My reading of Scriptures tells me that it’s not about what comes after the “I am,” it’s about the “I AM.” Jesus is the ultimate source of blessings, and a vibrant relationship with Him is far more important than anything else in the world.

There is no magic in words. After you get saved, you still have work to do. Having a positive attitude will help for sure, but having a link to the Person of prosperity instead of a prosperity person will reap the most benefit in the long run.

Finally, let me just say that after reading several of Joel’s books, I am convinced that his greatest flaw is his incomplete use of Scriptures. He will take an isolated word, sometimes half of a sentence, coin a catchy phrase that summarizes a popular concept, and present it as Biblical truth.

I am not saying he does it on purpose, I am not suggesting deception. I actually believe Joel is genuinely engaged in the people-helping business. His heart is motivated to do the right thing, but he is falling way short of offering sustainable help. I will give plenty of examples this Sunday of how he misuses specific biblical texts. His books are littered with that.

My opinion is that in his enthusiasm for helping broken people, Joel has become overzealous to develop a theology of wealth and prosperity but he has failed miserably to develop a theology of suffering. As one who seeks to communicate God’s truth week after week, we must do better than that.

And that’s my word for today. God bless Joel.

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA