Archives for category: General

Prelude

For those of you who are familiar with my schedule the last two or three weeks, you know how “insane” it has been. But it is not just the schedule, it is the range of emotions I have been experiencing. I just returned from participating in Paul Keller’s memorial service. Paul was a faithful member of our church for many years and we will dearly miss him. I am posting the sermon I preached today in church down below. This week I also learned about the passing of a dear friend in Ohio who succumbed to her battle with cancer. And last week my wife and I attended the memorial service for Bill Burk, the man God used to introduce my dad to the Lord many years ago. Needless to say, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and I feel exhausted.

Needless to say, I have not been able to post with regularity here. I have wanted to but time didn’t allow. It was ironic that just as to preach about the value of work last week I may have given the impression that I was not working enough by not posting a little preview of the sermon last week. My apologies to all of you who have grown accustomed to reading something here prior to Sunday. It was simply not possible for me to do it.

And here I am again: It is pass 11:00 on Saturday night and I have not posted about tomorrow’s message. It doesn’t matter now, I guess, you won’t read it before Sunday anyway. But I will tell you regardless: I will be covering all the verses in Proverbs dealing with the concept of “friendship.” Yes, you heard me right: all the verses. It will be a rolling sermon with an emotional closing. Guaranteed.

Okay, I hope to resume my “regular” schedule here next week. I count on your prayers for that. But I am also getting ready to go to National Conference in Atlanta soon and am trying to get all the gears in place for the exciting series I will starting on the new vision God has given us for Grace Church. That will start the first week of September, right after I get back from a short-term mission trip to SE Asia. Yes, did I tell you that I am going to Cambodia and Thailand in the middle of August? Can’t wait to see my precious children we have rescued for God there. Stay tuned. There will be some posts from Asia soon.

Here is the message I preached tonight:

A Tribute to Paul Keller

 

There is a story in Greek mythology about an ugly and evil monster called the Sphinx. With the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, a serpent-headed tail, and the head of a woman, this monster was positioned at the entrance to the ancient city of Thebes and would pose a riddle to each traveler asking passage. “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed, and the more legs it has the weaker it is?” She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus, the Greek hero, finally solved the riddle by answering: “Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age.”

We too, who are made with an expiration date, are also taunted by a monster threatening to devour us if we don’t solve a riddle. That riddle is death, and the death angel, the mother of all Sphinxes, keeps making house calls as it tells us to return to dust.

Sadly, that day arrived unexpectedly to our beloved friend and brother in Christ, Paul Keller, this week. I met Paul shortly after I moved to Lititz about seven months ago. Since that day I had several opportunities to speak with him here at the church, usually between services. He mentioned to me about his concerns about his upcoming surgery. Though I spoke with him only briefly each time, I can honestly tell you that every time he saw me he always assured me that he was praying for me and one time he even said, “Look I know that you must be dealing with a lot here but just know that there is plenty of people here who are with you and like what you are doing.” That was just like him, wasn’t it? Always positive and encouraging.

Just so you don’t think I am making this stuff up, as I went through Paul’s Bible, I found this flyer here whose title says “20 Scripture-Based Prayers to Pray for Your Pastor.” Wow. It is so humbling for me to think that this man truly prayed for us, pastors, here at Grace Church, and I wish many more will step in to fill that role in light of his passing. Oh yes, and I also saw several outlines of my messages in Paul’s Bible, with all the blanks filled out, every single one of them. I guess Paul liked to get his money’s worth…

As I spoke with Brenda, Charlene and her husband, Jeff, it became obvious to me that we can summarize Paul’s life by saying that he was a lover of God and a lover of people. He has left a great legacy here in the church and in the lives of so many people he loved.

As I thought of this, I remembered a recently encounter I had with a young man from Nicaragua who had been in Lititz only three days. I met him in front of the music store here in Lititz. He was a rock musician, a bass player. He was carrying a bass guitar in a case that had these words in big bold letters: “Live so the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.”

Well, Paul has made it easy for me not to have to lie here today. So truth check: Paul loved God and people.

His love for God is evident by the way he brought up his children in the admonition of the Lord. Paul also served God faithfully here at Grace Church, and especially after he became a leader of his Sunday School class, his faith seemed to grow exponentially. Paul’s Bible is marked all throughout and the Book of Psalms was the one he marked the most. And of all the chapters, he seems to be particularly fond of Psalm 119, which is a long poem about God’s eternal Word. Verses such as these figure prominently I his Bible. 18: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law…” “Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end,” (33); “I will always obey your law, forever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (44-45).

Later in life Paul also enjoyed reading Jim Cymballa and David Jeremiah. He also became more purposeful in prayer and would more easily express his feelings, including crying from time to time, contrary to how they remembered him growing up – a man who liked to keep his feelings to himself, which I have found is a trait of this Lancaster County area. But I guarantee you, the more time Paul spent in God’s Word, the more his heart broke for the things that break God’s heart. That is the explanation to his tender-heartiness later in life. That is also the cure to the prisons of our cultures and Paul seemed to have found it in his later years.

Paul was also a great lover of people. First and foremost, his love for his wife, Jean, who went to glory only about a year ago, was something very special. Even after her passing, Paul loved to constantly talk about her. He met her in California and when he had the opportunity in 1981 to buy the family farm back in Lancaster County, he very much wanted to do it but would only do it if his wife was 100% with him. His wife was the baby of the family and very close to her relatives out west, so Paul showed his sensitivity to her by listening to her. In the end, they moved east and it was the best thing that happened, according to his daughters, because it allowed them to grow up in a rich atmosphere, surrounded with cousins, uncles, and many other relatives.

Jeff recalled how sad it was to see Paul come to their house after the passing of his wife, because wherever he was, she was always there with her all his life. Well, Paul is now again reunited with his beloved wife.

Paul also loved his daughters. Brenda recalled how he simply didn’t have the stomach to spank them. The discipline was usually fell to mom. The one and only time he spanked Brenda, she was shocked when it was over so soon and almost painlessly. She remembers thinking, “Is that it?” And then quickly she had to fake a little bit because she said she definitely didn’t want to go through that again.

Paul was very supportive and patient with everything his daughters ever endeavored to do. Charlene remembered how as a 15 year old she had joined the track team and her dad was always on the stands, cheering her on. On the only occasion when he was a little critical of her, at the end of a meet, she remembers him saying, “Charlene, can’t you go just a little faster?” She broke down and cried and it made him feel so bad. He had to come later to apologize. He said, “I am sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to put pressure on you. I just want you to succeed in whatever you do.”

Jeff also recalled the time he showed Paul the ring and asked his daughter’s hand in marriage. He said Paul just sat there and smiled, as if to say that this didn’t come as a surprise. After all, they had dated for four years before they got married. In fact, Jeff got along with his Father-in-Law so well that Charlene remembered the long visits he made to the house before they got married and he would sit there and talk for the longest time with Paul or sometimes they would be watching some sports on T.V. She remembers thinking, “Is he here to visit me or my dad?”

Paul also loved his grandchildren. Both he and his wife were a constant presence in their lives. Charlene said that he absolutely adored them. They would go out to the river, miniature golfing, and attend endless games. It was not out of duty, you could tell they were glad to be there and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, Charlene thinks that Drew’s interest in the outdoors may have originated with his grandfather Paul. So for the two grandchildren, I would like to say, treasure the memories of the times you had with your grandpa and grandma, and continue to develop the interests they passed on to you. Everything you do that was a love of theirs will be a tribute to their investment in your lives.

Of course, Paul loved his other relatives as well. I was told that when the family was told that he and his family was coming back to live in Pennsylvania, there was general rejoicing at a family gathering somewhere. Jeff recalled how at family gatherings Paul never settle down to sit by only one table – he had to move from table to table and speak to as many people as he could. Paul especially loved his nephews and nieces. In fact, he was favorite among many, giving him the courage to sometimes greet his nieces on the phone by saying, “Yes, this is your good looking uncle Paul calling.”

Finally, Paul loved his friends. Many of you here were privileged to be counted among his friends. But do you know what mattered to Paul the most? It mattered that his friends had experienced forgiveness of sins and knew for sure that they were on their way to heaven? You say, “How do you know that? Don’t all preachers say that in funerals just because they have a captive audience there?” Maybe yes, but I don’t do it for that reason. And it just so happens that in Paul’s case, I have proof that what I am saying is true: Paul cared about his friends’ salvation.

A few months ago I preached a message here at the church about heaven. At the end of the service I gave everybody a card that had the words “You are coming to!” on the cover. I asked people to write on the back names of people they loved so much they couldn’t help think about going to heaven without them. I pulled this card out of Paul’s Bible. He wrote several names here. So if you are one of Paul’s friends and you are not sure that you are headed to heaven, maybe your name is here. Paul would hate the thought that you are not coming to join him there someday…

You remember the story of the Sphinx? Just like in that story, our riddle was solved and our hero was not a mythical figure but a historical Person who solved the riddle of death once and for all. As He Himself said it,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26).

Paul strikes a celebratory tone when he exclaims,

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” Now Paul really dares to mock death, thank you very much: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

When Jesus rose again from the dead, He gave all of us hope that we too will rise again one day. God will do something with this old tired body and clothe us with an imperishable body like the one He gave Jesus when He rose again. Some day this cloth we carry around with us, this temporary residency of our soul, will be transformed. He will do something with this DNA he created us with and He will reassemble us in a much more glorious state. And that will put an end to our expiration date.

As John put it at the end of Revelation, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:3-4).

For the family, I would like to remind you of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So when you feel sad, and memories of your beloved father, grandfather, brother, relative or friend try to unsettle you, remember Jesus. He lives to make intercession for us and the Word of God tells us that He was tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin. He is there and He understands so you can go to Him always.

Thank you for coming and may God richly bless you.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

July 13, 2013

I was greeting people the other day after church when a mother told me she wanted her young daughter to meet me. I said, “Great.” She brought her child over and since she was a little shy and had her hand on her mouth, the Mom said, “Take your hands off your mouth, you’re talking to the pastor.” I immediately reacted, saying something like, “Oh now, don’t do that. I want her to look at me as a normal person.” Someone who was standing by saw the opportunity to say, “Normal?” And laughter ensued…

Well, I guess that if you want to take that conversation in that direction, there is enough that can be said about how “normal” anyone of us really is. There is a famous story written by Brazilian literary icon Machado de Assis, that features a Psychiatrist who built a hospital where he started admitting everyone who exhibited signs of abnormal behavior. After a while, he noticed that he had the whole town committed, so he quickly discharged everyone and admitted himself so he could study more carefully the genesis and cures for his own lunacy.

But that is not the direction I wanted to take that conversation. I wanted the Mother to avoid conveying to her young daughter the idea that I was somehow so far above the rest of the people to whom my sheer presence should elicit a different type, perhaps more “proper” behavior. That’s why I only rarely introduce myself to people as being a “pastor.” I don’t want their walls to go up. I don’t want them to somehow believe they can’t be their real selves when speaking with me. The ecclesiastical title confers me no exalted status, no “holier than thou” position.

This week, we will close out the series we’ve called “Picture (Im)perfect,” and if there is one thing I want you to take away from this study, it is the fact that we at one point were ALL broken people whose lives were radically changed by an encounter with the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. When it is all said and done, we, myself included, are all sinners saved by grace.

We all must be like the apostle Paul when he encountered people who were far away from God in the city of Lystra in Acts 14. After they gave him a demonstration of their rampant paganism, instead of saying, “You are a bunch of ignorant pagans who still believe it is okay to offer sacrifices to other humans,” he said, “We are only humans like you.” In other words — we are no better and no worse than you. We are all in need of a rescuer. And then he went on to tell them about the nature of the true God who can rescue us one and all. Though called to a higher standard and motivated by a higher calling, we pastors are also humans like all. We too are made of clay and can also tend to stray, were it not for God’s supernatural enabling in our lives.

I hope to see you Sunday. You will not only enjoy a review of what we learned through this series, you will also be introduced to a final character in our study that might be totally surprising to you.

Have a great weekend,

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

I grew up in an age of “believe-ism.” It was a time and culture where respect for older people and those in authority was paramount. If my parents said it was true, that was enough for me to believe. If a teacher advocated for it, soon I was an advocate too. All of that changed when I landed on a university campus in 1976. I was one of about 30,000 students, clueless about what would come next.

During the next two years I would plunge, however hesitantly, into a world where everything I had always believed in was being challenged — by people who were in respectable positions in academia, mind you. To say that I became cynical would be an understatement. But I didn’t become skeptical. I didn’t lose my faith. I didn’t abandon my parents’ traditions. But I came close… As I look back, part of the reason I didn’t go off the deep end is that during my desert of cynicism I continued to be amazed at the words and person of Jesus. Even when I grew tired of Christians, I still kept reading what Jesus said and always thought that His words carried a supernatural strength I had not found anywhere.

As a young man growing up in northern Brazil, one of nine kids in the home of a poor couple, I didn’t have many resources available to further my education. But my hometown had a small library so I just about read everything they had on the shelves. Later, I would find out that some of the stuff I read had been penned by some intellectual giants. I read Victor Hugo before I finished Middle School. I read Dostoyevsky. I read Darwin, Carl Jung, Karl Marx, Camoes, Fernando Pessoa, Goethe, Espinoza, Dante, you name it. But in spite of their brilliance, none of the heavy weight intellects came anywhere near the towering strength of the words of Jesus. His words always felt like a tsunami that left in its wake not havoc, not chaos, but an incredible sense of peace and an extra something that in a mysterious way managed to elevate me beyond the confines of brutes and the ugliness of the world I felt trapped in.

The evangelists noticed that the people who heard Jesus teach said He was not like the other Rabbis. What I tried to describe with fancy words above they simply described as “… for He speaks as one with authority.” I think that they meant that His words had a piercing value that left very little to chance. It went straight to the point and exposed the naked truth inside heart of the hearers.

It was, therefore, the strength of His words and the high calling of His ethical standards that turned me from cynical to committed Christ-follower. During my second year at the university I became totally sold out to Christ and have tried to stay that way throughout my life.

So, as I studied this week for the sermon, I thought about this remarkable woman who suffered with an issue of blood for 12 years. This story is found in Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48. I suspect this woman also had become skeptical after trying to get a cure for so long, and she may have gotten angry that she spent all her money at the hands of doctors who, instead of helping, made her condition worse.

But then something remarkable happened. She became convinced that Jesus could heal her and she acted on that conviction. Did she see Him in action, I wonder? Did she hear His teachings? Was she also among those who find His words irresistible? What was it about her that allowed her to keep hoping against hope? I ask because the text tells us that this woman had “heard about Jesus.” How did she hear? Twitter? Facebook? Of course not. More like word of mouth or sneaking out in the dark when no one could spot her so she could catch a glimpse of the man with words of truth in His mouth.

Though the story is found in three of the four Gospels, only Mark mentions that after she was healed Jesus said to her, “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” And that is the ultimate argument for the supernatural origin of the Messiah, isn’t it? Powerful words and towering ethical standards are only good if they can exact change. Words are mere words unless they bring real transformation.

In Jesus’ case, His words brought freedom from suffering. And though it may not appear that way today, I believe that Jesus is still in the business of freeing people from suffering. Some of it is being felt right now, some will be felt later, but ultimately the source of the greatest suffering we all face, namely death, was dealt with decisively when Jesus rose again after three days in the tomb. The argument for the resurrection was another tsunami-like force that brought me back to Christ.

Now I am free to die and do not fear what lies ahead. Welcome freedom!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

I have been reflecting on the last few months since I started here at Grace Church. Yes, it is hard to believe but March 4 will mark the third month since I started as lead pastor at Grace Church. And since I was in bed with a cold the last 24 hours, it gave me a lot of time to think about the events that have transpired in this relatively short period of time.

First, on the home front. Naza and I are happy to be together under the same roof. Yes, there are many unopened boxes lying around parts of the house, but we are taking our time, after all, we are still eagerly awaiting the sale of our home in Ohio so we can make more permanent plans for housing here. Naza keeps looking for that ideal place, which we know is out there, but we are not going to do anything until our house sells. More prayers, please!

During the short time I have been here, I have spent a lot of time bringing our staff together, working to clarify vision, and giving definition to the specific roles each staff member needs to play. We had a retreat, did some assessments, and spent much time in prayer and conversations about what our different jobs need to be as we move forward with the mission God has given our church. This mission, which we are working hard to clarify, obviously has to do with reaching men, women and children for Christ. There is no secret about that.

We also desire to grow in our love for God and His Son, the Lord Jesus. And I hope you have sensed this as we have sought to bring the Word of God to the forefront of everything we do, including our series on Sunday morning. I started with a series on the words of angels during the events surrounding the Birth of Christ, then moved into a series about the Church as the hope of the world, and just last Sunday we finished a series on the little Old Testament book of Haggai.

I hope you have been challenged to consider where you stand with God throughout these messages. My desire is for all of us to have a vision for God’s glory in our midst. If we pursue God with all our hearts and allow Him to have His way, this place where God resides (meaning us, the living church) will ignite with a renewed vision and enthusiasm for God and the people who have yet to come to Him. Then we will see this physical place we call “Grace Church” ignite with an unprecedented enthusiasm for God and the people we have yet to reach.

Another task I have taken on during this time is the leadership of the Lititz Christian School-Grace Church dynamics. I have come at this with my eyes wide open, fully expecting that from now on, this becomes “my problem” as well. But I am also certain that God does not intend for us to fail. And I intend to lead our ministry in a way that brings unity, cohesiveness and complimentary efforts between the Church and School. I see the School representing a vital arm of the church in reaching out to families in our community. And I will do everything I can to integrate the School into the life of the Church. Please pray for me and everyone involved in this process. I guarantee you: it is not an easy task, but with God I believe we will succeed.

Thank you to all of you who have come to me and shared your story of how God is bringing you to a place of healing after years of turmoil inside your heart. This is NOT my doing, it is the Spirit of God working in our midst. Please open your eyes and consider where God would place you in His service here at Grace Church.

And don’t forget to join us this Sunday at Grace, as we launch a new series we’re calling “Time to Celebrate.” This Sunday your heart will be moved as we celebrate children. Come and hear once again why it is vitally important that we continue to invest in the lives of the little ones Jesus loved so much. Hope to see you there!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

As many of you know, I flew to Ohio earlier in the week to be with Naza during the time the movers were going to be in our home packing. Needless to say, when I got there, I felt bad that I had been absent during the time of the hard work my wife had done separating stuff out and packing. She had pretty much everything under control and all that was left for me to do was pack the pantry and try to stay out of the way as we had some rough-looking guys coming in and out of our home for two days.

When I saw what appeared like endless boxes and plastic containers with stuff, clearly marked and ready to be loaded, I couldn’t help but think that I was looking at the results of the work of someone who was clearly focused on accomplishing a mission. During two weeks, that is pretty much all that Naza did. She set aside other things — like going out with her friends to say one last good-bye or using the gift cards she had received for Christmas to get something nice for one of her kids, etc., etc.

During that whole time she labored non-stop to be ready for when the movers came. And by golly, she was ready — tired but still moving, burdened but still smiling, looking toward the reward. And the reward came today — after everything was deposited inside our little farm house, she slept the sleep of princesses and had no more dreams of packaging tape creaking through the house. The first part of her mission was accomplished.

When I think about what my wife did, I think of what it means to be on mission for God. About His mission, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 10:19). Now if that was how Jesus felt about His raison d’être, I see no reason why His followers need to modify it. Jesus spent all His time, energy, and infinite talents doing one thing and one thing alone — to seek and save that which was lost.

Of course, Jesus also taught, worked, slept, ate, planned His days, relaxed with His disciples, and carried on with the same kind of pace a person living in His time and place would. But He never lost sight of His mission. That is, for example, the reason He had to go through Samaria to meet a woman of ill- repute, who needed the Messiah to make her whole. The Jews avoided going through Samaria all together when they went north, but Jesus resolutely set His eyes on a little place called Sychar, where the seeds of transformation would be sown in the heart of a most unlikely evangelist.

This Sunday we will conclude our series on the Church as the Hope of the World with a very unique service. We will commission David, Jennifer and Noah Felty, as they embark on a two-month theatrical experience in Florida playing major roles in the famous Victor Hugo’s play Les Miserables. David and Jennifer will sing for us and we will look at some of the aspects of that play that relate to the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ.

I promise you: you will laugh some, think some, and be challenged a lot to get on with the mission, like my wife, Naza, did. You too will reap the rewards of your labor when the big Mover comes!

See you tomorrow!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

I am so excited that this week I will be talking about heaven and yet as I get my thoughts together for this Sunday I can’t help but keep thinking of Katelyn, the waitress we met at a restaurant (“Ugly Mug”), during our Ministry Leaders’ retreat in Camp May, NJ this week. Katelyn is the mother of four-year old Timothy, who goes by T.J. She works two jobs to be able to support him as she is a single mom. She is her in mid-twenties and as busy as a struggling single mom would be — she doesn’t have time for church.

When I asked Heather what was the story behind all the mugs hanging over the bar in the restaurant, she talked at length about a club of mariners (no longer active) that before they would go over to the sea would come into the bar to drink beer and wish each other good luck. Then they would hang their mugs facing the land. Some, however, never made it back, and their mugs then would be turned toward the sea. What a pretty story, I thought. And what a perfect transition to ask Katelyn where she stood spiritually.

I saw my chance so I asked her where she thought those men who had died were now. She said she had no idea. “Maybe they are fishing out there on the sea. Who knows?” That led into a brief conversation about knowing for sure where you go when you die. Katelyn, it turns out, lets somebody else take her son to church but she never goes with him. She said he keeps asking her questions about the Bible and she doesn’t know how to answer them. I told her about “Our Daily Bread” devotionals online and she was gone for a while then returned to say that she had bookmarked that site on her computer. We encouraged her to find time to go to church with her son and reminded her of the tremendous responsibility to take care of a little one.

Just like Katelyn, there are many others out there who are clueless. I want to ask you not to allow our collective Christian heritage to fool you. Being born in a “Christian” country, being part of a “Christian” family, attending a “Christian” school or even a church; none of these things guarantee experiential knowledge of Scriptural truth. That is why we have to be willing to open a dialogue with people we meet. They need to know and if we don’t tell them, who will?

150,000 people die every day and the vast majority of them die without Christ. They are headed not only to a “Christless” eternity; they are guaranteed a ticket to that other place of torment called hell.

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’” (Romans 10:14-15).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

What do these words have in common: devise, scheme, conspire, plot? Obviously, they all denote something negative. In English, that is…

This is the case most of the time this Word occurs in the Hebrew Bible as well. For example, Proverbs 6:14 talks about the individual “who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil.” The same is true in Proverbs 3:29; 6:18 and Micah 2:1. But there is a notable exception and that is found in Proverbs 14:22.

This verse put a totally different spin on the meaning of “scheming” and allowed me to finally put my conspiratorial skills to good use. Yes, I was known for being creative and bold when it came to scheming as I was growing up, but all my efforts were naturally geared to the Proverbs 3, not the Proverbs 14 type of scheming.

But before we go too far, let’s us look at the verse. The NIV says, “Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” The NIV is so nice and it tries to be always English-sensitive. Not the NASB, though, they are more Hebrew and Greek sensitive most of the time. That’s why I like the NASB translation here, “Will not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth [will be] to those who devise good.” Did you catch that? The NASB is correct here, even if the English is peculiar: the word for “devise evil” and “devise good” are one and the same in the Hebrew.

So if you ever thought you needed permission to actually sit down and “conspire to do good,” this is it right here. I am sure you know that there are people in this world whose sole activity is plan to do bad stuff. They breathe and weave havoc, whether innocent little computer virus that can wipe out your hard drive or devastating terrorist attacks using planes as lethal weapons. Some people sit around in dark rooms and are paid or think they will be rewarded to think about ways to do evil 24-7. They are the Rasputins on steroids.

The Word is telling just the opposite here: start a quiet revolt, convoke your friends, gather your family, clear the table, sip coffee, and think long and hard of ways you can do good. Yes: conspire to do good!

My mother was and is a master at that. She was a chief good conspirator who kept her ears open at all times and whenever she discovered a real need someone had, she would go behind their backs and meet that need, and then just sit quietly in a corner to watch how the person would react, all the while with that look on her face that said, “No idea how that happened.”

My conviction is that the reason the text reads the way it does is that doing good is not natural after the fall, it is not intuitive, it is not something we can’t wait to check off on our to-do list. As much as wish this were not true, doing good requires some thinking, some volitional effort, some real conspiracy. That is why I love Dorcas, in Acts 9, because the text says there that she was “always doing good.” What a wonderful thing to say about someone who just passed away, as in the case of Dorcas, but I hope you won’t have to wait until you die to give reasons for people to say that about you.

So in 2013 make “plotting to do good” a top resolution. You can do that by setting aside some money in your budget, a line item called “conspiracy money” (I love that way that sounds!). You can conspire by giving people the gift of your time. Surprise them with the graces of your presence. If you do that, Proverbs says here that God’s faithfulness and kindness will meet you at the end of your conspiracy.

This Sunday you will hear me talk about Church the way it should be. One of the things I will mention is the idea of “outdoing one another in giving honor.” Wouldn’t it be great if we had a healthy “competition” in Church to be the first to acknowledge someone when we see them doing good? Or what about writing an anonymous letter, not to criticize, not to hide behind an unsigned missive to say stuff you wouldn’t say in the person’s face, but to praise the person, to validate her/his impact in the church, to elevate her/his service to God, to thank her/him for a generous heart.

That would be a great start to our New Year.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade