Archives for category: Sermon Series

Series on MarkIn the history of verbal sparring, no one was quite as good as Jesus. His enemies tried to trap Him with all manner of challenges, including sending spies who pretended to be sincere to try to catch Him in some contradiction they could use against Him later on. But the more they threw at Him, the more He excelled in His answers, to the point that eventually they resigned themselves to complete silence.

But then in Mark 7 Jesus went to the Gentile regions north of Galilee where He finally met His match. A woman of Syrophoenician origin (today’s Lebanon, roughly), came to Jesus with a request. Her little girl was possessed by a demon. Jesus was trying to get some respite in the house of a friend away from the multitudes. He had now achieved celebrity status, even in somewhat foreign territory.

This woman probably had to speak to Jesus in Greek. She didn’t have an invitation to come to the house, she didn’t believe the same God Jesus did, she was a woman, and she had a daughter plagued by an impure spirit. It’s no wonder that in the parallel account Matthew says that the disciples wanted Jesus to turn her away because she kept begging Jesus to make her daughter well.

To test her and to teach the disciples a lesson about the reach of God’s good news, Jesus referred to a parable that was commonly found in the mouth of a Jew: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Actually the original parable was harsher, it simply said, “dogs.” Jesus seemed to have softened it here using the word for “puppies.”

Yes, for sure this sounds a little harsh. Jews, because of their laws of ritual purification and defilement, didn’t come into contact with non-Jews. They often referred to Gentiles as “dogs” just as Gentiles referred to them as “haters of humanity.” Jesus had stated that He had come first to the lost sheep of Israel, but He was anticipating here something that would become a huge issue to the nascent church in Jerusalem after His resurrection – was the Gospel also meant for non-Jews?

The woman immediately understood what Jesus was saying. She didn’t argue with Him. She didn’t demand an apology for His use of an offensive racial analogy. She didn’t demand her rights. She agreed with His premise – that Jesus came to the Jews first – and she was fine with it. But she didn’t stop there. She said, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

In other words, she was not asking for the main course. She only wanted the part others didn’t and she wouldn’t stop until she got it. The crumbs were hers and her daughter’s and she would beg for them until she was heard.

I just love what this woman did. She showed an incredible ability to understand the message Jesus had been trying to teach his disciples. They were still clueless after all that time with Him, but she got it after only a few minutes in His presence. She understood parables which the disciples were always asking for a private audience to try to understand.

This foreign woman apparently grasped the Messiah’s mission better than the Israel did. She knew instantly that there was plenty of surplus associated with the work of Jesus. What He provided for Israel and the disciples had enough left over that could reach even one such as herself!

No wonder Jesus said, “What an incredible answer. For that, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

Now, there were scores of times when Jesus healed because people believed or because others believed for them. But in this case, Jesus healed because a woman gave Him a brilliant answer that showed more understanding about the Kingdom than the disciples had.

The woman was stoked – her daughter was whole again. I just wonder if I will see her in heaven one day, not eating the crumbs but sitting at the table where the great banquet will take place. She may even be a guest of honor.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Advertisements

Christmas Babies - Blog header

Silence. You can get it. You can force it. You can even buy it. But still, I feel like people don’t like it that much.  Especially when it lasts 450 years…

And that is how long the people of Israel had to wait from the time of the last chapter of the book of Malachi, which, among other things, said, “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Malachi 3:1).

There were hundreds of other prophecies like that in the Old Testament, pointing to the coming of the Messiah, and every person who ever lived in the nation of Israel waited patiently for the coming of the one who would free them once and for all from the hands of their oppressor.

Women dreamed of being the mother of the Messiah. This made it especially hard for women who were unable to conceive for one reason or another. They not only had to deal with the social stigma of barrenness; they not only had to endure humiliation and accusation by others who considered them cursed by God; they also had to come to the realization that they could never be the mother of the Messiah.

And Elizabeth was such a woman. Not only was she unable to conceive, she was also advanced in age. But she and her husband, Zachariah, who was a priest, in spite of extreme odds against them, kept persevering in prayer about having a son. The answer came in a totally unexpected way.

On a day when Zachariah was chosen by lot to go inside the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel, he had an encounter with the divine. That encounter was not on his schedule. In fact, had he said he was going to meet with an angel of the Lord inside the altar people would have scoffed at him. First, because of the large number of priests in Israel at that time, a priest only got to go inside once in his life time, if that. Second, angels don’t usually make house calls.

The angel was none other than Gabriel, who according to his own account is in the habit of hanging out with God every day. He came to tell Zachariah some astounding news: a) your wife will bear you a son in your old age; b) your son will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb; c) he will be called John, which means “The Lord [Yahweh] is gracious,” and finally, d) he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner of the Messiah.

And what did Zachariah do? Hurried up the sacrifices to get home as soon as possible? I mean wouldn’t you? Seriously, how many guys do you know who can come home to their wives and say, “Honey, God wants us to go to bed now and help fulfill some cool biblical prophecy.”? None, zilch. But instead, Zachariah had to look for a sign.

A sign? Are you kidding me? What about an angel, standing right next to you, by the incense altar, as Luke, the historian is careful to pinpoint the exactly location where this heavenly being stood? Did you notice he appeared out of nowhere? What further proof do you need? I can almost catch the sarcasm in the angel’s response, “I know you are old, but that doesn’t mean you should be slow. Do you realize who is speaking with you? I am Gabriel, the same one who stands before God every day. And now just because of you’re doubting my word, you will receive the news that God broke His 450 years of silence but you will not be able to broadcast it. You will be unable to speak until I say so.”

Wow. Silence had just been broken. Breaking news of the coming Messiah had just hit the airwaves. A window into God’s most recent activities had just been open and Zachariah got lost in the details.

The lesson here is that even when God appears to be silent, He is not forgetful. God will show up in the most unexpected places. He will surprise us through the most unusual circumstances. He will work through His most fragile instruments to let us know that His plan is still in place and He is ready to act. God does this I guess simply to close all doors to the possibility that any one human being could orchestrate the string of events that led to the Birth of the Messiah. God said, in essence, “This is my show and I am running it by my playbook. Watch how I roll, you may learn something.”

This Sunday, as we start our series on “Christmas Babies – the Triumph of Joy,” we will look at the miraculous things that happened around the birth of John, the baptizer, and hopefully learn some things about how God works even when He appears to be silent. Hope to see you there!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

FJWL (Custom)

“So back then, what did you have to do to get your name into the pages of Scriptures?”  Somebody may ask.

“Well, what about a nasty little feud?”

That seemed to have worked for the second and third most famous women of Philippians. I am speaking of Euodia and Synthyche, since the most famous one is, no doubt, Lydia, though she is not even mentioned in the book. She is only prominent in Acts 16 as one of the charter members of the church in Philippi. Here is the little we know about these other two women:

1. They were saved. Paul says that their names were in the Book of Life. Warning: some people get saved but still continue to be nasty… what a shame.

2. They had previously labored side by side with Paul in the work of the Gospel. Yes, several women in the Bible exercised influential gifts in the early church.

3. They had a falling away. We should not be surprised if at times we come to disagree with other believers. No one is perfect and we need to learn to expect conflict and deal with it in a godly manner.

4. They had not been able to reconcile, in spite of the fact, (and here I am making an assumption), that previous attempts had been made.

Then a letter arrives from Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus. Now picture a pastor getting up to the pulpit and calling out the names of people who were misbehaving in the church. That’s similar to what happened here. The whole church assembles to read Paul’s letter. There was only one copy and it had to be read orally by one of the few people who knew how to read and write. It is possible that Epaphroditus himself was the one who read it aloud.

Everything is going fine until the beginning of the last chapter when the name calling begins: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2-3).

Suddenly, two women rise up and leave the house where they were meeting, using opposite exits… Just kidding! I hope that instead they were moved by contrition (maybe a little dose of shame too) and decided to bury the hatchet. We don’t know what happened, but Paul certainly believed in the strong possibility that reconciliation could and should happen. But we will only know when we get to heaven, will we not? Sure, I will look them up and ask, “Did you guys work it out?”

We learn here that when trying to bring about reconciliation, it is good to remind people of their good past, especially if they labored together for the greatest cause there is. It is also paramount to treat people with respect. Notice that Paul was gentle even in his rebuke of the women. Finally, it helps to remind people that they share the same destiny. Why waste our time in needless arguing here on earth if we are going to share quarters in the heavenly dwellings anyway?

This is only one of the “Love’s Commands” we will study about this Sunday as we close our series in the little book of Philippians. Come expectantly and behave. Or I will call you out!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

FJWL (Custom)

I once read about a 91 year old man from Cuba who had lived in Miami since Fidel Castro took over his country. He died and his last wish was to have his remains buried back “home” – but only after Castro’s regime fell. Well, I imagine the family is still waiting for that day…

Strange thing about people who were born overseas and now, for one reason or another, find themselves living in the U.S. They may be here only three days or thirty years, but deep down inside their heart they still have a longing for “home.” Not that they don’t love their adopted country. Quite the contrary, but there is still a connection to the place of their birth, even for those who know they will never be allowed to return “home.”

The Bible has a term for that. It is the little word “alien.” It is used frequently in the Bible to refer to “foreigners,” but it is also used metaphorically to refer to the people of God who are living on earth. The apostle Peter summed it all up when he said, “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” (1 Peter 2:11).

Paul reminds us of the same idea at the end of Philippians 3, But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” (Philippians 3:20).

This is a good warning not to live here as if we were going to stay here. Christians should have a quality to their lives that speaks of discontent and restlessness with this world. Because we know we have a better country to go to, we should live here like “aliens” who are here, but yet long to go home. Like foreigners who are only an incomplete match to the rules of their adopted culture, we should yearn for the day when we will be a perfect match with the culture of heaven.

This Sunday, we will look at what it means to live as a citizen of heaven in this interim called “live on earth.” Come prepared because there will be a unique and practical ask at the end of the service. For now, though, think about what our lives would look like if we truly lived in light of our heavenly citizenship…

Ethnic divisions would be rendered meaningless, because He has broken the wall of hostility that separated us before.

We would not value people according to their possessions, because we would acknowledge that all our riches are like filthy rags at the foot of the cross.

We would not accumulate unneeded stuff, because we know we are not here to stay.

We would focus our money and efforts on the greatest enterprise there is – making sure that men, women and children who are still outside of Christ have a chance to meet this wonderful Messiah we love so much.

Our passions for sports teams would pale in comparison to our yearning to be with Christ.

The list goes on and on. I feel like we need to go to school to learn to live like an “alien.”

Happy “alien” school!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

FJWL (Custom)

I have watched some of the conversations coming out of the lips of members of this younger breed of humans who grew up in a chaotic environment of anything goes. It is fascinating to observe the presence of an appendage often thrown at the end of sentences. “The Mayor and his advisors were correct in ordering the police to disperse the crowd for disorderly conduct… or not.”

“Or not?” What is that supposed to do? Simply put: it eliminates the possibility that someone could be wrong or offended by the statement that was just made. Our generation has worked hard to obliterate standards, linguistic or otherwise. Nowadays you hear that there isn’t really such a thing as “proper English.” Schools are now intent on passing everyone. Little kids play sports simply to have their egos pumped. No one wins, no one loses; everybody pays. Driving tests no longer require parallel parking and many graduate schools have now eliminated the requirement to write a thesis in order to get a Masters degree.

What is more alarming is that even churches are now succumbing to this trend. The requirements for pastors are alarmingly low now. As one of my professors predicted while I was in seminary, “One day pastors will be ordained who have no business being in the ministry. It will be the laying of empty hands on empty heads.” And he was right!

Well, this Sunday we will plow through an idea that is not new. While the world gets tangled in a ball of indecision about standards, the Word of God is clear that there are specific standards to follow for the servant of Christ. Paul talks in Philippians 3 about a “rule of walk.” We’re going to learn what that is.

And amazingly, we will find out that the standards highlighted by Paul at the end of this chapter have nothing to do with dogma, doctrine, duties or external appearance. Rather, they have to do with principles that when observed carefully, will have the potential to revolutionize the way we live our lives and allow us to leave a legacy of certainty in a world adrift with doubt.

Here are the three principles we will look at:

Standard #1: Move Forward, Not Backwards, based on Philippians 3:12-14;

Standard #2: Follow in Line With What Works, based on Philippians 3:15-16;

Standard #3: Pick Good Role Models, based on Philippians 3:17-19

Hope you can join us this Sunday to be reminded about how beautiful it is to live by God’s standards!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 

FJWL (Custom)

In our society we insure things that are deemed extremely valuable to us. Wealth is insured. Physical property is insured. Singers insure their vocal cords. Violinists insure their hands. Soccer players insure their feet. Founders of organizations and companies insure themselves. Jerry Falwell’s insurance payload, I am told, was enough to get rid of all the debt of Liberty University. Smart guy.

The irony for us who claim to follow the way of Christ is that our most prized possession can never be insured as the world thinks of insurance. And there is a reason for that. We not only insure things because they are extremely valuable, we also insure them because there is a chance they could be lost, or stolen, or injured, or simply go away forever. We insure what we are not sure of.

Nobody would take me seriously if I walked into an insurance agency and declared: “I would like to insure my salvation.” People would think I was nuts. But isn’t that a most prized thing for me? Absolutely. “And what are you afraid may happen to it?” “Well, nothing.” “Sorry, sir. We can’t insure that, and by the way, here is the name of the closest Psychologist…”

The fact is my salvation has already been insured by God Himself, with the blood of His Son and His resurrection as the two events that sealed the deal. The work was all done by Jesus and what I must do is repent and receive His offer of reconciliation and forgiveness.

But the simplicity of this transaction should never obscure the sublime nature of it. In the passage we will be studying this Sunday, Philippians 3:1-14, Paul drives a stake on the ground. He draws a line, so to speak, before and after Christ. Like so many of us, he talks about how life was before He met Christ. He was pursuing greatness merely through human efforts. He was proud of his ethnicity and his learned accomplishments. He was convinced he was carrying the work of God by hunting down Christians to make their lives miserable. Paul was on a roll, and by all accounts, a very successful man.

Then on a road to the city of Damascus one day, everything changed when He met the risen Lord face to face. I call that “The greatest reversal.” In his own words, Paul says, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8). 

Paul’s translators, unfortunately, are more scrupulous than he was about communicating how he really felt about the things that had value to him before he found Christ. The word translated here “garbage” in the NIV is the Greek word skoubalos. This word is so strong that outside of the biblical literature it is used to refer to “animal manure.” The King James is right here when it translates it “dung.” In Spanish the word is estiércol, literally, animal excrement.

Perspective, folks, more often than not, is what we need. Social status, fat bank accounts, summer houses, doctoral degrees, success at work, being recognized by our peers, etc., are all things that, at one time, may have been the reason many of us lived and worked. But now that we have found Christ, they are like animal manure when compared to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.” 

And that is why we should “insure” that relationship by making sure that we live like it is indeed our most sublime, most prized possession, every day, every hour, every moment of our lives.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

FJWL (Custom)

Whether we like it or not, we all live in a world of crises. Sometimes the cumulative effects of these crises become almost unbearable. This has been one of those weeks for me.

One of my sisters had her house broken into by thieves high on heroin. One of them ended up passing out under the bed of their eight year old son, without their knowledge. Long story, the main thing is that God protected them and the police got the thief before he woke up. Scary…

Then I heard from a dear childhood friend that her favorite uncle had committed suicide. A man who never owned guns, a quiet, church-going, kind gentleman admired by everyone… How do you even try to explain that? Rationally, you can’t. Funerals are today at Penn Valley GBC, if you could pray for the family.

And don’t forget the fire that destroyed about 100 homes and displaced more than 1,000 people in my home town of Macapa, Brazil. Though there are no known fatalities, four blocks of homes were destroyed. I spent 12 of my formative years in that town and that is where I spend most of my time when I go back to Brazil. My Mom and Dad and four of my siblings and their children still live there. As I watched the videos, I could pinpoint the streets and even recognized some of the buildings. It was a sad moment…

This all in a week when my message on Sunday has to do with living above the line of selfishness. I am supposed to say that the Christian life is not about me and here I am writing about me. I am going to be asking all of you to go on a “Pride Fast,” where you will cease to be number one for a time and be totally focused on the needs of others around you. And yet, here I am, having my own moment of focus on “self.”

Such is the nature of humans, isn’t it? And I guess that is one of the reasons Paul said of Timothy, “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.” (Phillipians 2:21-22). This trait of forgetting self is so rare that Paul singles Timothy out as a prime example of selfless service and Christ-ward living.

And yet putting others first is commanded in Scriptures. Caring not only for your own needs but also for the welfare of others is commanded in Scriptures (see Philippians 2:3-4). And most importantly, love for one another is COMMANDED in Scriptures (see 1 John 3:23). And what to make of Luke 6:35, where it says that God is compassionate even to those who are unthankful and wicked. What? That’s right. And just in case we miss it, Luke draws the net: You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:36). Must? What if I can’t?

The short answer is: with God, you can. So let’s all try to rise above our own crises, however deep and wide, and live above the line of selfishness. God will be pleased and Grace Church will thrive for His glory.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

P.S. Please pray for all my friends who are struggling at this time and for the church in Macapa as the people rally to respond to so many needs around them as a result of the fire.