Archives for category: Basic Training

Writing a weekly blog has turned out to be harder than what I thought. By the time I finish sermon preparation, I feel like I have already run out of “fresh” material to share, and if I give too much away about the message on Sunday morning, then maybe some will just skip church and “attend” the blog.

But this series on Haggai has stretched me. Every week I think I am facing the undaunted task of trying to make what appears to be the most obscure text in the entire Bible come alive to hearers in the 21st Century. And every week, against all odds, I feel like the Word has come alive, to me first, then to my hearers, hopefully.

Obviously, the messages we find in Haggai are only a very small sampling of what the entire messages as they were delivered to the first audience. So there are some gaps and critical pieces that we wish we had. Bible scholars strive to piece together the chronology of the events and the right sequences of the messages. In the end, no consensual narrative emerges, so we have to use our best judgment.

This week’s text, Haggai’s last message, is a good example of the kind of challenge faced by preachers who want to stay faithful to the text but not bore their audience to death. The message refers to events that will happen in the end of time. God says that once again he will “shake the nations.” In case we miss it, he says he will shake “heaven and earth.”

So we are not talking just about any ordinary shaking here. We are talking about the mother of all shakings, the kind of shaking the world has never once witnessed nor will it ever witness again. To give you an idea, God has given us a little teaser. It’s described in Exodus 19, the time God spoke directly to Moses on Mount Sinai. There was shock and awe everywhere. Everyone, including Moses, was absolutely terrified at the sight. The people begged God never  to do that again because they thought they were going to perish on the spot.

In the midst of some sobering news of impending doom; however, God does what God does best: He promises His people that they will be kept safe, if they continue to trust Him. He admonishes them to keep investing on the things that will last forever. And He assures them that their hope ultimately rides on the promise of the coming Messiah.

Well, guess what? The Messiah has come. We now await the unfolding of the rest of the story Meanwhile, we have work to do. Let’s make sure we focus on the job still remaining to help the Gospel advance to the ends of the earth.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

People everywhere have different customs and quirks about cleanliness. I remember when I was little, my grandmother, who lived in a small hut on the Amazon with no windows, no furniture, not even a bathroom, used to sweep the dirt ground around her house every afternoon. Also, though she only possessed a few pots and pans, they were always clean and spotless, shiny actually, as she proudly hang them from the ceiling of her humble kitchen.

People in the Old Testament lived with rules of cleanliness that had been stipulated by the Mosaic Law. There were rules about which foods were good to eat and which were not; which types of contacts caused one to be “unclean,” which animals were clean, which were unclean. There were rules about certain offerings that were consecrated to the Lord and how to handle them. There were rules about animals that could and could not be offered on the altar to God.

These rules almost always dealt with ceremonial, not moral purity, but they were related somehow. They all reminded the people of God that their God was Holy and He took the subject of purity very seriously. God had specific commands about purity which He specified in the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Some of those things have obviously lost their cultural significance, but God there is one thing that has not changed: God is still holy and He expects His people to be holy. We may not be required to wash before we pray anymore but “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) is still true.

This weekend we will tackle a difficult passage from Haggai. It is difficult because in order to understand it you have to get into the laws of purification in the Old Testament. And people today don’t understand why all of those laws were necessary. God challenged His people to look at the core of their heart and stop thinking that just because they were busy with God’s work it meant that God should be blessing them. But instead, bad things were still happening to them and they didn’t know why.

Well, God straightened them out and told them that the reason He was not blessing them was that at the core of their heart was impurity. Therefore, everything that they touched was impure.

So we come to church on Sunday morning, but if we are harboring anger in our heart for something that another brother (maybe even a spouse) did, does that mean that God will look the other way when we pray that morning?

We faithfully give our tithing and offerings but we find every possible way to cheat the government when we do our taxes, does that mean that our gift, no matter the amount, is unacceptable to God?

We never miss one prayer meeting but if we can’t pray for our President because of his politics, does that mean our heart is not right with God? 

These are just questions that came to me, somewhat randomly, but I am sure you can come up with your own questions as you look at your life. Please look at your heart today and tomorrow, as you come to church. Use Psalm 139:23-24 as your guide: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

I trust you will be in church this Sunday. Bring a friend. You will not feel beaten down, even though the message will be hard. Instead, I believe that you will discover that like my grandmother, no matter your circumstances, you can get rid of the ugly stuff in your life that blocks access to God. I think will be full of hope, as God’s words will come alive in your heart and you will see that it is possible to get rid of old habits and break from the chains of the past. Come to the place of purity that only Christ can offer.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

This has been quite the week in the Trindade household. My wife has been working very hard to unpack some of our things. After much labor, she was able to get the downstairs ready. Now on to the second floor.

As I write this, I am sitting in our dinning room, enjoying the company of our childhood friends from Brazil, Zelia and Felipe Hodgdon, who traveled to Lititz to accompany Jay Rocha, my new assistant, and his parents. What a joy it is to be among old friends!

So I have more than one excuse to be late with this blog post this week. Next week is also my wife’s Birthday (on Valentine’s Day!) and we are going away for two days to celebrate, which means that I had to do work for this week and next. But it is all good because this particular series we are going through now on Haggai is keeping me awake with excitement at all hours of the night.

Now I am not exactly known for being loquacious… And being excited about a series normally means that I have a lot to say. Which then means I have to choose to leave things out that I don’t have time to say!

God, on the other hand, contrary to His messengers, is never long-winded. When it comes to getting his message across, God is the master of short discourse.

Okay, I made two mistakes in my sermon last Sunday. First, I said that Jeremiah was a post-exilic prophet. Actually, he was pre-exilic. I confused him with Malachi. Secondly, I said that Haggai preached four messages. Well, this last one is not technically a mistake. There are four dated messages in the book of Haggai. But there is another message hidden throughout the book. Commentators miss it because it is so simple, so plain, so unmistakably clear.

The message is made up of four words (2 in the Hebrew): “I am with you.” The message was delivered to God’s people when they repented and decided to take up the work of rebuilding the temple of the Lord after about 16 years. I can’t begin to tell you how encouraging these four words have been to me this past week. After rebuking the people for putting off the construction of the God’s temple for so long, as soon as the people showed signs of movement in the right direction, God stepped into the picture with those reassuring words.

And when you think about it, what other message does the child of God need to hear? “I am with you. Need I say more?” When you are going through doubts, I am with you. When you feel weak, I am with you. When you tend to dwell on the past, I am with you.

This is, in essence, the what you will hear tomorrow. It will be an encouraging message. It will help us lift up our heads and look at the future. And I am convinced that God has some great things in store for us at Grace Church as we follow Him in obedience.

Come and be challenged by Haggai’s shortest message tomorrow (I will endeavor to be as brief as possible… :)). And if life has been rough lately and you have been tempted to lose faith, remember: God is with you, no matter what.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

So on Sunday we launch a new series on the Book of Haggai. But before we get there, I am just wondering: what did you think of the service last Sunday? Did any of you decide to go watch the movie because of our service?

I am taking my staff through an exercise that is helping us think long and hard about what it is that makes our church UNIQUE. One of the questions we are asking ourselves is: what can we do that 10,000 other churches cannot do? Well, last Sunday was an example of that, but there is so much more, I believe, by way of hidden talents, untapped potential, and doors that could literally burst open for significant ministry in our community. Please keep praying for clarity for us and bring your contribution to the table of uniqueness.

By the way, if you missed the service, you may still catch it here.

Back to Haggai. He is the first of the post-exilic prophets. That means that he wrote after the people of Judah had returned from 70 years as exiles in the land of Babylon. He is also one of the 12 minor prophets (the first 9 preached before the people went into captivity and the last three, Haggai, Zechariah, who were contemporaries, and Malachi, who lived 100 years later, preached after the people returned to Jerusalem).

Though historically far removed from us, the word from these prophets, and especially Haggai, is especially relevant to the masses yearning to breathe free from what I call the “tyranny of stuff.” By the time Haggai started preaching the people had been back for about 18 years. They had laid the foundation of God’s house about 16 years earlier, then they stopped, claiming that “it was not time yet” to build the house of the Lord. Meanwhile, they were busy building their own little palaces. God tried to get their attention to no avail.

I once heard a story of a north American pastor who went to China on an underground trip to visit Christians who were involved with the “illegal” house church movement. This trip was the biggest eye-opener of his life and ministry. As he was getting ready to return, he asked one of the Chinese pastors who had spent many years in forced labor camps for refusing to stop preaching the Gospel, “How can the people in the U.S. pray for the persecuted church in China?” The answer hit him like a tsunami, “Isn’t it more like how we can pray for you?” The Chinese pastor asked. Then he added, “It seems that we have handled persecution better than you have handled prosperity.”

Now you may say that the Chinese pastor was being a bit arrogant. You may say that he was suggesting they didn’t need prayers. You may say that he was bunching everyone together in the same material-loving pot. As for me, I take that injunction humbly and try to learn what it means to me living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. And I make mine the words of the prophet — consider your ways!

This Sunday we will understand more clearly what are the potentially catastrophic consequences of choosing not to put God first in all our affairs. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our midst as we study this little book together.

See you on Sunday!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade.