Archives for category: From Jail With Love

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

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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.

 

FJWL (Custom)

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”  (Philippians 1:29).

Privilege to suffer? According to whom?

Most of us come to Christ expecting only blessings. After all, we heard the “sales pitch,” didn’t we? “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” And isn’t the very definition of “Gospel” good news?

But is that all? Let’s look at that verse in Philippians again. The text literally says, “It has been gifted to you, on behalf of Christ, both to believe and to suffer.” The word translated “gifted” is the same one as the word “grace.” Charis in the Greek.  So is the gospel good news and bad news at the same time?

Well, in a sense, yes. The gospel is good news of salvation for those who believe. It is the greatest news any time anywhere. Through Jesus Christ we can experience forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life beyond the grave. That is awesome news. But it doesn’t mean that we are immune from suffering. Jesus said, Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

The early Christians never expected a trouble free life on the way to paradise. They were fully aware that following Christ was a two-sided gift, on the one hand, victory; on the other, vexation. And they fully embraced both aspects of the Gospel.

In fact, the Apostle Peter warned the believers not to be surprised when they faced persecution, “… as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12, 13). So why do we act surprised when we face trials and tribulations? Jesus never said we were only going to have feast and jubilation. He also spoke of trials and tribulation. And He Himself experienced that. So did Paul. So did all 12 Apostles, who all died a martyr’s death, except John, who died in prison on the Island of Patmos.

The fact is that there has never been a time in the history of humanity when followers of Christ have been more severely attacked than now. Christians are suffering under the brutal hands of radical Islam in so many countries. Zealot Hindus are also targeting Christians. Christians in Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, India, etc. have had their houses of worship burned and people have been frequently, brutally assaulted and murdered in the most vicious manners imaginable.

This Sunday we will remember to pray for the Persecuted Church as we continue to study the little book of Philippians. To prepare your heart, I encourage you to visit the following sites and educate yourself about the plight of the suffering church.

Resources:

I have also written in the past about this topic, if you want to check it:

As you pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith, remember the words of the author of Hebrews: “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” (Hebrews 13:3).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

FJWL (Custom)

Last week I was confronted with an unusual dilemma. The manager at the Starbucks in Lititz approached me as I had just finished eating my Sausage McMuffin with Egg (no cheese) sandwich and told me that I was not allowed to bring other brand names into the store. She offered to take care of my trash, which I politely declined, as I was already too embarrassed for breaking the store rules. I immediately walked over to the trash and got rid of my McDonald’s bag. Then, two other employees walked over to me and apologized for what they had just witnessed. They know how much money I have spent in their store!

Well, I am cheap; consequently my biggest shrink is my pen, so I immediately posted, in jest, the following on Facebook: I need your help! Today I was told by the Starbucks store manager in Lititz that I am not allowed to bring in another brand name into the store (“I don’t mean to be rude, but it promotes another brand. You know we do have breakfast sandwiches here”). Explanation: I love Starbucks coffee and have spent hundreds of dollars in this store, but I don’t like their breakfast sandwiches, so I go to McDonald’s, order my sausage Mcmuffin with egg sandwich with no cheese, come to Starbucks, order my coffee, sit down and do my sermon prep work. Well, now I have a huge dilemma: 1. Order the sandwich from Starbucks and eat it there. 2. Order the coffee from McDonald’s and eat it there. 3. Do exactly what I am doing now, except put the McDonald’s sandwich in a generic (non-brand name) bag. 4. Do exactly what I am doing now, except pick a parking lot and eat in my car. 5. Stop coming to Starbucks altogether. Which one should I do? Vote and I will abide by the opinion of the majority, (for one month (:)). I don’t like Starbucks breakfast sandwiches, I don’t like McDonald’s coffee, and I don’t like eating in my car. I am stuck. “Oh what a wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me from this body of doubt?”

To my utter surprise, people took me seriously and I got the greatest amount of responses to anything I have ever posted on Facebook. As my son said, my Facebook went “mini-viral.”  People were too eager to offer suggestions, words of caution, biblical, motherly, political or simply mundane advice. The suggestions spanned the ethical divide, from sea to brewing sea. I was astounded to find people so passionate about such trivial matter, but I only had myself to blame for giving the impression that this was really a big deal to me. Well, it was a big issue to many people out there.

Which makes me think: what if we were as passionate about the things that really matter as we are about the small stuff of life? What would happen if suddenly followers of Christ decided they would care first and foremost about the things that are near and dear to the heart of God?

Often, I find myself complaining about trifle matters – the gray hairs on my head, the tire that keeps losing pressure, the glasses that fog up when I step outside my car, the smell of burned wood coming from the neighbors’ backyard, etc., etc. But what are the issues God really wants me to care about?

This week we start a study in the book of Philippians. I’m calling it “From Jail With Love” because in spite of the fact that Paul was in a Roman jail awaiting the sentence from his first trial, he was full of joy and hope and was able to write his most personal and affectionate letter ever.

Paul never allowed his circumstances to dictate his constitution. The somber mood of jail life and the uncertainty of his future did not stop him from living a life of purpose.  Somehow Paul learned the secret to living above the line of prison. His physical surroundings remained the same but Paul lived above it and while affected by it, he never allowed it to write the script of his life. Prison for him was only a tool to achieve greater things.

The following summarizes his approach which should also be our approach to living on a higher plane: “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14).

I hope that as we go through this series we will also learn how to live above the line of prison and discover the real joy that God has always intended for all of us to have. See you on Sunday!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade