Archives for category: New Life

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Do you remember saying good-bye to someone who was really important in your life? How did that make you feel? Did you have trouble picking the right words? Did you have to rehearse it many times over?

I once visited a man who was in his 40’s and he was battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. He knew he was dying because he was the third brother who had gotten that dreaded disease and all three of them died in their 40’s. He was sitting on a chair in front of a fire place with a blanket wrapped around his body. He spoke in a whisper and had to catch his breath with every word. He was so exhausted that day, more than usual. I asked him what he had done that day and he said he was trying hard to finish a video that was going to be his parting gift to his two teenage sons.

I never found out whether he completed the video, but I am glad I asked him what he was planning to include in it. He gave me a little preview. He wanted them not to be angry because their dad had left them so early. He thought that bitterness would set them back. He wanted them to grow up together as real brothers and stop quarreling over small stuff, among other things.

I looked at that man and hoped to God I would never have to go through the agonizing experience of recording parting words to my young children.

Unfortunately, parting words are part of life. Jesus had some parting words for His disciples. It happened shortly after He was resurrected from the dead.

The story is recorded for us in John 21, a most inspiring account of Jesus’ third post-resurrection appearance. The person at the receiving end of the words was Peter.

Not surprisingly, John records only three words, which Jesus repeated three times: “Feed My Sheep.” You get the idea that this was kind of important. Jesus was going to go back to the Father soon and His last words to the one who was to become the leader of the church were not “Conquer the World,” “Build an Empire,” or “Save the Whales.”

Instead, the words were localized, personalized, and almost provincial. They speak of investment in relationships, mentoring and nurturing; of blood, sweat and tears. And that’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to fulfilling the vision God has given us for Grace Church.

This Sunday we will give you several tangible ways in which you can engage the mandate to “lead people to Christ and coach them to live for Him with purpose and abandon” and be fed in the process. Don’t miss it!

 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 

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“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” (John 5:6).

This verse is part of the story of a man who had been crippled for 38 years. He used to lie on a mat by a pool in a town called Bethsaida, waiting for the stirring of the waters, which was a sign to indicate that the first person to get in the pool would get healed. When you are on the ground, though, and you cannot walk, jumping into a pool is not much of an option, is it?

The text tells us that a great number of sick people — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed — used to lie there. Not exactly the most attractive citizens in town, wouldn’t you say? This man’s zip code was close to dung, scraps of food, people’s feet, spit and all sorts of other undesirable things. He was among “the least of these.” No one in their right mind would come anywhere near that group of people. I guarantee you that a trip into town by the elites of the day would be carefully mapped out so as to avoid the place where the undesirables resided. Even from a distance people could hear the cries of those whose sickness had brought them to a point of despair. That was a place of unfulfilled dreams.

And yet we see Jesus placing himself right in the middle of that place. Yes, Jesus was headed to a religious festival in Jerusalem. He had “important” people waiting for Him. He would probably have a place of honor in somebody’s house and enjoy a delicious meal. But before He got there He made a stop at this ominous place. Was this an accident?

I don’t believe so. The story speaks of intentionality. Noticed that Jesus took some time to ask around and find out what the man’s condition was. Not that Jesus needed someone to inform Him about anything, but Jesus wanted the people to know that He cared. He already knew that the man had been paralyzed for 38 years, but He took the time to assess the situation. This speaks volumes about how much Jesus cared about people who were considered the rejects of society. In fact, He had a special place in His heart for them.

When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, his answer was “I have no one to help me.” Every time I think of those words, they almost bring me to the point of tears. Every day, if we pay attention, we meet people who have no one to help them. But Jesus didn’t just meet this type of people randomly — He intentionally looked for them and made a point of making them whole again.

This Sunday you will hear the phenomenal story of a young lady from Thailand who left a lucrative job and decided to spend time with some of the most despised and rejected people of Northern Thailand — poor minority children who have been physically and sexually abused. Her friends thought she was crazy. Her family didn’t understand why she was doing it after sacrificing and working hard to graduate from college. For her, though, she was only following the footsteps of Jesus. She was obeying a divine mandate, and God has blessed her for her obedience.

If you want to have some background ahead of Sunday, please go to grow-worldwide.com and read the story of Faa Sumitra, one of the founders of G.R.O.W. And by all means, please come Sunday. You will be blessed by this follower of Jesus!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

G.R.O.W. President

 

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“Those who have turned the world upside down have come here.” (Acts 17:6). This was the accusation leveled against some early Christians not too many years from the time Jesus ascended into heaven. Paul and Silas were among them, in Thessalonica, roughly 1,000 miles from Jerusalem.

So the question is: How could this small band of Christians make waves so far away in such a short period of time? The answer may surprise you. They had met the risen Lord, were so desperate that their very survival depended on prayer and they were boldly sharing their faith even in the face of threats against their lives. Now that is a lethal combination.

Some will say that the disciples were only being falsely accused of turning the world upside down. In other words, since this is a rioting crowd, they were exaggerating. You ever heard of hyperbole?

Well, let’s consider that for a moment. Maybe this was a catchy phrase these rioters came up with, but they went further. They said, “They are defying Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:7). Hmmm. That is really radical, if you want my opinion. It is subverting the order of things. It’s challenging the authorities and threatening the very fabric of a society which existed on the premise that the Emperor was the one existing power. Christians had become dangerous to society. That is as counter-cultural as they come, and the Church must reclaim this place in the world, even if it costs us a lot — or even everything.

Kim Jong Il was not afraid to say it. He considered Christians, “my most volatile enemies.” Christians threaten to change allegiances and dethrone human dynasties wherever they go. All they need to say is “I am the way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

From that perspective, Christians were being accused of committing a crime. But that wasn’t stopping them from speaking of what they had seen and heard. They were an unstoppable force for this Jewish Messiah who died and rose again. They had seen it with their own eyes and they couldn’t stop talking about it.

But then something happened in the last 2000 plus years. The Church of Jesus Christ became a sleeping giant. We’ve been cornered into silence and became only a semblance of the power that once was.

But not all is lost. We can still become bold, we can still rely on prayer, and we must. In fact, we must or we will become totally irrelevant and not even risk being falsely accused of turning the world upside down. Come to church this Sunday and find out how we recover that dream.

 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 

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“It’s like turning the Queen Mary,” said a friend, to encourage me as I tried to change the way people thought of “missions” almost 20 years ago. My proposition was rather simple: “God is sending the nations to the U.S. in record numbers, why not start reaching them right here as part of our mission’s effort?” I used catchy phrases, such as “Reaching the World in our Backyard,” “Across the sea and across the fences.” “Don’t bypass Samaria on the way to the ends of the earth”, etc., etc. Okay, maybe you don’t think they are that cute. I did.

But no matter how hard I tried, people were not buying it. One lady in a large church in the west, after I made a presentation to the mission committee in her church, told me, almost in a condescending way, “That’s nice that you are doing this, but we only do ‘foreign missions.’”

I glanced at the kitchen in the restaurant where we were meeting and smiled at the cooks who were gladly conversing in Spanish. From there, I could almost smell the spices from the open air market I would visit later that day, where people from all nations would come to buy goods. In that case, the Queen Mary analogy failed. More like: “No need to keep the fan on when you leave the room. The dead will not complain for lack of fresh air!” And true to the script, that church, sadly, is no longer on the map.

After these many years, I find myself thinking of that analogy again. But this time around, I believe, there is a lot more at stake. Churches across this great nation, however big or small, are not succeeding at reaching new people for Christ. In the last decade, the number of evangelicals declined. Young people (20-30 something) are leaving the church in droves. Those who remain are plagued with a consumerist mentality (“What can church do for ME?”), are lethargic (“alright, let’s get ready for church…”), or simply don’t care (“lost? who?”).

Jesus said that His main thing was “to seek and save that which is lost.” At Grace Church we translate this statement this way, “Grace Church is leading people to Christ and coaching them to live for Him with purpose and abandon.”

But to succeed at this mandate, there will have to be a HUGE paradigm shift. We will have to start thinking constantly about people who are still outside of Christ. We will need to focus on praying for them. We will need to find ways to creatively be involved in their lives and reach out with compassion to them. And we will need to lovingly pursue them and gently influence them to move closer to the Messiah.

And all of this calls for the biggest shift you will ever be asked to make: you will need to become passionate about this mandate. Yes, you heard me say it: PASSIONATE. That’s a word Lancaster County people, if you believe the reports, don’t usually use to describe themselves. But I believe otherwise.

I look around and see that the so-called “reserved” people of Lititz and surrounding areas are passionate about so many things. For example, what if the government suddenly decided to no longer issue hunting and fishing licenses, what would you do? What if the Department of Education mandated that every child had to go to public schools until the age of five? Or what about this: the Justice Department has given each citizen 30 days to turn over all fire arms which will now become property of the government. I can see the flames of fire in the eyes of people through the pages of my blog already!!

You see, what we need is a re-direct. We need to evaluate the amount of time and energy we spend with so many other things that we feel so passionate about and we need to start thinking about people. Yes, people who are outside of Christ. Satan has held them under bondage for so long and the Gospel holds the key to liberate them. But how will they know unless we tell them? And how will we tell them unless we seek them?

Satan’s usurpation of people’s minds and souls is a much more egregious and paralyzing thing than the government taking away our freedoms. Without guns we can still have a vibrant connection to God, but without Jesus the future looks bleak and eternity is hell. Which is more important to you?

Twenty years have gone by since the Queen Mary analogy and today I am glad to report that many churches now get it. My own Fellowship has turned the corner. Reaching the world that is coming to us is now part of our natural parlance. Though we need to do more in this area, it is obvious that a lot of progress has been made.

How about turning the tide on being passionate about people who still need to hear that Jesus loves them? Will you help turn the big ship or stand in the sidelines and watch?

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 

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Stories of overcoming the odds fascinate us. This week there was one that will stay with us for a long time. Diana Nyad, the woman who has been trying for 35 years to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, was finally able to complete the 110 mile swim after her fifth attempt, at the age of 64. Before she was even completely out of the water, Diana said she had three messages:

1. You are never too old to live your dreams;

2. Never, ever give up;

3. It looks like an individual sport but it is really a team effort.

Diana Nyad

Later on CBS News, still battered and bruised from the brutal swim, Diana said that her mantra was “find a way.” She summarized what this meant to her by saying, “… everything you come up against — and this is why people are relating to my story — all of us suffer heartache.  All of us suffer difficulties in our lives. And if you say to yourself ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through.”

Read more on CBS News.

This Sunday I will be talking about finding a way. Last week we talked about a new vision for our church which we believe to be from God. This week we talk about how to get there. Our mandate is clear. It is patterned after Jesus’ own mandate “to seek and save that which is lost.” We’ve resolutely decided that we will be about “leading people to Christ and coaching them to live for Him with purpose and abandon.”

But how do we get there? We need a map and this is the subject of our message this Sunday.

And one of the points I am going to emphasize is that we need to radically shift our thinking in the way we do church. To use a sports analogy, church used to have home court advantage when it interacted with the world, but now it must play in the opponent’s court, if it gets to play at all. In our attempt to reach the world, we have for too long expected the world to come to us, but that strategy is no longer working. If we are going to “seek and save that which is lost,” we must go where the people who need Christ are.

But this will require a laser-focused-all-hands-on-deck-unremitting commitment to the lost. And it will force us to move out of our comfort zones for the sake of those who have yet to hear that Jesus loves them. Are you ready for that?

Having just returned from SE Asia, I am humbled by the stories of some of the humblest of God’s people I met on this trip. Worshiping with a handful of Akha people up in the mountains of northern Thailand, in a village tucked in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by poverty and disease, I was reminded again of the power of relentless pursuit of lost people.

akha church

The people sat around in front of the church and shared the story of how they heard about Christ for the first time. Since these folks are among some of the most despised minority groups in Thailand, they have lived their lives as indentured slaves, working on farms owned by others, making a miserly salary which only keeps them further enslaved by their masters. But a faithful man of God kept pursuing them. When they lived in a far away region, when they were still all animists, when they had no desire whatsoever to even consider the Christian God.

But the man kept coming back. He cared for them and spoke for them and against the injustices perpetrated against them. And he kept talking to them about a God who loved them in spite of their perceived status as the scum of the earth. Eventually, the people turned to God and moved to a different village, where they can have a little more dignity, and most of all, can come together and worship God freely in a little church building built for them by a group of retired Japanese people who don’t even believe in the God of Christians.

akha church 2

I sat there and watched the face of the man whom God used to start that church, since he was sitting right there with us. He showed no sign of pride or even overt satisfaction hearing the story of the power of pursuit in the Name of God. Perhaps he was thinking about the next frontier. He alone has been responsible for starting dozens of churches among some of the most despised people of this world, an itinerant preacher, with little education, no funding from the outside, a simple farmer whose heart of devotion to God has been the only motivation he has needed to keep forging ahead.

pastor in blog post

This man, like Diana Nyad, has found a way. How about you?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade