Archives for category: Picture (im)Perfect

This week I tried hard to think about how young I was when I came upon the idea of “sin.” I don’t know exactly, but I imagine I was very young. My mother told me at four that I already qualified to go to that ugly place if I didn’t give my life to Jesus. I didn’t consider myself a “sinner” back then but I know I was at least stealing candies from my brothers and sisters.

Just to be on the safe side, then, I decided to accept Jesus right there and then. And I am glad I did because now I know that even that little candy escapade would have been enough to make me persona non grata in heaven. When we are children, we are spared from so much suffering for simply not knowing. Don’t you wish sometimes you could revert back to the times of ignorance before you were awakened to the harsh realities of the world?

When I was about 12 or 13 a pretty young lady, albeit much older than me, kissed me on the lips in front of the church. Somehow that short little kiss told me about a world of pleasures out there that I didn’t know existed. I was so naive. I kept asking her to do that again — like little kids do, you know, “do that again!” But to my chagrin, that was the first and the only kiss I ever got from that young lady.

But if it could ever be said that someone was doomed by a kiss, I guess that someone could be me. A door to stolen treasures, unexpected sensations, generous payloads, perhaps. All of that suddenly becomes a part of the experience of a young man whose life is already like a small boat being violently swayed by the torrents of a sea emotions that refuses to relent. Somehow, I managed to survive those turbulent times but not without scars.

Today, as I reflect back, I realize that I grew up in a world of “no-no’s.” Though I never doubted my parents’ love for me, I always doubted whether I was good enough to be the recipient of that love. All because I knew I could never measure up to the high standards of ethics and behavior they and the people around them expected of us kids.

I became terrified of God, His fierce anger and judgement. At that time, with just a little convincing, I could have become the most ardent legalist or moralist the world had ever seen. I was ready for picking by some fundamentalist system, but instead it was the grace of God that picked me.

When I was in my freshman year at the university I came to understand for the first time in my life that yes sin was devastating and pervasive in my life. I couldn’t escape its claws or shake its nefarious influence in everything from my thinking to my choice of how to spend my money. But instead of becoming a “crusader” for perfectionism, I became keenly aware of what the death of Christ really accomplished — an opportunity to be offered a clean slate, by the grace of God.

I understood what I had been rescued from — an egotistical life, a lopsided brain that only saw other people’s faults, a heart that only had room for my pitiful little plans, a way of life that looks at others who are committing egregious sins out there in the world and has the audacity to say, “At least I am not as bad as ‘those’ people.” God has redeemed me from all of that. In other words, my own struggles with sin have vaccinated me against this idea that somehow I am better than anybody else out there. Indeed, I feel like Paul, who told some hard core pagans who had just tried to offer sacrifices to him and Barnabas, “We too are humans just like you…” (Acts 14:15).

So when I read Paul in Romans 6:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” I really understand that. I know that I am condemned regardless of how pedestrian my sin might be. When I read James 2:10,“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all,” I am tracking with this guy. I know that whether I steal one dollar or a million dollars, it’s not the amount of stealing but the act of stealing that makes me guilty before the law. And God, being perfect, could only accept a perfect solution for my sin problem; therefore, Jesus was put on the cross, and not Ivanildo or even the Dalai Lama. Jesus alone could satisfy God’s demand for justice.

Finally, in my older years, I have discovered that the more vividly I can describe what I have been rescued from, the more precisely I can articulate the nature of the devastation sin has caused in my life, the more brutally honest I can be with myself about my own propensity to sin, and the less prone I am to point my fingers at others, the more excited I will be to serve my Rescuer with unremitted love, out of a spirit of gratitude that is unsurpassed.

Frankly, my friends, that is one the “secrets” of my joy. Just like it was for an unnamed woman whose life intersected with Jesus one night when He was having dinner in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. That story is found in Luke 7 and I hope you will come to church this Sunday and hear me talking about it. I think the lessons from this woman have the potential to rock your world. Or at least shake your foundations a little.

And God knows we are in desperate need of some good shaking for His sake.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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Dr. Paul Wilson Brand, a pioneer surgeon and humanitarian who was one of the first to discover that Hansen’s disease (leprosy) didn’t cause the loss or disfigurement of limbs, once said, “I cannot think of a greater gift that I could give my leprosy patients than pain.” He co-wrote a book with Philip Yancey titled The Gift of Pain. In this and some of his more autobiographical books, he talks about the valuable properties of pain.

But we don’t often see pain that way, do we? We dread pain, we pray for pain to be gone, and we see people with chronic pain as being worthy of our pity.

And then we come to a text like this one in Philippians, where Paul says, For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29). The word translated as “you’ve been given” is the word Charis in the Greek. It means “gift.” Literally: “you’ve been gifted.” “You’ve been gifted with His salvation and you’ve been gifted with His suffering.”

So, not surprisingly, Peter gives us this “petard”:  “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12). What is he saying? Suffering for the sake of Christ shouldn’t be thought of as out of the ordinary. Hold off the cameras; don’t go live with the “Breaking News;”  stop donning your “deer in the headlights” face. People who follow Christ will experience suffering for Him. Period.

Which takes me back to the idea of pain. The New Testament pages are littered with people whose pain practically jumps off the pages while you are reading them. Physical pain, primarily, but also emotional, spiritual and alienation type of pain that never seems to go away. But that was pain for being born in a messed up world, not pain for being re-born in the world of Messiah. The former is inherited, the latter is chosen. The former is dreaded, the latter is to be embraced.

My message this Sunday will be about the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus on the border  between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-17). These men were outside the reach of any other human being. They were banished from the rest of society. But strangely, their pain was only psychological and emotional. They experienced little or no physical pain. But Jesus understood their plight and felt compassion for them. He restored them to perfect health.

But strangely, only one, a foreigner, and a despised Samaritan at that, returned to give thanks. When he fell at the feet of Jesus, he was now restored body and soul. But strangely again, now that he was whole again, he also had the choice of embracing the possibility of pain in the life of a Messiah-follower. And from all indications, he seemed to have been willing to do just that. He was now free to embrace a suffering of a different kind.

I sometimes wonder what may have happened to that man who returned thanks. Did he become a disciple? Maybe a missionary to those who were outcast? Did he feed the hungry? All those questions I hope to have answered when I see this man in heaven because I believe that Jesus’ words to him, “You have been made well,” mean that I will see this man in heaven one day.

May we all be humble to accept whatever comes our way because we are willingly following this wonderful Messiah we love so much.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

“Never despise small beginnings.” You’ve heard the saying. But have you thought about how it applies to your reading of Scriptures. Years ago I did a re-reading of the Bible looking for a different view, for stuff I had missed, for hidden treasures and pearls of wisdom so obvious to the eye that my head may have missed them.

Specifically, I wanted to do a reading that purposely avoided the obvious “heroes” of the Bible. And to my amazement, I discovered people lying beneath the surface that I never knew were there. I gave them names, like “the other Micah,” “the other Obadiah,” “the insolent slave,” etc. But of all the people I found, none matched in obscurity and heroism a woman by the name of Jehosheba (2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 22). Yes, I understand you may never have heard of her. Neither had I until I did my “lateral” reading of the Bible.

She is one of those little people of Scriptures who enter their pages and leave so quickly you hardly have time to notice. They make no fanfare, command no army, lead no flock, compose no song or words of wisdom. They perform no miracle, write no books, receive no praise. These people look invisible and unless you are paying attention, you will miss the significance of what they did. How many of you have heard a sermon on Jehosheba?

Well, this Sunday you will. She was a woman living at a time when women were considered less than human, merely an insurance policy whose worth and only worth was found in producing heirs, male heirs that is… She was also part of a small minority that worshipped the true God in the midst of the most blatant apostasy ever instituted in the nation of Israel. Every day those who still kept their faith in God were in danger of being killed or forever shunned by the armies of Baal worshippers sponsored by King Ahab and his wife Jezebel.

It was also a time of unprecedented violence throughout the nation, as Ahab killed his enemies and eventually God took revenge on Ahab, Jezebel, all their family and the prophets of Baal that had polluted the land. Then an evil queen by the name of Athaliah usurped power in Judah and proceeded to kill every descendant of the royal family of David, including some of her own grandchildren.

Into this bloodstained page of the history of Israel walks a totally unknown person who at great risk took it upon herself to save the last remaining descendant of David, through whom the Messiah would eventually come. His name was Joash. When you think of the audacity of Jehosheba’s plan, and the likelihood that it would fail, you have to believe that this obscure woman was aware of what was at stake — God’s redemptive plan for mankind.

Being the wife of a high priest, she was a woman who understood Scriptures. She was not willing to let salvation be put on hold, so she risked everything for the sake of God and His idea that one day the Messiah would come through the family of David. And by the grace of God, the plan worked, the Kingdom was saved and God went back to the office the next day to continue His job saving the world… :). All because of the courage of a woman no one had ever heard about before and few have ever since.

There are times that we are also called to risk everything for the sake of the Gospel. Will you be intimidated by how “insignificant” you are? Will you only think of the obstacles? Or will you be ready when your time comes?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

My mother has always been a model of strength for me. And I don’t mean only physical strength which by itself would be an amazing feat. She took care of nine children, most of the time without the modern “luxuries” of refrigerators, wash machines, dishwashers, etc. One of my early memories of my mom is seeing her outside in the backyard boiling our clothes in a big “cauldron,” while turning them with a wooden stick. But all that strength was puny compared to her strength of character.

Being around my mom doomed me, for the good. Seeing her share her meager resources with total strangers gave me a bias for the poor. Observing how she always told the truth even when it was not convenient made me a prisoner of truth-telling. And her honesty while handling finances forever freed me from the thought that I could possibly get ahead by taking some unlawful detour. My mother pretty much ensured that I would be poor for the rest of my life. Her detachment from the love of money made me a giver not a keeper. My mother doomed me and I am so thankful for that!

Our study this weekend will feature the story of a man whose life was also “doomed” when he came face-to-face with Jesus. Zacchaeus was a very short man but he grew in stature the moment he saw Jesus. Not physical but moral stature. Jesus took a short walk to Zacchaeus’ home where he was going to have dinner and at the end of that walk the unscrupulous, odious tax collector was talking about the poor in a way he had never talked about them ever before.

Isn’t it fascinating to think that in such a short period of time the subject that surfaced right away was the plight of the poor? Do you think Jesus felt passionate about that issue? Of course, personal integrity surfaced as well. Zacchaeus decided to pay back four times the people he had defrauded. In my mind I imagine Zacchaeus asking Jesus, after Jesus talked to him about repentance and the hope of eternal life. “Lord, what should I should do?”

Jesus could have answered that question in more vague terms. “Walk righteously.” “Make your life count from now on.” Whatever. But instead, Jesus was practical and precise. He touched upon the only area of Zacchaeus’ life where he didn’t feel “short.” Zacchaeus was not short on cash. Luke calls him “very rich,” but the more appropriate expression should be “filthy rich.” So I imagine Jesus may have told him something like, “You know, ‘Z’, part of the money you have in the bank is not even legitimately yours, since you got it at the expense of the common man on the street.”

That’s all Jesus needed to say. Zacchaeus got the message and he didn’t even need to call his wife and children to tell them of the major downsizing that was about to happen in their lives. He got up in the middle of dinner and made an announcement that would be the nightmare of any financial planner anywhere: “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” (Luke 19:8).

Like I said, Jesus “doomed” Zacchaeus somewhat like my mom “doomed” me. When Jesus came to dinner, Zacchaeus understood clearly for the first time the necessity of making restitution. And for the first time in his life he got connected with Kingdom priorities. Zacchaeus would never be the same again. In fact, some traditions place him as the Bishop of Caesarea later on. In other words, a dignified, but otherwise poor man.

So, I am just wondering, if you are a follower of Christ, in what ways has He “doomed” you?

What arch principles of righteous living have invaded your soul since you gave your life to Jesus?

Have you ever done anything for the sake of Christ that your friends thought was “outrageous” or even “crazy”?

Do you need to make restitution in words or deeds?

How do you feel about people like Zacchaeus, who appear to be outside of God’s grasp?

And finally, what have you done to comfort the poor?

I hope you will take these questions to heart and not rest until you feel like you have been “doomed” enough.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Last weekend we had about 1500 people come to our services (including children). I met so many new people, mostly followers of Christ, but also some who are searching. Looking at some of the responses we got on the cards, I am puzzled. People find it strange that there are so many religions in the world. They feel that somehow this calls into question the validity of ANY religion. Which one is true? Who borrowed from who? Is there one true religion?

I know this is not a perfect parallel, but isn’t it fascinating that people don’t find it strange that we have multiple brands of cars, for example, or microwaves, or computers? They go through great pains to research the minutiae of a new car make and model — fuel economy, noise, quality and comfort of the seats, resale value, etc., etc. They don’t mind taking upon themselves the burden of research, even if it is unpleasant and tedious. They do so because buying a new car is an expensive proposition. They know they will only have themselves to blame if they don’t do their homework.

But strangely, when it comes to a matter that might very well determine one’s destiny, instead of launching themselves with the same zeal they apply when buying a new car, suddenly people come to the “store” and place all the burden of buying on the salesman, in this case, the pastor or another Christian. Imagine going to a car dealer and saying, “I have $40,000 to spend on a new car, tell me which one I should buy.”

I am sure some people would do it and that’s why this is not a perfect comparison, but I can tell you right now: I would NEVER do it that way, let alone go to some church and say, “Tell me which religion is the right one and why.” That takes all the pressure of seeking off their plates and places it squarely on the shoulders Christians who may still be trying to find the way themselves. That is too much waging in the hands of strangers for my taste.

Instead, let me recommend that people should first do their homework. Which questions are first and foremost in my heart? What would give me satisfaction more than anything in the world? Which system offers me a sense of real calm in a world of turmoil? Which can articulate a future where evil is decidedly destroyed and good is triumphant? What answers do you have to my search for inner peace? Does your religion offer me hope that is more than positive thinking or does it invite me to simply take a leap into a fake optimism that doesn’t stand the test of reality? And the mother of all questions to me: can you offer me a well-reasoned hope beyond the grave?

That’s just for starters. There is so much more to ask, but the point here is that pointing out religious diversities, oddities and even contradictions doesn’t invalidate the possibility that one can find truth in a single system of religious truth. And the burden should still rest with the seeker.

This idea, however, should not be used to argue against sharing the truth of the Gospel with people we come in contact with every day. On the contrary: because we know the truth, we should be eager to share it with everyone.

At Grace Church, we do just that — help people discover new life (not just the right system) in the Person of Jesus Christ.

And this Sunday, as we continue in this series we’re calling “Picture (Im)perfect,” we will look at the life of Simon Peter, an ordinary man whose relationship with Christ was often marked by ups and downs, but who acquired a supernatural boldness and passionate abandon in the aftermath of his denial. Why? Because He met face-to-face with Jesus after the resurrection.

And I guess that is it, isn’t it? When we come face-to-face with the Messiah, the questions that afflicted us move from the frontal cortex to rearview mirror of our soul. They melt away as we contemplate the power and presence of the Divine Christ. So if you want a “shortcut” to your answers, look to Christ.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

This last week has been filled with emotions of all sorts. Interviewing my parents in the services last Sunday was certainly a highlight. Oh how I praise God for them! But there were some low points as well, like sitting and praying with people who are very ill, whose marriages are in crisis, or who are dealing with one sort of addiction or another.

I feel that there is so much spiritual warfare going on around us and I am not the only who has noticed it. Last week one of our staff members sent an e-mail asking for prayers as we were getting ready for the Easter Egg Hunt Party. There was so much going on and we were all feeling overwhelmed. By the grace of God, He saw fit to answer our prayers and granted us a fabulous Saturday with great weather and some tremendous opportunities to be a blessing in the lives of so many people. But the challenges continue.

In fact, this week they have only increased. Yes, my heart is heavy as I write this. My friends and fellow believers in the Central African Republic are suffering. An American-born Iranian Pastor, Saeed Abedini, is still lingering in a jail in Iran, even after protests from the U.S. Secretary of State asking for his immediate release.

Closer to home, I just got off the phone with a man who was asking about our church’s teaching on the Trinity. As it turned out, he just wanted to call to argue and didn’t want to listen. Politely, I told him I didn’t like his tone and would appreciate if he would slow down so I could try to understand him. He said, “I don’t care if you don’t like my tone, and I don’t care if you hang up on me.” So I did, politely, but I did.

My heart is also heavy as I await the news of the Supreme Court decision about the so-called “Freedom to Marry” act. Though I have an inkling that traditional marriage will lose again, I am not worried about the impact this might or might not have on the family as we know it. People who believe in marriage between a man and a woman only will continue to believe that; and people who believe in same-sex marriage will also continue to do the same. This will not substantially change the mood in the country either, which is remarkably tilting toward support for same-sex marriage.

I am more concerned for how believers will react, what they will post on FB and other public social media sites. I am concerned because I don’t know if the majority of God’s people will remember not to panic and will continue to believe that God is still in control and that homosexual people are NOT our enemies. Let’s all clothe ourselves with humility, folks, and allow God to be God.

I want to share with you that despite the struggles we are having with personal and global issues, and despite of the ravages of sickness that affect so many of us, there is still hope because of the FACT that Jesus Christ, our beloved Lord, rose again from the dead and by doing so He has given all of us hope that one day we can also overcome death, our greatest enemy.

This Sunday, we  will kick off our “Picture (Im)perfect” series by celebrating Christ’s resurrection with a sense of renewed hope that our God can turn calamity into calm, concern into confidence, chaos into celebration. Remember how Paul ended his expose on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

He is risen!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade