Archives for posts with tag: Christian

Get Real with God Blog
So Habakkuk had a complaint. Big deal. We all have complaints. Mine is why I can’t grow enough hair at the top of my head even after I treated it with some expensive “remedy” for over a year now! Just kidding… But isn’t it true that our complaints are often trivial compared to the things that really matter in this world?

So here is a short list, to help you avoid “wasting” your complaints:

1. There are at least 180 little Christian girls in the hands of some really bad guys who follow this ultra- militant Muslim group in Nigeria called Boko Haram. Recently, the entire world was mobilized to find a plane that disappeared on a flight to China. Millions and millions of dollars, expensive aircrafts, specialized boats, sophisticated radars, unparalleled cooperation by big time rivals. Why can’t we come together and mobilize to find these little girls and maybe in the process wipe out from the face of the earth all those hateful monsters who think the way to obey their God is to kidnap pre-adolescent girls and after abusing them sell them as slaves?

2. Recently, the Chinese government demolished a Christian church, a landmark in the Zhejiang province, accusing the Christians of not complying with some building regulation. This is just the latest example of the official Chinese government’s attempts to quash the spread of Christianity. Such “unregulated” church growth threatens the stability of the Chinese government, so they say. So, suppose a mosque was destroyed somewhere in China, would journalists write more about it? Would government officials protest more vociferously?

3. The U.N. came out last week warning the world that 3.7 million people are in danger of starvation in South Sudan, the vast majority of which being children. How has the world reacted? Where is the Reverend Al Sharpton when we need him?

I could go on and on. You get the idea. There are enough grown-up type complaints to last multiple lifetimes. Our world is in a world of trouble and with each passing day those who intend to harm and do evil seem to be multiplying like the rabbits in my backyard. How do we even begin to make sense of all of this?

Habakkuk started with a loud and well articulated concern. When he got the initial response, he was even more shocked – God was going to use a nation more evil than Israel to punish God’s own people! “That can’t be!” he said. Then he sat down and waited in silence for a response.

In the next scene, God is the one who grabs the mike with a vengeance. He reminds Habakkuk of the ultimate end of those who chose the path of unrighteousness. The text is so pointed, you could say that a mocking God makes an appearance. And He is even mimicking His enemies’ taunts and turning their sword against them. The scorn of God, who would have thunk? So in chapter two of this little book, God warns everyone about four pathways to life that will not succeed. The text is organized in four neat sections, which I will develop more on Sunday in a sermon I’m calling “God takes us to school!”:

Lesson 1: Ruthless get-rich schemes will not prosper (Habakkuk 2:6-11).

Lesson 2: Random power-grabbing will not prosper (Habakkuk 2:12-14).

Lesson 3: Reckless indulging will not prosper (Habakkuk 2: 15-17).

Lesson 4: Renegade religion will not prosper (Habakkuk 2:18-20).

And the amazing thing is that everyone of these lessons materialized in history as the Babylonians, having experienced a spectacular rise to power, quickly met a crushingly humiliating defeat, under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, which we clearly see by reading the book of Daniel.

In the end, then, Habakkuk’s complaint was not wasted. In time, God answered him, but He did it His own way. And there is the challenge for us – letting God do it His own way, whether in our lives or in the world.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Advertisements

Care2Share Blog
I don’t know whether CEO’s (Christmas and Easter Only) are a reality or a myth and I don’t know if the people coming on those two Holidays are simply COO (Come Only Occasionally), but the fact remains: on those two Holidays people are overwhelmingly more inclined to come to Church.

Though I love the opportunity to invite folks to come to church on those special occasions, there is a part of me that dislikes that. I want to ask myself: Is that what following Christ has been reduced to for the average Christian? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Is it to come only occasionally, give your five bucks and go missing the rest of the time?

That is not the feeling I get from the way Jesus went about making disciples. He first met these people, looked them right in the eye and said, “Follow me.” And they immediately left whatever they were doing and started following Him. Both men and women did. Rich and poor, loved or hated, clean or corrupted… They were all fascinated with this man who asked them to leave everything behind and follow Him. And Jesus kept drawing a line in the sand, and soon people were on either side of that line.

But today that line seems to have been blurred. Or it keeps being redrawn. Or in some cases there are no more traces of it in the sand. Many people have come to believe that they are disciples but will find themselves hearing the Judge say on the day of reckoning, “I never knew you.” I can’t imagine the magnitude of the tragedy when they get clued in that all their good deeds amounted to zero. They didn’t even get to the introduction part. “I never knew you.” How devastating that will be!

Once again our churches will be filled with CEO’s next Sunday. Then, the following Sunday, the parking lots will be crying for metal and rubber to fill their nicely painted spaces. We will go back to MIA (Massive Individual Absence) again. We’ll be gearing up for Christmas!

So I have a challenge for all of us: Don’t just invite people to come this resurrection Sunday. Yes, that is where you should start. Everyone in your neighborhood should get an invitation to the Easter Party at Grace on Saturday and to one of our services on Sunday morning. But if you see your friends there, take the next step – invite them to come the following Sunday. Plan to be there to meet them and maybe even invite them for lunch after they come the Sunday after Easter. Then keep inviting them and don’t go MIA yourself. You will soon see the results of your labor of love.

Easter Sunday is “Black Friday” for us at Grace Church. We will spare no efforts to offer people a wonderful celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You will notice when you come that there will be food and lots of colorful things around our building. The mood will be festive and there will be plenty of joy to go around. And people will hear about this wonderful Messiah who holds our affection. We want to celebrate the resurrection with the same zeal that motivates people to brave the weather hours or even days before the stores open on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s Sunday and Jesus is risen, what could be more significant than that?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Christmas Babies - Blog header

“Every time the righteous screams, a hangman rises to silence him; the wicked goes on living, the upright, they order him killed.” These words, originally penned by Brazilian poet Cecília Meireles, were later popularized in a song by Brazilian composer and singer Chico Buarque. They echo the story of Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, the man who planted the seed of Brazilian independence from colonial powers in 1789 and for this was executed and later hailed as a sort of Jesus Christ in the minds of the populace.

Well, fast forward to 1964, when the democratically-elected president of Brazil was forced out in a coup. A military dictatorship was installed and its brutality lasted 21 years. I personally witnessed so many aspects of those languished years, without freedom of movement or expression, dreaming of a world where people would go to sleep without worrying if they might still be here tomorrow.

But that world became elusive to the many that died at the hands of a repressive regime without ever experiencing the fruit of their labor. It wasn’t until 1984 that a President was finally elected and the country finally breathed a sigh of relief. I was in graduate school in Indiana at the time, tuning an old short-wave radio to a Brazilian language station and by one of those inexplicable feats, managed to get the live feed of the time in Congress when the candidate would reach the majority in the Electoral College. I was never able to get that station again.

So many times in our lives it seems that the long, languishing night of shattered dreams will never end. The forces we come up against seem invincible. Our bodies slip, our hearts faint, our souls shrivel, and our fragile humanity hangs by a thread. Metaphorically speaking we are like the righteous raising their voice only to feel the cold, sharp and merciless blade of the guillotine coming down fast for that last strike.

And it seems that throughout history this has been Satan’s main strategy of war. Not even God is immune to his malevolent plots. First, Satan gets in the pages of Scriptures by getting out of heaven. Next, he lands in the garden where God had started His perfect world and immediately chaos ensues. Man and woman fall and a permanent war between God’s Seed (The Messiah) and the Serpent (Satan) is anticipated in Genesis 3:15.

From then on, like a gyrating semi-automatic weapon, Satan goes on a rampage, shooting in divers and daring directions, hoping to strike at the heart of it all – God’s plan to redeem mankind through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

He tried ridding the world of all the descendants of David, through whom the Savior of the world was to come in 2 Chronicles 11, but the bravery of an unlikely heroine, a woman by the name of Jehosheaba, never known before or since, saved a little baby boy and thus made the Messianic line safe. Other attempts would be made at the Messiah Christ, but none more insane than Herod’s massacre of the innocents after the Birth of Christ.

For those being oppressed by foreign powers, and especially in the northern part of Israel, (“Galilee of the Gentiles, by way of the sea; the people walking in darkness”), as Isaiah put it (Isaiah 9), for them there seemed to be no end of suffering. But God was not sleeping. He was not distracted. He was not unjust or cruel. Eventually, He chose to act and when He did, the whole world took notice.

But ironically, God chose the fragility of a baby in a stable, an infant as exposed to danger as one could be, watched by parents who might be dozing off from sheer exhaustion and a labor in less than ideal circumstances, that’s where God chose to take His stand against Satan.

If God was afraid of Satan, the last thing He would do would be to put a bright star on the sky pointing to the place where this baby, who was targeted by Satan and his armies, was to be born. But God chose to fight on an open field with no fortification to show the world He could outdo the enemy anytime when He decided to. And in doing so, He claimed the victory for His Beloved and declared once and for all that no one could ever defeat His purposes.

Let this be a lesson to all of us who claim to follow Christ as we look this Sunday at three of Satan’s most daring strikes against God and His Messiah. Satan is defeated and the baby in the manger is proof of that. And that also means that the future will be bright for us. So don’t give up, don’t grow weary in doing good, and don’t lose hope. God is faithful and His promises are true.

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress… The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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

Engage Through Compassion

It seems like we went to sleep and the next day Christianity turned into the punching bag of the world. We never saw it coming. Now there is a sort of unwritten rule in the world of media and public opinion forums that says it is okay to take cheap shots at Christians, and especially at evangelicals. Not that we don’t deserve some of the criticism, but today I don’t want to dwell on those.

Rather, I would like to point out that Christians have often been on the forefront of a lot of good that has happened and is still happening in the world. Even today, when natural disaster strikes, after the politicians and the reporters leave, it is often Christian churches that stay and bear the brunt of the recovery work. I know this partially because I spent quite a bit of time in Slidell, LA, after Hurricane Katrina. I can still hear the locals thanking us for repeatedly coming back with teams even though the church I was with at the time was located a thousand miles away.

Christians do the bulk of benevolence and volunteer work around the world. They advocate for the poor and downtrodden. They run orphanages, hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and drug rehab centers. And they give billions to charity work.

Take just one example: infanticide. From time immemorial this despicable practice was not only legal but encouraged. Parents, both rich and poor, used infanticide as a way of getting rid of children who were deemed weak or undesirable (in the case of girls). Famous politicians and philosophers defended infanticide and considered those who opposed it insane.

But all of that started to change when the Christians stepped on the scene. The earliest Christian document, a sort of Catechism called Didache, dated approximately 90 A.D., strictly prohibited infanticide. Christians began to convert pagans and they began to change. They protested against the practice to influential politicians. They provided alternatives to mothers who would kill or abandon their children to the elements. These Christians were of one mind and they didn’t stop until one bishop Basil finally convinced the Emperor Valentinian to outlaw the practice of infanticide in the Roman Empire.

This Sunday at Grace Church we will be highlighting the plight of those who are considered the “least of these” in our society – children who have no voice. Sadly, even though infanticide is no longer an official policy of any state, we have found other ways of exposing and even killing innocent children whose only “sin” was to have been brought into the world.

But our purpose is not just to protest or commiserate about the plight of at-risk children. We will ask you to take action. NOW (=No Option to Wait). Like the early Christians who provided alternatives to the evils of infanticide, we want you to engage in something that will make a difference.

With that in mind, we will have several organizations who are working to protect children both here and abroad represented at our church this Sunday. They will provide an array of opportunities for us to act. Please don’t miss the chance to be compelled to action by the Holy Spirit.

And if you have friends in the community who are or have in the past adopted or fostered, please give them a special invitation to come. We will be recognizing them publically and give them a gift from our family at Grace Church. Hope to see you there!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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