Archives for posts with tag: easter

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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

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Lent

In my life I have done some things that would be considered, well, edgy. For example, years ago I observed Ramadan, not for the same reasons Muslims do, but in solidarity with my Muslim friends who were suffering in the aftermath of 9-11. I also used that time to pray for the world of Islam and my desire to see Christ proclaimed and accepted there.

We evangelicals tend to shy away from anything that even remotely sounds like penitential acts. We are afraid that we might be tempted to think that these things in and of themselves will help us achieve godliness. But that is nonsense. All we have to do is look inside ourselves and we will quickly realize how impossible that is. My sins are too real to allow me to fool myself, even for a second.

For example, Jesus did not speak against fasting. He only warned us not to do it for the wrong reasons (Matthew 6:16-18).

So this year I am observing Lent. Why? Here are my reasons:

1. It will allow me to focus more intentionally on the work that my Lord did for me at the cross.

2. It will allow me to force myself to give up some things I really treasure. By doing so, I will be able to walk in the shoes of the majority of the rest of the world for whom deprivation is a way of life. I will also be able to help some causes I am usually not in position to help.

3. It will make the Resurrection Sunday experience even more exciting to me this year.

And what is “lent” anyway, you may ask… Well, the word in the majority of other languages literally refers to 40 days, a traditional reference to the temptation of Jesus by the Devil. “Quaresma,” in Portuguese, “Cuaresma” in Spanish. In English it is derived from the German and it means “long,” a reference to the days of spring which naturally seem longer, although they seem pretty far away to me right now…

Different Christian traditions follow different calendars but the most common one starts the day of Ash Wednesday (March 5 this year) and ends on the Thursday before Easter (April 17 this year).

In general, I will follow the three practices of lent, which are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and helping the poor (justice towards neighbor).

In addition to giving up things that are precious to me, I will be following the daily lent devotional provided by CRU (formerly Campus Crusade) and will be blogging here about subjects I normally don’t write about.

If you would like to follow along with me, please let me know by leaving a comment. I will also be interested in your stories about lent 2014.

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