Archives for posts with tag: grace church lititz

Christmas Babies - Blog header

Every year it happens, “the war on Christmas.” Those who want to keep Christ in Christmas versus those who like the season but balk at the reason for it. And let’s just say it: the war is not really on Christmas; it’s on Christ. If the celebration was called “Santa-mas,” no one would care. If other symbols were added to the nativity, like a menorah, a multi-colored rainbow, a Navajo all-Seeing Eye, a Kwanza Mkeka, etc., we would all be singing Kumbaya and passing the peace pipe around. But when that baby named Christ entered the scene, as the song rightly says, “he changed everything.” As soon as He was placed in the stable, He became a target for the enemies of God and that’s why the war on Christmas rages on.

The situation got so bad a few years ago that even mild-mannered humorist Garrison Keillor entered the fray. In an article characterized by his usual sharp wit, he remarked:

“Christmas is a Christian holiday – if you’re not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don’t mess with the Messiah.” (Garrison Keillor, Baltimore Sun, in a column titled “Non believers, please leave Christmas alone”).

Very well, Mr. Keillor, but that article only provoked more controversy. And though it made me laugh, I couldn’t help but think: what is all the fuss about? Could people be a little more tolerant and embrace the message of Christmas even if they didn’t care for the messenger?

Don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way advocating Christmas without Christ, but for those who take offense at Christ, I have a proposition to make: I get it that you don’t believe that Christ is the Messiah of God, but do you not agree that justice, peace and joy are all good for humanity? If you do, then Merry Christmas, for this is, in essence, the message that baby in the manger came to give, regardless of whether you believe He was a prophet or not.

Let’s agree right now: Jesus was a historical figure. No credible historian denies that anymore. Only people ranting on YouTube videos are having that discussion. The rest of us have moved on. And if your source of information is YouTube, I would like to say STOP right now. That stuff is detrimental to your health. And it will turn you into the annoyance of the party. And it will enlarge the perimeter area around your body… So drop that phone right now, delete the app, get handcuffed, if you must. And throw away the keys!

But back to Jesus now. When He made His humble entrance into the world, God was sending all of us a signal: He was going to restore justice, peace, and joy to the whole of mankind. Who can be against that? Only people who go on ranting on YouTube! No rational human being wants injustice, war, and sadness to prevail in our little planet called earth, do they? So, if you want to continue hating the Christ of Christmas, at least consider the Call of Christmas.

There are three things about the Call of Christmas that we will be studying this Sunday and these are so important I want every good atheist to hear me out.

1. Christmas tells us that God loves justice and so should we. “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” (Hebrews 1:8).

2. Christmas tells us that God loves peace and so should we. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:13-14).

3. Christmas tells us that God loves joy and so should we. “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” (Luke 2:10).

Merry Christmas, everyone, and don’t forget to work for justice for those who are oppressed, to bring peace to the world, starting with the people in your household, and to allow yourself to be knocked out silly from sheer joy at knowing that God cares for every human being who ever set foot on the face of the earth.

Good news of joy for all!

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

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

I have been reflecting on the last few months since I started here at Grace Church. Yes, it is hard to believe but March 4 will mark the third month since I started as lead pastor at Grace Church. And since I was in bed with a cold the last 24 hours, it gave me a lot of time to think about the events that have transpired in this relatively short period of time.

First, on the home front. Naza and I are happy to be together under the same roof. Yes, there are many unopened boxes lying around parts of the house, but we are taking our time, after all, we are still eagerly awaiting the sale of our home in Ohio so we can make more permanent plans for housing here. Naza keeps looking for that ideal place, which we know is out there, but we are not going to do anything until our house sells. More prayers, please!

During the short time I have been here, I have spent a lot of time bringing our staff together, working to clarify vision, and giving definition to the specific roles each staff member needs to play. We had a retreat, did some assessments, and spent much time in prayer and conversations about what our different jobs need to be as we move forward with the mission God has given our church. This mission, which we are working hard to clarify, obviously has to do with reaching men, women and children for Christ. There is no secret about that.

We also desire to grow in our love for God and His Son, the Lord Jesus. And I hope you have sensed this as we have sought to bring the Word of God to the forefront of everything we do, including our series on Sunday morning. I started with a series on the words of angels during the events surrounding the Birth of Christ, then moved into a series about the Church as the hope of the world, and just last Sunday we finished a series on the little Old Testament book of Haggai.

I hope you have been challenged to consider where you stand with God throughout these messages. My desire is for all of us to have a vision for God’s glory in our midst. If we pursue God with all our hearts and allow Him to have His way, this place where God resides (meaning us, the living church) will ignite with a renewed vision and enthusiasm for God and the people who have yet to come to Him. Then we will see this physical place we call “Grace Church” ignite with an unprecedented enthusiasm for God and the people we have yet to reach.

Another task I have taken on during this time is the leadership of the Lititz Christian School-Grace Church dynamics. I have come at this with my eyes wide open, fully expecting that from now on, this becomes “my problem” as well. But I am also certain that God does not intend for us to fail. And I intend to lead our ministry in a way that brings unity, cohesiveness and complimentary efforts between the Church and School. I see the School representing a vital arm of the church in reaching out to families in our community. And I will do everything I can to integrate the School into the life of the Church. Please pray for me and everyone involved in this process. I guarantee you: it is not an easy task, but with God I believe we will succeed.

Thank you to all of you who have come to me and shared your story of how God is bringing you to a place of healing after years of turmoil inside your heart. This is NOT my doing, it is the Spirit of God working in our midst. Please open your eyes and consider where God would place you in His service here at Grace Church.

And don’t forget to join us this Sunday at Grace, as we launch a new series we’re calling “Time to Celebrate.” This Sunday your heart will be moved as we celebrate children. Come and hear once again why it is vitally important that we continue to invest in the lives of the little ones Jesus loved so much. Hope to see you there!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Last Sunday I preached on the brevity of life. Little did I know that just a couple of days later a dear friend of mine, John Weaver, would die suddenly in Wooster, Ohio. John’s funeral and memorial service will be this coming Sunday at Wooster Grace and I will have to miss it because it is my installation service at Grace Church, Lititz.

This turn of events and the coincidence of services have given me much more than pause. What if it was my service in Wooster and John’s here in Lititz? John was a godly man. Though a builder by trade, he could well be a pastor somewhere based on his knowledge of Scriptures and love for people. I, on the other hand, can’t build even walls made of Lego’s.

The last couple of days I have only heard (and seen) positive, God-honoring comments about John and his legacy. John touched literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of people with his gentle ways, his firm convictions and exuberant love for God’s Word. I just can’t help but think about what people would be saying and writing about me if it was my service there and his service here… Do you ever think that way? And do you think that you would be remembered as a godly person who left a legacy of love for God and compassion for people? Would people would not only you but your character and integrity also?

Yes, people miss John’s character and integrity. I also miss his generosity. John gave in so many ways. A thoughtful guy, he never missed an opportunity to bless someone, even if he did it behind the scenes.

Today I thought of Dorcas, “who was always doing good and helping the poor,” according to Acts 9. When she died suddenly, the poor widows who came to her funeral actually brought with them Dorcas’ evangelism tools — the robes and other clothing she had made and given them while she was alive (Acts 9:39).

What would people bring to my funeral? Only the funny jokes I told or a memory of a time I actually went out of my way to make sure that they were blessed? Scraps of memory from a reluctant follower or a flood of vivid reminders of an unwaivering faith in a God who delivers?

What would people bring to your funeral? On Sunday the auditorium at Wooster Grace will be filled with people who loved John and there won’t be a single one who will have any doubts where he stood in his love for God and people. I can’t think of a better memory to bring to a funeral. May it be that way for ours as well.

And sorry for the morbid tone. Death does make us melancholic, especially on the eve of a great celebration.

Ivanildo C. Trindade