Archives for posts with tag: grace church

blog picMy father will be 89 this year. I have made a commitment to see him every year until the Lord calls him home. The reason for that is rather simple — I feel that only now am I really getting to know my dad.

I knew my dad as a pastor. He always had people surrounding him, hanging on his every word, seeking a blessing or giving praise.

I knew my dad as a student. He was constantly surrounding himself with books, he never failed to have a Bic pen in hand, and he filled hundreds of pages with notes in old fashioned notebooks. My siblings joke about us fighting over who will inherit his notebooks.

I knew my dad as a husband. He was quiet but always supportive of my mom. Publicly, they rarely disagreed. I saw them being playful with each other but also being extremely serious when the subject was helping people in need.

I knew my dad as a sort of super human. I never saw my dad cry. I never heard him raise his voice. He never appeared to be in a hurry and he always had time for everyone. And one more thing: my dad didn’t give any indication that he needed any help from anyone no matter what the task was.

I knew my dad as a great communicator. For a guy with only a 5th grade formal education, he certainly climbed very high on the ladder of academia. Not only was he articulate, his words were persuasive. He was a specialist in drawing deep lessons from every-day stuff. My dad naturally drew crowds without even being aware that he had this power.

But I didn’t know my dad as a playmate in a game of UNO. I don’t remember that we ever played any games together. I guess we were too busy trying to survive.

I didn’t know my dad as a collaborator in a project fixing something around the house. The few times I asked him if I could help, I remember hearing a firm “no.”

I didn’t know my dad as a hugger. It was not until my freshman year in college, after I had been away from home for a while, that I remember getting a hug from my dad, one of those side hugs that those unaccustomed to touch give while praying to God that no one is watching.

I didn’t know my dad as a coach. My mom did all the teaching, admonishing and disciplining in our home. I remember hearing my dad at times say things like, “You should get him/her to do this or that.” My mom may have had that delegated to her, or maybe she just stepped in, knowing my dad wasn’t going to do it. Our family was not unlike many others today where the women take the lead instructing the children in the ways of the Lord and I’m thankful to God that my mom was equal to the task. Without her investment in our lives we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I did get spanked by my dad once. He came after me with a belt and I jumped over a fence, not before he launched the belt toward my stomach, leaving a bloody spot. Then he ran after me in the yard but I was a lot faster than he so I escaped a full punishment. Kind of. Because it rained hard that evening and I was outside for a long time until my mom finally had mercy on me and called me in to shower and have supper. I am sure I deserved the discipline, even if I can’t remember today what the whole ordeal was about.

As I moved away from my home after college, I observed from a distance how my dad was relating to my younger siblings, especially my youngest sister, who was born the year I started college. Slowly, she softened my dad’s heart and my dad became a different person.

And it is this person I am getting to know now in my older years. My dad, the conversationalist; My dad, the encourager; My dad, the man who raises his voice sometimes; My dad, who marches to his own beat; My dad, a dad in the truest sense of the word. And it is that man that is making me undertake a yearly pilgrimage to the equator in Northern Brazil to try to make up for some lost time. No worries, though, we will have plenty of time in heaven, because of all the traits of my dad I didn’t get to know, Dad, the servant of God, imperfect but saved by grace, will never cease to impact me.

“Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.” (Luke 6:40).

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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Cleaning House copyMetaphors dealing with birth and conception are frequent in Scriptures. Paul’s famous words come to mind, “Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” (NLT). Peter speaks of Ananias and Sapphira “conceiving” in their heart the deed of lying about their property.

James runs with this concept and develops an interesting picture when he says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15).

I call these verses the “conception of death” or the “reverse of birth.” The metaphor is clearly that of the reproductive process — from germination to conception to birth, only in this case the birth does not produce life but death. Strangely, a baby starts from nothing and ends with life; sin starts with everything and ends with nothing. That’s the anatomy of sin.

James is speaking of sin and the devastating impact it has on our lives. Whether physical death, like Ananias and Sapphira’s, or spiritual death, like Adam’s, and through him the whole human race, some kind of death always happens when we choose to sin.

But the choice to sin starts with lust in our hearts. At first, it is only that, an idea contrary to God’s Word, which is potent like a nuclear bomb but disguises itself like an innocent, even playful possibility.

But the arresting power of our mind can never be overlooked. If not extirpated from our system, that “innocent” desire will soon consume us. Like a little termite taking a lazy walk along the tresses of our house, if left alone, it will bring company, lots of them, and the ruin could be imminent.

Next, we move from idea to conception. The tiny little spec of life (death) begins to take shape. You can see the head, the hands, the feet. You feel it moving. The baby is growing inside of you, only this baby will not bring you joy but distress.

Lust conceives sin and gives birth to it. But like a real life baby, at birth a baby isn’t fully mature yet. It must go through its growth cycles until it is fully grown. And when it is fully mature, get ready for the big tsunami. “When sin is complete,” James says, “it brings forth death.” Sin is like the machines at Disney World that keep asking for more money — it’s insatiable and fastidious, always coming back for more.

David went through that very cycle when he decided to bring Bathsheba, a married woman, into his palace and had sex with her. But I guarantee you: David’s problems didn’t start when he saw a beautiful woman bathing on the roof of her house. He had left himself vulnerable to this kind of attack. He was lax in dispensing his duties as Head of State. He was being lazy and undisciplined. He was isolated. He may have felt he deserved a break. He dropped his guard. Heavens, he was almost looking for it.

David’s colossal moral failure spelled trouble in his life, family and kingdom for generations to come. There would be deaths by a thousand methods, estrangement, enmity, intrigue and much sadness upon the entire nation.

But it started with a thought, an “innocent” little thought that was allowed to grow and take control. Don’t let that happen to you, but if it already did, don’t despair. Join us in our next series to learn how we can go from prostration to restoration with God’s help through His Word.

In his warnings to his young son about the consequences of adultery, the author of Proverbs painted a picture of what his life could end up being like in the future: “… And you groan at your final end, when your flesh and your body are consumed; and you say, ‘How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to my instructors! I was almost in utter ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation.” (Proverbs 5:11-14).

Not a pretty picture, wouldn’t you agree?

 

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

We’ve all heard the expression, “Pray for sunshine, prepare for rain.” At first glance this seems to be what might have happened with the believers in Acts 12 when they gathered in Mary’s house to pray for Peter’s release. Perhaps they were praying but didn’t really expect a positive outcome.

But something miraculous did actually happen and when Peter showed up at the house where they were meeting, having been released by an angel, everyone thought the girl who had seen him outside was insane.

Is that really what happened? Maybe. But maybe we’ve have been a little harsh on those early believers and here are some reasons that might be the case:

  1. The text does say that the believers were praying “earnestly for Peter” (12:5), but in 12:12 it simply says that “they were praying.” It is possible that by then their prayer had evolved from praying for Peter’s release to praying for themselves?

Consider this: it was now the eleventh hour, the night before Peter was supposed to be presented to the religious leaders. His death was imminent and the believers now had to think about their own fates. So they took the unusual step of locking their door. They knew they were next, they were exhausted, not knowing where to turn. Perhaps they were now praying primarily for wisdom on what to do next? Or for strength to endure to the end?

  1. The believers had good reasons to think that Peter may have already been executed. Herod Agrippa had inherited malevolent genes from his grandfather, Herod the Great. He had already passed James, John’s bother, through the sword. To please the religious leaders, he was going to kill Peter next.

When the servant kept insisting that Peter was at the door, some people said, “It is his angel.” There was a traditional belief that when a person died, his “angel” (guardian angel?”) paid a visit to his/her friends. This would be another indication that the believers may already have thought that Peter was dead.

Now it wouldn’t be the first time in history that believers prayed for something and were quite shocked that they actually got what they were praying for, but I am just not sure that this was one of those cases.

How about you?

Do your prayer requests evolve over time?

Do you think there is anything inherently wrong with praying against all hope?

Do you truly believe that “nothing is impossible with God?”

Do you remember a time when God miraculously granted a request that you and/other people were praying for?

And finally, what do you think is the meaning of Mark 9:24, when the father of a demon-possessed boy said, “I believe, help me with my unbelief”?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Pivotal bulletin copy

Note: the following is an example of the devotionals I’m writing for our Pivotal series (a study of Acts). For more, please go here.

I have so many unanswered questions related to the Ananias and Sapphira story in Acts 5 but there is one thing that is certain about it–they died for conspiring together and lying to God.

I am also fairly certain that while Peter was completely aware of the fate awaiting Sapphira, he may have been as surprised as everyone else when Ananias fell dead in the middle of his speech.

There is a part of us that wants to cry “unfair” when we read this story. I’m not going to deny it: I feel sorry for this couple. The story doesn’t tell us how old they were or if they had any children. Luke doesn’t even care to mention the price of the piece of property they sold.

Not that it matters that much. In the end, their capital offense was to conspire to lie against God. Peter stated it a little differently to Sapphira. He said they put the Holy Spirit to the test. Maybe that gives us a clue. Could this couple be defying God? I mean, “Let’s see what kind of a god he is before we can truly believe,” type of defiance? Did they purposefully try to mock God? “These people think they know everything. Let’s fool them,” type of mockery?

You see what I am doing? I am still trying to find an offense that is bad enough to bring such swift and irreversible penalty to bear on these poor souls. Why? Because in my own subdued, defiant way, I refuse to accept that lying to God is a punishable offense, let alone a capital one. And there is more: every day there are Christians blatantly lying to God and they have yet to see the dirty feet of the grave diggers saying, “Next?” This seems to confirm that lying to God is not such a big deal. Or does it?

Recently, a famous website exposed the lies of so many people who sought to engage in marital infidelity without fear of being discovered. Well, thousands had their names revealed, including a handful of well known Christian leaders. They lied to their spouses, but they lied to God first. But they didn’t drop dead in front of their computers, though one evangelical leader tragically took his own life.

Children tell their parents they were doing homework at their friend’s house when they were out partying and engaging in illegal activities. Adults engage in online pornography while telling their spouses they are watching reruns of Friends. Our brave new world has given us all the tools we need to lie with impunity, or so we think.

So the question really is: “Why are we still alive?” Or even close to home: “Why am I alive?” And the answer may be simply related to the fact that we no longer have someone with the prophetic and apostolic authority of Peter to spot our sins!

But we should not make the mistake of thinking that our life extension here means that we somehow beat the system, for there will be a day of reckoning and we better be prepared for it. As Peter himself said in another place: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

May we also be overcome with a healthy sense of fear of God (Acts 5:5) as we consider how we are living today.

Questions to ponder:

1. Why do you think Luke singled out one sin (lying) to write about in this early stage of the history of the Church?

2. List the types of injuries that occur when people decide to lie blatantly about something they did.

3. What is the biblical solution for the habit of lying?

Pastor Ivanildo Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

BTTC Web JPEGMy neighbor rang the bell. I put the dogs away. She carried a box. With a smile she said, “They delivered this to my house but it belongs here.” Checking the address I said, “Ah, thanks.” “I wondered if they delivered mine here by mistake?” she said. Sure enough, I looked and the box that had just been left at our door belonged to her. I gave it to her. She thanked me. I thanked her. The dogs came upstairs and all was well with the world again.

I wonder if that might not be somewhat how the shepherds felt that night in Bethlehem. Not the whole mix up of the boxes thing, but the idea that something that does not belong to me might have been delivered to me by mistake.

This was not just another baby that had been born. It was “The Savior, who is Christ, the Lord” and they just heard the news. No way, Joseph! Had it been today, one of them would have dialed mom, who would have said, “Shepherd boy, you need to come home and get some sleep. You’re seeing things.” The girlfriend on Instagram would have responded, “Where’s the pic, loser?” The boss would have yelled, “Why don’t you just say you want to go home early tonight?”

Fact is nobody in their right mind would believe them. The shepherds themselves couldn’t possibly believe this was happening to them! Stuff like this only befalls the rich and powerful. They sit close to the movers and shakers. They control information. They spin the news. Raw broadcast like what they just got never happens and when it does it goes first to the royal chambers of kings and queens who sleep quietly in their bed of luxury. Or to dictators who never sleep, but never to shepherds who are always awake but for different reasons.

They story does not make sense. You have to wonder if the lead angel lost his way. Was his GPS inside an Apple phone? Couldn’t they tell by the smell that this was no palace? Didn’t the shepherds clothes give them away as being among the despised?

But contrary to all the logic, defying the speculation of the script writers who had co-opted the plot and re-imagined the narratives anticipating the Birth of the King of Kings, when the news of His coming came, it was indeed delivered first to the most disenfranchised, the lowest of the lowest in the totem pole. God could hardly have gone any lower. People of no fame were the first to hear of the most famous one. The shepherds were wrong. The package was delivered to the right address and this was no mere coincidence.

Thanks to that timely and well-placed delivery, salvation is for all and people like me can share in the hope that baby brings. Thanks to God’s snubbing of the powerful and well connected, people with only the clothes on their back can now be richly robed in His glory. Thanks to that defying act of grace, the poorest of the poor, both physically and morally, can now become beloved children of God. It’s the only way I can possibly get in. God bypassed the powerful in the Advent so He could make His pitch to the whole world in Redemption. The plot thickens.

And that’s what makes Christ’s arrival on earth the most outrageously exciting event and the coolest birth in the annals of baby’s births in all of history. I’m dancing and toasting to it.

“The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Joy to the world,

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

BTTC Web JPEGGrowing up poor, our Christmases were never about going places. We stayed put and people came to us. We never traveled anywhere, no matter the season. A trip to the beach (half an hour away) was an annual event to which the whole church looked forward with great anticipation.

The rise of cities, the easy access to different modes of transportation, the expectation that we will all be home for Christmas — all these have contributed to the notion that Christmas is more about the buzz around the thing than the thing itself. And considering the amount of travel people will be doing over the next couple of weeks, you would be tempted to believe that the buzz is in the packing, the marvel is in the travel and the Christmas spirit is indeed in the air since 66% of travelers are flying this year instead of using an automobile or another means of transportation.

So once again we will pack our bags, fill our planes, keep the roads busy, tell our kids we are almost there for hundreds of times and make excuses to our parents as to why we can’t stay there long. For an outsider looking in, Christmas would appear to be more about getting there than actually being there.

While I will be one of those thousands of happy parents who will be able to be with his children on Christmas Day, I would like to remind everyone that the only trip that matters in connection with the Christmas story is the one that the King of the universe made to this lowly planet called earth. While this is so obvious to us, it is worth repeating: We travel to be home for Christmas, Jesus traveled so we could one day have a home in Christ.

Of all the travel surrounding the birth of the baby Jesus — Mary’s trip to visit her pregnant relative, Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary’s trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the wise men who came from the East, which could be modern-day Iran or even as far away as China, the angels who engaged in some amazing intergalactic travel, even the flight to Egypt — all of these pale in comparison to the journey the Creator of the universe took, from the bosom of the Father and the soothing presence of the Holy Spirit to a place replete with suffering, strife, selfishness and sin.

But it didn’t stop there. This journey was not merely a stopover; it was a permanent change of address, the most radical change of zip code ever done. John put it this way: “And ‘The Word’ became flesh and moved permanently to our neighborhood.” (John 1:14). There you have it. While many are always looking for an upgrade, Jesus got the mother of all downgrades — He took our skin to remove our sin; He traveled down below so we wouldn’t keep falling “belower.” This infamy that gave Him incarnation is the impetus that gives us justification and ensures our salvation. His humiliation causes us to share in His glory and the anticipation of this sharing is what I hope to keep lodged in the front lobe of my brain and in the core of my heart throughout this season. That’s what I will remind my family of when I read them the story of the Birth of Christ from the book of Luke on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Don’t let the travel steer you away from the marvel.

 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

by the book blog

My wife tells the story of a time we were vacationing in Brazil and she overheard my mom talking to herself as she watched me from her kitchen table. “My son,” she said, “what happened to him, wearing braids and all these rings on his fingers?” Then she caught herself and continued her chores without expecting an answer. (By the way, I was sporting some pretty awesome cornrows, but for her it was nothing but “braids”).

My mother’s lament perhaps typifies the disappointment of many parents whose sons and daughters didn’t quite follow the conventional wisdom of what men and women should do. And my guess is that my mother is not the only person disappointed in my unusual taste.

I remember walking out of the nail salon at Wal-Mart and bumping right into a couple who attended our church. The husband, wanting to appear cute, said, “Pastor Ivanildo, are you getting your nails done?” At that time, the wife, who knew me a little better than her husband, began to walk away. I said, “Yes, of course,” and showed him my newly polished nails. He was shocked and the wife was nowhere to be seen…

I am adventurous that way. When it comes to stereotypes, unless it is illegal or immoral, I am always game to obliterating them. I just hate the thought of only doing what everyone expects you to do. Life becomes boring that way. Like the older man who heard my story at a restaurant after I had preached in a little church in rural Pennsylvania. He sat silently the whole time, and finally at the end, in a quiet voice, he said, “After listening to you for the last hour, I feel that I have lived under a rock.” This man had retired from working for the railroad and had never left his county in his 70+ years of existence. He was a caveman surrounded by modernity.

We have all grown up with deeply ingrained convictions about gender roles. But the differences between male and female have been grossly exaggerated. Sure, men and women have different areas of their brains that are more active than others. Women in general seem to be more in touch with their emotions than men. Men tend to learn differently than women, etc., etc. But the similarities are a lot more prevalent than the differences. And there are many areas where we complement each other.

Our society clamors for precise answers about what it means to be a man and a woman. We now keep meticulous statistics about women in the work force, as if they were batting averages for baseball players. We rate business environments by how friendly they are to women. Kraft, the company, had to pull an advertisement for diapers off the air because it made dads who took care of babies in diapers look like they were clueless (can I hear an amen for those who are tired of commercials that make men look stupid?). No one knows what to do anymore and Ann Landers is no longer around to answer our complicated questions about men and women.

In this confused environment, we must turn to the manual. To begin with, God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that both men and women were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Of all the created beings, only men and women have the awesome privilege of being like God and therefore being able to represent Him. And this refers equally to male and female. So we are equal in our essence. No man can claim a biblical basis to feel superior or exercise dominance over the other gender. That would be totally contrary to God’s original plan when He created the world.

But then God conferred upon man the responsibility to lead his family. And when I say “lead” I don’t mean “take charge,” I mean “take leadership,” the way Jesus did – with compassion and total abandon on behalf of His bride, the Church, as Paul explains in Ephesians 5. This is how God intended it from the beginning – equal in essence, complementary in function. Nowhere in Scriptures there is even a hint that a man should exercise dominance over his wife and whoever says that there is something to that effect is certainly misusing some biblical texts.

These biblical mandates are all there is. They are crucial but not exhausting. Everything else is culturally imposed. And different cultures vary in the tasks assigned men and women.

I will never forget going to D. C. to participate in the “Stand in the Gap” event, where about 800,000 men gathered in the National Mall to commit themselves to pray and love their wives and families. We were told that there would be women protesting during the event. Sure enough, when we got there, there were a handful of brave women carrying out large signs, trying to drown out the blasting sound coming from the jumbletrons spread around the mall.

One particular sign caught my attention. It read, “Why aren’t you home mowing the lawn today?” I was drawn to it and with great difficulty made my way to the young woman carrying the sign. When I got there, I was screaming in her ears: “I’m here because it is my wife’s turn to mow the lawn today!” She looked at me and said, “You know, you got a point.” We sat down on the sidewalk and for about 45 minutes I explained to her what the Bible really has to say about how men should treat women. She had never heard of such things.

Maybe you haven’t either, but this Sunday, if you care to join us at church, you will hear me talk about what it means to be a man and a woman according to the Bible. Hope to see you there!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA