Archives for posts with tag: grace church

Prayer series
You could say that prayer made Daniel fit for a palace. He was taken to Babylon as a refugee – a poster child for the Babylonian re-education program of the Hebrew people, initiated by the King Nebuchadnezzar.

Right off the bat Daniel had to rely on prayers because he chose to reject the King’s diet. He and his friends asked for water and a meager sampling of vegetables when they could have feasted on wine, meat and other decadent stuff from the King’s kitchen. Well, they prayed and God blessed their diet. (Don’t you wish that’s how it worked today?).

Because of his bold prayers, I believe, Daniel rose to the attention of the King and eventually became an influential man in all of Persia for years to come. His enemies took notice and tried to bring about his demise, but Daniel was astute. I imagine they tried to throw all kinds of appetizing things before him, but Daniel had the self-control thing down pat.

So they decided to try to catch him in matters of his religion. It was a simple proposition: Babylon was infested with gods for all kinds of occasions while Daniel believed in only one God. If they could mandate Daniel to pray to one of their gods or even to the king himself, and he refused, it would be check-mate. But their plan went up in smoke, together with them, because God honored Daniel’s faithful prayers with his window open even when it was insane to do so.

Throughout the book that carries his name Daniel keeps occupied with affairs of the Kingdom and prayer. He interprets dreams and prays. He advises kings and prays. He studies Scriptures and prays. He fasts and prays. So much praying that I think no one else except Jesus should use the title “prayer warrior.” No wonder this guy outlived so many kings who ate so much better than he.

Daniel’s prayer of confession in chapter 9:4-19 should be a model for all of us. A moving prayer that showed concern not only for his own sins but for those of the entire nation of Israel. Daniel was a global prayer warrior. He prayed and at times the response was supersonic, like in chapter 9 when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him at the speed of light. But he also prayed when the response was delayed.

Fascinating. In chapter 10 Daniel starts praying and fasting for three weeks. He also says that he didn’t even shower during that time – yuck! Apparently, Daniel had decided to continue this until he got a response. Bold. Well, three weeks later the response came in the person of the Archangel Michael. Daniel’s prayer seemed to be climbing to higher echelons of heaven since now it was an Archangel, not simply an angel, who was dispatched to answer him.

But the amazing thing is that when Michael sees Daniel in a vision he says that he had been dispatched the moment Daniel had started to pray but it took him three weeks to get to Daniel. No, Michael was not overweight and his wings didn’t experience a wardrobe mal-function. He was opposed by a spiritual entity he calls “the Prince of Persia.”

Whatever the “Prince of Persia” was he was a force to be reckoned with. But in the end God prevailed and Michael delivered the answer to Daniel’s prayer. And the moral of the story is that prayer is first and foremost a spiritual activity. If our prayers have any spiritual teeth, the enemy will oppose them. But we must press on, persist, and boldly keep storming the gates of heaven. But remember: Daniel didn’t simply take a crash course on prayer. He didn’t just listen to a TED talk on the power of prayer. He had practiced his whole life. And when the time was right he also got to be involved in the battle for the survival of God’s people.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Prayer series

Jesus once told a story about two men who went up to the temple to pray. We will look at that story this Sunday at Grace Church (Luke 18:9-14). Some may think it’s just another Pharisee-bashing tale Jesus was so famous for. “White-washed tombs,” “brood of vipers,” “foolish people,” “money lovers,” are just some of the choice words Jesus reserved for those characters. Do you ever feel sorry for them?

Well, you wouldn’t feel sorry for this particular one. This man epitomized everything that is wrong with the human race – prideful, prejudiced, self-absorbed, arrogant, pedantic, and worst of all, a fatally flawed predictor of God’s opinion of himself (small “h”). The man thought he had climbed the ladder of righteousness by his own merits. By doing a bunch of things, he was convinced he had made the cut and was not shy to break the news to God. Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Away from the proud corner stood a tax collector who ended up stealing the show for his uncanny ability to see himself for who he really was – an incorrigible sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. He didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward heaven. Too embarrassed to look around, he may not have noticed the Pharisee congratulating himself. With a heavy heart, he looked down while beating his chest and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner with capital ‘S’!”

When the judges were asked to raise their grades for the two prayers, Jesus’ little placard read “10” for the tax collector and “0” for the Pharisee. In theological terms the tax-collector, not the “other one” went home “justified.” Some translations say “made right with God.” And there you have it – Jesus’ point in telling this story. No, it was not to slam the Pharisee. Rather, it was to remind us that one of the principal purposes of prayer is to have our hearts, mind, and body become synced with God.

Luke said as much in the heading of that story: Jesus told it to warn against the dangers of thinking that you are good enough to be accepted by God merely because of your good works and the dangers of pride that causes you to despise others who don’t fit the prescribed bill for a divinely drafted bill of spiritual health.

The lesson is that prayer will do you no good until you understand your place in the cosmos – that you are dust, irreversibly attracted to messes, and perpetually wanting to color outside the lines outlined by your Creator. Prayer will get you nowhere until you know that you are nothing and that without God’s righteousness you will remain there even if you don’t believe so, like the delusional Pharisee.

While we love to think that our prayers can move God’s heart, there will be no divine movement until our hearts are moved to repentance and forgiveness. God must move in us first before He will allow Himself to be moved by us. And that’s one of the main things that prayer should accomplish – a recurring struggle to set the record straight with God, and then a glorious rising in the newness of His freeing forgiveness, which He offers to us lavishly because of what His Son did on the cross for us.

“God, please make us right with you when we pray.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Prayer series
I grew up speaking a language in which the word “ordinary” was a bad word. You used it when you wanted to humiliate people, to tell them that they were less than noble, that their pedigree was tainted and their birth all too common. The word was so strong that required no other qualification. All you needed to say was, “You, ordinary one!” That was it. Punches were flying.

So I have had to pause every time I read James’ statement that Elijah was an “ordinary man.” Now, to be sure, James doesn’t exactly use the word “ordinary.” It is more like “Elijah was like unto us…” Something like that. It’s all Greek to me… The point is that Elijah had the same nature as ourselves. He was cut from the same cloth. In other words, he was… ordinary.

This prophet, who came from a little farming village, ended up in the company of kings. He never studied Meteorology but controlled the climate over an entire nation for three and a half years with just the power of his word. And yes, he also brought the son of a poor widow back from the dead. So how was this guy “ordinary”?

I had to go back and look again at the guy who wrote those words. James was a brother of Jesus. He grew up with Jesus. He heard all the things people said about Jesus. He interacted with the guys who walked around with Jesus for a little over three years. From all we know, he could have even witnessed some of the miracles performed by Jesus. Yet, he didn’t believe. Quite the contrary. He may even have participated in the plot to have Jesus committed because his family thought he was insane.

But something happened after the resurrection of Christ. James believed. From then on his life would be utterly different. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, wrote a famous canonical book, and ended up dying a violent death because he refused to deny that Jesus was the Messiah. James too was an “ordinary” man until he met face-to-face with the resurrected Messiah.

So could this be what James had in mind when he said that Elijah was an “ordinary” man? When he was operating in the flesh, Elijah was running scared from Jezebel, but when He was operating in the Spirit of God, he singlehandedly took on 800 false prophets and destroyed them.

The same is true of us. On our own, we can only do ordinary things. We only see the natural world. We only hear the noise of what is immediately before us. But from time to time God intervenes in our lives, and we become mighty. We can defeat armies and make the enemy flee from us. Then, like Elijah, we can hear the sound of rain even before the tiniest of clouds begins to form in the sky. We can because God gives us the gift of faith. And faith “is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1).

The point is that just like James and Elijah we can go through our whole lives without ever operating in the Spirit. We don’t sense God’s leading. We don’t follow His nudging. We dare not take risks for Him. So we may end up always being on the peripheral of the center from which God’s powerful work comes. We choose safety over obedience. We bend to the sounds of familiarity. We miss the boat.

Shame on us. We must change that. First let’s recognize our humble beginning – that we are from dust, really ordinary. Then let’s ask God to rush through us a fresh outpouring of His Spirit so we can do extraordinary things for Him. Are you willing? Come this Sunday and find out about what God can do through a life that is totally surrendered to Him.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Prayer series

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be surprised when I come face-to-face with God. You start rattling off all the stuff you did in the Name of God, including persuasive preaching, powerful signs, miracles, etc., etc., and God looks at you and says, “Who are you?”

If that happened to me, I would probably drop dead again from a heart attack, if that were possible, of course. As surreal as this may sound, this is pretty much the picture is painted for us in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

It’s a devastating thing, isn’t it, to experience “successful” ministry while at the same time excluding God entirely from the picture. But how do we know if our “success” is God-induced or man-made? What are the signs that we may be relying entirely on our own abilities to get things done for God? Is there a God-o-meter in our life and ministry?

I think there is and it is called prayer. Unfortunately in most churches today prayer is only another item on the menu of ministry opportunities, a “thing” a handful of people still do in an obscure corner of the church. This is not what God intended for His people. Prayer is supposed to be the foundation of everything we do in the church. It should not be an option but a mandatory discipline for the follower of Christ. If we ever hope to be involved in something truly divine, we must make sure that we not only invite but make room and allow The Divine to come in and take over, permeating every facet of every detail of everything we do.

Prayer is more important than preaching. It is more important than singing. It is more important than all the other programs (forgive me for using this word) put together in the church. Without it, our souls shrivel, we lose our true north, and start resorting to pathetic little gimmicks that do nothing to advance the mission of Christ to reach people without hope.

We are starting a new series at Grace Church called “Prayer: Moving God’s Heart” with a study in the life of Hannah. This woman teaches us that sometimes we have to reach the end of ourselves in order for us to see God show up in a big way. And maybe that is a major reason we shove prayer to a little corner in the church – we haven’t reached the end of ourselves. So should we ask God to get us there?

I don’t wish for that, but just like Hannah had a rival in her life – a second wife who put her through hell (forgive me the language), maybe we also need a Peninnah in our lives. Someone or something that will drive us to our knees!

I wish to God this were not necessary, but if this is what it takes, I am willing to receive it as long as God gives me the grace and strength to grow through it.

So is there is “Peninnah” in your life?

“Father, please don’t allow me to succeed if I am not doing it in the strength of your power. And if necessary, please bring a person or a situation in my life that will send me running to your throne because I have nowhere else to turn. And please let me stay there until you come through in a big way. Not to change my circumstances necessarily, but to change me. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Fresh Wind Graphic
Summer Reading Challenge. Chapter 7 Commentary.

We live in a world that wants what is new, exciting and novel, and the church is not immune. Cymbala writes, “the truths of the gospel don’t seem spectacular enough. We’re restless for the latest, greatest, newest teaching or technique. We….search for a shortcut or some dynamic new strategy that will fire up our churches.” As churches have seen fads come and go, there are basic scriptural teachings that have stood for centuries, concerning corporate and personal spiritual growth. It is not instantaneous or flashy, but old fashioned spiritual endurance, which takes time and personal responsibility, produces spiritual growth.

The two tenets for growth in our relationship with God are spending time reading and meditating on His teachings (Prov. 3:1), and communicating with God in prayer (Jer. 29:12-13). We hear this truth time and time again, but in our fast-paced world it is easy to ignore and forget it. If we wish to be used for God’s kingdom, we have to make this a personal daily priority. And as a corporate body we need to meet in prayer. Corporate prayer carries great benefits in hearing one another lift our voices in prayer to God, uniting the body in worship, humbling ourselves, showing our need for Him, and seeking God’s way for our life and ministry.

All great revivals were preceded by groups of people praying. Cymbala gives the example of one young leader of the 1904 Welsh revival, who led most of his meetings in prayer, rather than preaching. It makes me wonder how many of us would attend those services today. A second example of revival takes place during Ezra and Nehemiah’s leadership of God’s people. In Nehemiah, chapter 8, it states the people stood from early morning to mid-day to hear Ezra read God’s Word. The people upon hearing the scriptures read, humbled themselves before God, recognizing their sin. Are we willing to gather to hear only the scriptures read to us? Would this capture our attention today? Would it bring conviction to our hearts?

Nothing moves God more than to see His children’s desperate need for Him, and their cry for His help. But we struggle with humbling ourselves. We try to do too much using our own gifts or talents, staying within our comfort zones, accomplishing little for God. But when we humble our hearts before Him, step out of our comfort zone, He is ready to do much more than we could ask or think!

Cymbala writes, “Let’s forget the novelties. If we prevail in prayer, God will do what only He can do. How He does things, when He does them, and in what manner are up to Him. The name of Jesus, the power of His blood, and the prayer of faith  have not lost their power over the centuries.” God has given us what we need and it has stood the test of time. It is simple, it is basic. We need to make ourselves available to Him, humbly acknowledging His sovereignty over us, and watch Him accomplish His work through us. Let’s give God our time, by coming together in prayer and reading His Word. He has given us everything we need, so we can confidently move forward, claiming victory in His name!

Sue Buch

 

 

Songs in the Night Header for Blog

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

John Newton wrote the words to this song when he was 70, standing, as it were, at the pinnacle of what had been a life full of “dangers, toils and snares.” As he looked back, one thing remained first and foremost in his life – the undeserved gift of forgiveness and salvation that God had bestowed upon him.

He wrote those beloved words as an illustration to a sermon he preached on January 1, 1773. The text was 1 Chronicles 17:16-17. In this passage, the ark of the Covenant is being brought back to Jerusalem and David is lamenting the fact that the Ark, that symbol of God presence among His people, is in a tent and he is in a palace of cedar. He promises God that he is going to build a house for Him and God says, “No, I am going to build a ‘house’ for you.”

What God did was promise David a dynasty, starting with Solomon, and culminating with the Messiah. David would never lack an heir sitting on the throne.

David was floored. He immediately recognized how undeserving he was of this gift. He remembered his humble family and his inauspicious choice to become King, coming from behind, as it were. True. He was so far behind that his father didn’t even bother to bring him back from the field when he paraded his tanned, strong, and handsome sons for the prophet to spot the one who would soon lead them. Samuel had to look deep in the bench to find David.

Before his conversion Newton was the worst character you would ever hope not to meet. Foul-mouthed, impervious to authority, angry, and just about failing at everything his father had him do. Even the hardened sailors couldn’t stand him. He was a cut below the rest, so to speak. As a child, Newton had some Christian teaching from his mother, but she died when he was only a child and he went on to reject God and malign anyone who claimed to believe in Him. Newton was a rotten character and that is why he used the word “wretch” to describe himself.

God reminded David in that passage: “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader over My people Israel.” (1 Chronicles 17:7). Newton asked the question: “Where were you when the Lord found you?” The answer for him is found in the words of the song: “I was a wretch. Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me!”

When he realized what God was promising him, David was so overwhelmed, he sat down before the presence of the Lord and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that You have brought me thus far?” (1 Chronicles 17:16). Newton reflects on this and says that if that is how he was like before he came to Christ, how then did he get to where he is now? Again, the answer: Just like David, it is grace that brought me thus far.

We know that it was snowing on the day Newton wrote this song. As he looked from his study across the field to the church where he served for sixteen years, we can imagine his puzzlement as to how he was going to finish the song. So he penned the famous words, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun…” No, he didn’t. This verse was not written by Newton and thus it was not part of the original song. In fact, only a cursory look will tell you that it doesn’t belong to the style and force of the rest of the song. Instead, Newton wrote: “The earth shall soon dissolve like snow/The sun forbear to shine/But God, who call’d me here below/Will be forever mine.” Newton knew what he was talking about. Eight times in 1 Chronicles 17 that word “forever” appears in reference to God’s everlasting Kingdom. Newton knew that God’s plan for mankind was permanent and that it included him.

March 21 marked the day when John Newton began to experience a storm at sea that would force him to cry out to God for help. He observed that day for the rest of his life (“the hour I first believed”), a time to give thanks to God and reflect on where he was when God met Him. That was the hour he first believed. And he savored it every year. The sound that heralded his salvation would forever remain with him – that sweet sound of grace which is nothing short of amazing. I hope you can savor it too, every day for sure, but once a year, on a special day, when you remember how God saved you.

I have also written a separate piece to illustrate the practical side of this amazing grace. I did it because I am afraid many of us have forgotten what grace really means. We are glad to receive grace at that hour we first believed, but once we get it, it is so hard to remember that we too are supposed to bestow grace – that unmerited gift – to those around us who need it.

Here is a radically different perspective. How many times have you been to a restaurant and received some really poor service? Well, when it comes time to tip, you may give a 10% tip instead of 20%. Listen, I am all in favor of excellent service, especially the services we are paying for, but do you even consider the reason someone may be so unhappy at work? And are we missing an opportunity to bestow upon someone a gift that is patently undeserved?

Let me remind you, though in a capitalistic sense tipping has everything to do with merit and retribution, in a Kingdom sense nothing could be more untrue. The word “gratuity,” a synonym for “tip” comes from the same word we get the word “grace.” You see the connection now? So next time, give somebody something they don’t deserve and you will begin to look at the transaction that took place when God saved you.

The same is true of the humanitarian crisis that is happening on our border. Everyone is quick to politicize the issue while forgetting about the plight of children who are here alone and whose stories deserve at least to be heard. I put together a guide that will be in your bulletin on Sunday. It will help you pray for some of the children who are in crisis today. We will pray for them in our services this Sunday. While we recognize that ultimate solutions will not be easy, can we at least agree that these children should be loved and tenderly cared for just because they are human beings at risk? Yes, it may not make sense and they may not even deserve it, but isn’t that true about my salvation as well?

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

Songs in the Night Header for Blog

Injustice. A three-syllable word that has evoked more outrage in people of good will than any other word in our vocabulary. I can’t stand to see it. The Scriptures tell us to denounce it, especially when it comes to injustice against the most vulnerable among us – the widows, the orphans, the aliens, using biblical terminology.

Just today I read that the butchers of Nigeria, the so-called “Boko Haram” thugs, targeted and killed 44 people in the northern part of the country. This terrorist group has killed over 2,000 people in six months, and in their recent raids, they also kidnapped women and children and burned down three churches in their effort to rid the region of religious people other than Muslims.

How can you not be angry at these indiscriminate acts of killing? How can you not protest?

Here at home, a violence of a different sort is brewing. Thousands of children have crossed the border illegally over the last six months and no one seems to know what to do with them. Citizen groups, often led by their own politicians, have organized to prevent children from being brought to temporary housing in their cities and towns. We want to see them deported, the sooner the better. There is talk of diseases, burdens on local school districts, crime, etc., etc.

But very few are speaking on behalf of the children. Who is telling their story? I found one sympathetic voice this week but the majority of people are protesting loudly: “My tax money is paying for this!” “They are bringing deadly diseases!” “How do you know they haven’t committed crimes back in their home countries?”

Now I don’t deny that these issues are complicated and there are no easy solutions. I sympathize with those who have concerns and there is no question that some nefarious elements are operating behind the scene, but how can we not sympathize with the plight of children, some as young as 7 years old? Can we at least for a moment rise above our fears and focus on the tragedies of others?

This Sunday I will talking about the life of a woman who suffered a terrible personal injustice when she was only six weeks old. Fannie J. Crosby, through a medical mistake, lost her vision when she was only a baby. As she grew up and learned of what had happened, she could have turned bitter toward the man whose mistake was the cause of her fate, but instead, she learned to quietly accept her lot and allow God to use her the way she was. She said, “In more than eighty-five years, I have not for a moment felt a spark of resentment against him, for I have always believed from my youth up that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do.”

Fannie J. Crosby went on to write poetry and lyrics of hymns that have been a tremendous blessing and a source of comfort to so many throughout the ages. If Fannie were living today, she would probably be walking among those children who are stuck in no-man’s land right now. She gave a great deal of her time and talent to the “least of these,” the homeless and mentally ill in NYC, and she loved every moment of it. I hope you will join us this Sunday as we look at one of my favorite hymns of all time, “A Wonderful Savior is Jesus My Lord.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Songs in the Night Header for Blog
I write this less than two hours before Brazil’s game against Germany in the World Cup. In a matter of hours someone will go home (in Brazil’s case, stay home but out of the competition). In less than a week a new champion will be crowned (the reigning champs, Spain, bid farewell while still in the group phase). Four years from now, when the football greats gather in Russia, no one will remember who the semi-finalists were. Most people will only remember the winners, if that.

Such is the world we live in. We care about the heroics of the last one standing but the efforts of the vanquished, we conveniently ignore. In fact, the very word “hero” often only refers to those who got first place. Silver and bronze are not good enough, even if that puts you among the top three athletes in the world. And no one wants a dead hero.

But the Bible presents an entirely different picture. Believe it or not, there are heroes in the Bible who never came in first. If fact, some were cheated and even forcibly removed from the “competition.” Some heroes of Scripture never got to experience what they were hoping for. They were not delivered miraculously. They didn’t draw strength from afar. Their knight with shinning armor never arrived.

When I compare my life with the life of those heroes, I am forced to do like Job, who, after hearing a barrage of questions from God, humbly declared that from now on he would keep his mouth shut.

Hebrews 11 gives us a whole gallery of the heroes of faith, beginning with Abraham all the way to David and Samuel. Their exploits are listed with military precision. A celebratory tone ensues. We are inspired. Then we come to the middle of verse 35 and the little word “others” makes its appearance. Who are the “others,” I ask? They are other heroes, of course. But their stories couldn’t be more radically different, as the author tells us:

“… others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:35-38).

To make sure that we don’t miss the point, he goes on to say, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised…” (Hebrews 11:39).

Annie Flint Johnson was one of those “of whom the world was not worthy.” She was orphaned four times (two times from her biological parents, two from her adopted ones). Her dreams of becoming a concert pianist were shattered when she learned that she had a form of arthritis that would incapacitate her for the rest of her life. She was eventually unable to walk, bedridden for most of her 66 years here on earth, and when she died her body shrank to only about four feet. But in my book, she was a giant of the faith.

She tried and tried to attain healing from her condition until she came to the conclusion that God somehow wished to bring glory to His name through her. From then on she was willing to embrace her suffering and turn it into a testimony to God’s grace and love. The song we will be starting this Sunday explains her conviction:

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;

To added affliction He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure;

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

Annie Flint Johnson went on to become one of the most prolific poets of the 19th and early 20th Century, writing some of the deepest and most enduring words of comfort will find anywhere. Her life stands as a testimony that God can turn any tragedy into joy.

I hope you will join us this Sunday and learn about the life and poetry of this remarkable woman who has inspired millions through the years. I hope you will be motivated to transcend your own trials and turn them into triumphs.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Songs in the Night Header for Blog
I don’t have to be convinced about the value of contemporary music to speak to the hearts of a new generation. I don’t need to get all worked up about those who might be accustomed to getting their music the same way they get a cheeseburger at a McDonald’s drive-through – fast and furious.  I totally get it that church is not about me and my tastes since we are here to reach those who are still outside the Kingdom.

But I still miss the old hymns of faith. I miss singing them. I miss reading their lyrics and thinking about the people who wrote them. I even miss opening the old rugged hymnal and smelling the scent of the ages as I flipped the pages to find the right hymn. And I miss harmonizing in church!

I grew up with hymns. For a while, that was all we sang in church. Over time, we memorized many of them and had our favorites. At home, my mom sang them all the time. Eventually, all my brothers and sisters – there are nine in my family – would learn them and sing them acapella as we gathered around the dinner table at our home in northern Brazil.

The major evangelical groups had their own hymnals. The Baptists had their “Christian Hymnal,” which we used – how many times growing up did I hear ‘We are like the Baptists’? Our church eventually compiled their own selection, calling it “The Little Christian Hymnal.” (Yes, the Grace Brethren have had a history of thinking small, sad to say…).The Assemblies of God had their “Christian Harp.” I once met a taxi driver who had “deviated” from the faith, as they like to say, and as I shared Christ with him, he began to feel remorse that he was no longer following Christ. He claimed he had memorized all 524 hymns in the “Christian Harp,” a point of pride, and without ceremony began to announce the number and  sing the songs as loud as he possibly could. At that point, I was just glad I was close to my destination…

Songs are the universal language of mankind. They are the like tutors, but they cost nothing and are at the tip of the tongue. Movie makers know this. Kids as young as two will watch “Frozen” once and the next day they are repeating the songs they heard in the movie. The political forces behind the genocide in Rwanda also know this. It was the cleverly put together jingles, broadcast on every street corner in the major cities through makeshift speakers mounted on top of cars, that carried the message of hate that eventually led to the slaughter of 800,000 people in a matter of days.

But songs, especially hymns, can also inspire. They can comfort and motivate. They have lifted people out of the darkness they found themselves in. They are companions to grieving hearts and at many a time function like the shepherd’s staff – steering the errant sheep into the direction of the fold. And hymns do that because their words, not only the melodies, have deep theological meaning based on sound Biblical teaching.

We will be spending several weeks looking at the history and theology of some well-known hymns of the faith in a new series we are calling “Songs in the Night – Transcending Turmoil,” starting this Sunday with the story of a man who found himself alone in the high seas, contemplating the magnitude of his losses and was willing to say “It is well with my soul.” You will be inspired!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Religions Blog

Few people know anything about the Baha’i Faith and that is a shame. The most you’ve seen is probably the signs on the side of highways saying that that stretch is “adopted” by the Baha’i Faith. But there is so much more about them that I am willing to say they have a lot going for them. Let me list a few of these things here:

1. Their two founders were committed to the very end to the idea of non-violent struggle. Baha’u’llah, the “Manifestation,” and “the Babi” (the gate or forerunner) all refused to use force, even when justified to do so. Baha’u’llah would eventually remove the idea of “jihad” from any of his religious instructions.

2. Their followers endured some of the most intense and inhuman persecution perpetrated by a splinter group of the main religion, which hunted them down, tortured them, targeted the core leadership for murder, exiled them into foreign parts, and yet with the exception of a couple of incidents, they endured in silence, throwing their fate into the hands of their god.

3. Already in the mid 19th Century, these two religious leaders were advocating justice-related themes such as the equality of the genders, the eradication of all forms of racism, the end of poverty, the idea that government should serve the people, stewardship of body and the environment, etc. Many of these ideas didn’t become en vogue until fairly recently.

4. Their current involvement in human rights issues is commended. Baha’is continued to be persecuted in places like Iran and their campaign to stop it is outstanding.

But in spite of so much good, there are some issues that don’t sit well with me about the Baha’i Faith. Here are some examples:

1. I don’t buy the entire eschatological scheme whereby somehow Baha’u’llah is a “Manifestation” of god on a par with other prophets such as Moses and Jesus Christ. Shia Muslims may still be waiting for their 12th Imam (or the “Hidden Imam) to appear,  but my Messiah has already come in the person of Jesus Christ.

2. The idea that all religious postulations are equally valid, being considered chapters of one single book is self-defeating. All one has to do is look at the self-evident contradictions found in so many of these traditions to realize that either there are some that are not true or we are dealing with a pretty schizophrenic god.

3. To give equal value to the “Manifestations” of god, including Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, Baha’u’llah, etc., and say that taken all together we can get to know about god, goes against some very basic tenets of Christianity – that Jesus is above them all because He is God in flesh and that we can know God in reality (not only in attribute) when we know Jesus.

4. Though powerful, the god of the Baha’u’llah is not personal. His immanence is so otherworldly that he is rendered virtually unapproachable. In the Baha’i Faith, there is no such a thing as the “Abba, Father.”

5. The denial of the incarnation of Jesus Christ (“God in flesh”) removes any possibility that I might ever rise above the level of a condemned sinner.

Thank God for Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade