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Sermon Series - ColossiansA few years ago no one had even heard of iCloud. Now the word is in everybody’s mouths, including the ones who have no idea what it means.

My understanding is that the iCloud is where you keep things stored outside of a physical place in one of your many mobile devices. Since it’s always there “on the cloud” the idea is you can access it without any trouble at any time — as long as you have Internet.

And iCloud has already saved me on more than one occasion. Once I managed to lose all my contacts on my phone; when I upgraded my phone recently I found out that all my apps had been transferred to my new phone effortlessly.

But there is a catch. First, as I already indicated, you gotta have Internet. Then, and this is even more important: You gotta sign up for it — it doesn’t happen automatically.

And that’s where Colossians 1:5, 6 come in. Ages before the Internet, God revealed to us that when we cross that BC/AD line, an iCloud account is immediately available to us. You think I’m kidding, right? No, I’m not. Here is what the text says:

… the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.” 

Did you catch that concept? “Stored up for you in heaven.” That’s God’s iCloud for you, replete with faith, love, and hope, always available as an inexhaustible fountain of divine blessings that only one who had experienced a new birth can get.

Now, why is this so significant? Because for people like myself who grew up with a certain type of evangelicalism where guilt was brandished as a sort of a knight’s shinning armor,  when we think about the idea of God storing things up in heaven, we normally think of God storing our sins. We think of a long book where all of the places, times, and nature of our offenses are registered just so God can slam us with it one day when we get to haven just in case we get any illusions that we may be there based on our own merit…

Now, I hope you don’t hear me saying that we shouldn’t worry about giving an account to God someday about our actions. That’s not what I am saying at all. But it is refreshing for me to know that the things God stores up in His iCloud for us are good, positive things, like love, faith, and hope. That’s the kind of stuff I want to have in reserve in a “savings account” somewhere as I seek to live my life below the AD line. And that is exactly what God provides for me in Jesus Christ.

But even though this iCloud exists, like the one in cyber space, you gotta sign up for it, by crossing that BC/AD line, and you gotta keep connected to the “Internet” (in this case, God Himself) to enjoy its benefits.

This is only the first of several messages I will be preaching through the book of Colossians in the next several weeks. Here is what I have stored up for you:

  • April 12: God’s iCloud: What Happens When BC/AD Meet (1:1-14).
  • April 19: No Match For the “D” in AD (1:15-23).
  • April 26: Mystery of AD Living (1:24-2:5).
  • May 3: BC Tries to Fight Back (2:6-23).
  • May 10: AD Operator’s Manual Part 1 (3:1-9).
  • May 17: AD Operator’s Manual Part 2 (3:10-17).
  • May 24: AD Living in 3D (3:18-4:5).

Thank you for your prayers!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz,  PA

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Who Speaks for LIFE homepageThose who know me know that I love a vigorous debate. On any subject, except, maybe, whether there will be snow in heaven or not, simply because that issue has been settled since creation – when the perfect world was created, there was no precipitation of any sort.

We, evangelicals, can be so passionate about some issues. Abortion is one of them. But I am afraid that our passions sometimes get the better of us. Words have at times thrown the world into turmoil. They are powerful to heal, but hate can also ride on the backs of verbs and adjectives.

To be perfectly clear: I am viscerally opposed to this culture of death that fell upon us since the United States Supreme Court, by a 7 to 2 majority vote, struck down a law in Texas which prohibited abortion. That famous Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973 would forever change the landscape on this debate, making it legal to abort babies within the first trimester of pregnancy.

This ruling still revolts me but you will not hear me calling abortionists “murderers.” The seven Justices who voted for the majority still make me angry, but there will never be any hate in my life directed toward them. You will, however, hear me speak kindly of Justices Byron White and William Rehnquist, the only justices who dared to dissent on that landmark decision.

We may hate the fact that this is so, but the fact remains: there is such a thing as “legal” abortion in the land. This is a matter of settled jurisprudence, so no amount of name calling will change the fact that people can have abortions and not be outside the realm of the law. You could say that they are legally within their rights, which doesn’t make their rights ‘right.’ You can, after all, be legal and immoral at the same time.

Now let’s be clear here. Some of the things that people on the other side of this debate did this past Wednesday is lamentable, including the statement by the President, which said, in part, that his administration will “recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.” He also reaffirmed “our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom…” Of course, he goes on about protecting children but not a word about abortion.

Yes, I am enraged that the Governor of New York says that pro-life conservatives have “no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are,” but contrary to Sean Hannity, I can’t afford to live there so I can’t grant the Governor his wishes. I am beside myself with the tweet from a DNC chairwoman in Florida who posted a “Happy Birthday” type of comment, saluting a decision which has ultimately sent to their death an estimated 56 million innocent babies.

Still you will not hear me using hateful words toward these folks. I figured they will each have to give an account to God on judgment day. I have a hard enough time just dealing with my own inconsistencies and foibles; I am not about to start keeping tracking of those of others.

But following somewhat in Jesus’ footsteps, who reserved his harshest criticisms for religious leaders of his time, I would like to turn the blade toward us for just a second. I say the Church has also contributed to the monumental events that led to Roe v. Wade.

We are the ones who have from time immemorial treated all sexual matters as taboos. In the past we shunned young women who found themselves with the unfortunate burden of carrying a child they didn’t want. I saw this among people in my own milieu, growing up in an evangelical church. Families didn’t hesitate to throw their daughter on the street and have nothing to do with her once they found she was pregnant. Young girls were forced to resort to abortions in the highways and byways of this world, with no protection in place whatsoever.

Not too long ago I was involved with a ministry that provided teenage girls in a country in Africa a way to learn a trade to help themselves and their families. One of the projects had to do with sewing. I noticed one 13 year old girl who seemed to be so mature and was so far ahead of the rest in the kind of clothes she was making. The next year I went back and saw that she was missing. The coordinator of the project told me that she got pregnant and was kicked out of the program. When I met with the pastors of that district who oversaw the entire project, I tried to broach the subject and was warned by the coordinator not to even try to go there. And that is how many of these girls end up in the alleyways of this world, shunned at the time when they needed help the most.

We are the ones who have been sleeping when it comes to providing alternatives for abortion. Pregnancy Care Services across the country struggle to survive with little or no support from local churches. Adoption providers have to beg to get inside our churches. These people are the unsung heroes of the abortion debate and they deserve respect.

We are the ones who “sub-contracted” this issue to the Catholic Church. Anti-abortion activism is seen as a “Catholic issue” and we should have never allowed this. Even during the events leading up to the most recent March for Life in D.C., which outstanding voices in the evangelical world are lending their support? How many churches take the time to remember the tragedies that these 41 years have wrought? Pope Francis issued his statement denouncing what he calls “the culture of waste;” what about us, what are we saying?

Finally, we are still engaging people on the other side of this debate with hateful words. In the name of God and being “pro-life,” some fringe groups have stepped outside the bounds of legality. We have made things worse with our incendiary language. Sure, it is nice to hear people like Glenn Beck saying now that he regrets that he played a role in helping tear the country apart. He says, “I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language,” but it is a little too late now for apologies, isn’t it?

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. As far as I know, there are no exception clauses attached to His statement. Yes, we should be outraged at the atrocities committed in the name of “reproductive freedoms,” but we shouldn’t forget that this should never give us an excuse to lash out at people and engage in hateful speech or action directed toward them or even toward the acts they are perpetrating.

My advice to you as we remember the life of the unborn is to find something positive to do that is going to raise awareness and provide support for those who are on the frontline of this battle. Don’t just feel something, DO something!

And no, I don’t hate abortionists. I don’t even hate snow.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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Blogger’s Note: I wrote this some time ago but in light of the theme of my message this Sunday, I think it is as appropriate today as it was when I first wrote it. Make sure you read the P.S. at the end. 

Normally I don’t remember dreams. In fact, since I didn’t grow up with images, I am more of a printed word rather than a visual kind of person. I go to movies and if you ask me the ending or who was in it a couple of days later, my mind goes blank. That’s why I watch “The Sound of Music” every year and enjoy it as if I were seeing it for the first time.

So my non-visual personality makes me consider this dream I had last night, which remarkably I am able to recall blow-by-blow. In this dream a friend of mine, a former missionary, professor of Biblical studies, and director of curriculum at a seminary, is walking out of a building, trying to mount on a donkey that keeps getting away from him. Finally, he gives up on the donkey. Some men come out of the building and start leading him. As he starts waking, I get a view of him from the back and see that his hands are pushed back and he is handcuffed. The men push him into a car and take him away while the donkey is left wandering aimlessly.

Now, I am no Joseph, the young man in the Old Testament who could decode dreams. I am no psychic either. I claim no connection with the ancient astrologers or modern clairvoyants. But this dream has made me think. Why? Well, because the man in my dream happens to be an example of someone who had the potential to achieve great things for God and is now heading down the path of being a colossal failure. He recently left his wife of many years and is indulging himself in his own pursuits.

Men like him should know better. His seminary education should have ingrained in him an automatic aversion to divorce. His many years leading others and leading them well should have served as reminders of the virtues of a life well lived. He should know about the pain he is now inflicting his two teenage children, as he has sat in his office time and again with parents who have fallen out of love and are now pursuing the path of separation. He should remember that later he sat in the same office with the children of those same people while they cried tears no amount of Kleenex could ever absorb.

None of this mattered and my friend has chosen the long and winding road of selfish pursuits, which brings me back to my dream. I am convinced that this dream is a warning to me personally not to think that I am immune from falling and falling fast and furiously.

I see the signs of danger in the images in my brain now. My friend always loved nice things. He always had issues with money. He wanted to have more of it but never seemed to have enough. He complained often about how his calling to the ministry had made him poor and was always aspiring to be what he wasn’t.

In Portuguese we refer to this as those who have a “mania de grandeza,” (roughly a “grandiose mania”). My friend suffered from that. To “see” him trying to ride a donkey as he gets out of a building where he was just sentenced for something is really odd. Now, I know I am embellishing the narrative a little here, but I hope you don’t lose the irony of the image here: this is a guy who always liked to drive nice cars and he is now trying to get away riding on a donkey! Is there a lesson here? Sure: don’t try to mount on a donkey while handcuffed! He never went anywhere.

No, seriously. There might be some other lessons here. I think one is that when you are discontent with the lot afforded you by your Heavenly Father, you may end up trying to modify outcomes and end up on the fast track to your own demise (this is not, by the way, an encouragement to accept one’s fate, nor is it an encouragement for you to live without “ambitions”). Another lesson might be that those who hunger for love outside of marriage can get it fast but can lose it faster still. Perhaps another one is that those who fail to kindle the fire of love at home might find themselves burning with passion in other places. (For guys this means that failure to romance your wife may cause her to seek romance in the wrong places. For gals this means that faking headache to avoid intimacy may give you a real headache down the road!). And perhaps the final lesson is that those who want more things will get them straightaway and lose them as fast as they can say “mine.”

I remember the feeling of sadness that came over me during my dream. That feeling stayed with me hours after I had woken and it still lingers even after a full day of meetings — powerful feelings. I was sad to “see” my friend in handcuffs. I was sad to “see” him led away by authorities. But I was sadder to know that somewhere in the backstage of this dream — where real life really happens — the spoiler, the enemy of our souls, might be laughing and checking one more name off his list. I could almost hear the diabolical laughter in the background. I was forced to wonder — did I “see” my friend’s future in that dream? Or even more troubling — did I “see” what potentially could be my own future?

I know I am sounding strangely like my own son with his fantasy football video game, when he speaks of acquiring so and so for so many millions of dollars or when he says that “he” broke the record of so many touchdowns scored per game. I could be totally wrong about this dream and some may retort that I am only resorting to scare tactics. “It is the result of some repressed mind,” others will say, or “a healthy person shouldn’t even be having these dreams.” Some would send me to a shrink before I have a chance to dream another dream, and others would even treat me the same way Joseph’s brothers treated him, to which I would say: “Send me to Egypt, if the end result will be being the second in command to Pharaoh!”

I understand all the caution about a silly dream. But even if I could ignore the dream, my mind cannot get passed the reality of the pain and devastation that adultery and divorce have caused and that I have witnessed in my short lifespan. So at the risk of giving more ammunition to those who would append me a weak mind, I offer all of you the ancient words of Proverbs 6:25-33:

“25 Do not lust in your heart after her [the “adulterous” woman or man!] beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes,

26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.

27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?

28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?

29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.

30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.

33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away.”

Thank God there is redemption even for the worst of sinners, among which I number myself, and my prayer is that my friend will come to his senses before he descends so low that a donkey would appear to him as being the fastest transport available. You cannot outrun sin while riding on a donkey. You ought to take the bullet train and get out of the situation as fast as possible!

PS.: After several years being helped by committed pastors, my friend worked through the issues that were plaguing him and eventually reconciled with his wife and they are now rebuilding their lives together. I consider that something that only God can do and I praise Him for that!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade