Small decisions that can make a big difference – Ready? Go!

See? It did not hurt you a bit. It was just a small click and here you are, reading this text. This is repeated every minute in our lives, just a simple click, and a new window of opportunities is opened right in front of us. Some of us are struggling with this fast paced world, and others are just enjoying the ride, having a great time.

Life is full of small, and sometimes insignificant decisions that have the ability to make a big difference, not only in our lives, but also in the lives of people around us. Think for a moment how many small decisions you made to get to this point.

A small decision in the Garden of Eden, as you know it was just a fruit, changed the history of mankind forever. I do not think that for Joseph to choose Mary was a big and difficult decision. They lived in a small town, less than 700 people, and the parents were involved. He did not have many options, and she did not have many options either. That decision also altered our lives eternally.

During this series I gave many small decisions that if you make them it would make a big difference. Here are some suggestions how to proceed.

First step, pick those that seem easy for you. Take a look in the list and number them, so you can prioritize where you are going to start. Start with the ones that you are already inclined to do anyway. Choose the ones that are easy based on your temperament. I know that some of them you are already doing, and those decisions were made long before you read these articles. Others you were in the process of making, so go forth and do it.

Second step, pick those on which the Spirit has been pressing your heart lately. There are some decisions that are not so small for us, or easy at all, even though they look like that. But there is a spiritual element on them that draw us to them. It has nothing to do with how easy or small they are, it has everything to do with the work of the Spirit of God in our lives. Open your ears and heart and listen to the Spirit.

The final step is to make the decisions that will impact more people, or where the need is bigger. I am thinking about others, not you. Which decisions would have a bigger impact in the lives of others? The first thing that you should do is to make a list. The second thing that you should do is to evaluate how hard they are for you. The third thing that you should do is to decide what you have to do to accomplish that. What would be involved, like time, effort, etc.?

If possible, some of those decisions should be done with others. Find people who are interested in doing those things and join them, work together. You are not the first one who thought about those things. Finally, all those things must be done with prayer. God should be involved from the get-go. God is the One who is more interested in those actions more than anybody else. His help is indispensable, and He is willing to help us to make those small decisions.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – The most important first

We live in a time when things are going so fast that we do not have time to evaluate what is important and what is not. We keep tackling the first subject that comes our way, without paying attention whether it is the best option or not.

That attitude can bring many problems into our lives, business, and church. We can make the wrong decision and find ourselves in a terrible situation. When we do not have time to evaluate what is the best way, or at least the better option among those that are in front of us we begin to play Russian roulette. We know that we can get lucky, but we never know when our luck will run out.

When Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem he stopped by a house in Bethany. It was the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. We all know the story very well. You can refresh your memory by reading Luke 10: 38-42. It is interesting that in this family we remember Lazarus for his resurrection; we remember Mary for anointing Jesus and sitting at His feet to learn; and we remember Martha just for complaining to Jesus about her sister.

In this story we learn that Martha was the one who opened her home to Jesus. She was the one working hard to get everything right for the guests. If you know a little bit of their culture you know that it involved many things. It was a large group of people. She needed to have everything ready, food, the house, and the wellbeing of the people coming to her house.

You also need to take in consideration that Lazarus would be with Jesus and the disciples, and the ladies would have to do all of the work by themselves. We do not know if they had any servants. It doesn’t appear that they had since Martha complained about the lack of help from her sister.

Those things were very important in that culture. Martha was doing everything that she was supposed to do according to her position, but Mary took a totally different path. Mary decided to challenge those ethnic rules. She just sat down at Jesus’ feet and with her brother and the other disciples she was listening to His teachings.

Martha, upset and distraught with her sister’s behavior, took her complaint to the highest court, Jesus Himself. She could have talked with her brother, since he would be the authority in the house, but she thought that going straight to Jesus would look better for her. She was sure that Jesus, like all the other men that she knew, would side with her and order her sister to go back to the kitchen where she belonged. What a surprise! Jesus not only pointed out her flawed attitude, but also approved and supported Mary’s attitude.

My friends, how many times does our culture dictate what we are supposed to do? Like Mary we should decide what is the most important now. Sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him should be our first option always. It is a small decision, but it is the one that will make all the difference.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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My New Book – C’mon God, Give Me a Break!

Everybody has a story of sorrow to tell. The Psalms of Lament are a cry for help. It is like a 911 call. We find ourselves in a bad situation and we need a Divine intervention right away. We do not have any other recourse and we cry. Maybe we will not have the right words, and our attitudes will not be the best, but our hearts will be wide open to God.

In this book Dr. Lucas Pina, a Brazilian immigrant who lives and serve in US since 1990, reflects in some of the most well known Psalms of Laments that we have in the Bible. The intention is not only to reflect in their meaning, but also to examine the causes, helping the readers to identify with the psalmists and pray those beautiful psalms.

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Pray for the authorities

Some of you would say, “Come on Lucas, don’t go there, not now.”Others would have said the same thing a few months ago. That is not the case. It does not matter who is the leader and who occupies the leadership position. The Scripture is clear, we should pray on a regular basis for our leaders.

One of the most important texts about this is the one that Paul wrote to Timothy, his disciple, here it is: “I Timothy 2:1-2 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

This is a very small decision, but it has tremendous consequences not only for our personal lives, but for the lives of a whole city, state, and country. Paul is not asking Timothy to pray only for those who are on the side of the Christian faith or the church. No, on the contrary, Paul is asking Timothy and the church to pray for a terrible leader. His name was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known generally as Nero.

The other thing that Paul is asking of Timothy is to pray for and not against the authorities. We should pray for their personal life, family, health, and spiritual life. We should ask God to guide them and help them to make righteous decisions. We also should pray for peace, so we would be able to live our Christian life without interference.

When we pray for the authorities we recognize God’s sovereignty, not only over the affairs of His people, but also over the whole universe. God controls everything and everyone. This is what the Bible has to say about kings and emperors: “Dan. 2:21He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” And in Proverbs we have this: “Prov. 21:1The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”

When we pray for our leaders we recognize that God is the One who establishes the authorities, all of them. This is what Paul wrote: “Romans 13:1 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”Believing in that would help us to do another thing that Peter asked us to do, to honor them: “1Pet. 2:17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honortheking.” The word means: “to honor, show respect, give recognition.”

My friend I do not know which side you are on. If you are a disciple of Christ, it is your obligation to pray for the authorities, all of them, not only for those who you like, sympathize with, or are on your side. Things in our cities, states, and countries would be different if all of us would make this small decision to pray for our leaders.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Invite someone to church

“I thought you would never ask me!” This is what someone who I know heard from his lifelong friend, when he invited him for the first time, to come to church. It should not be a big deal, but unfortunately, it is. Our people have a lot of difficulties asking people to come to church, even when it is for a special occasion.

I am not talking about Evangelism. Evangelism is when you present the Gospel to someone. Most of the people in our churches are not ready for that. But that should not become an excuse for us to not invite someone to church. This is something everybody can and should do.

There is a story in the Gospel of John that illustrates very well the attitude that we all should have. It is the story of Philip and Nathanael (John 45-50). Jesus called Philip to follow Him, the next thing that Philip did was to invite Nathanael to come and meet Jesus. This story gives us some insights about the art of inviting people to church.

The first lesson is about the decision to do it. We need to understand that we are not inviting the person to change his religion, to adopt our theology, or to participate in a cult full of mysteries. We do not know if Philip knew Nathanael or not. We do not know if Nathanael was looking for the Messiah or not. Philip just popped the question.

The other lesson is about the simplicity. We should keep it simple. It is a small decision, but it can make a really big difference. You should not make it complicated. Do not try to explain a lot of things, and do not apologize, just ask.

One lesson that we really should learn with Philip is how to handle resistance. When Nathanael told him: “John 1:46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”Philip did not tremble and became afraid to continue the conversation, he just said: “John 1:46Come and see”. You should know that your friendship is not on the line. If they do not want to come it is their loss. You did your part. Just be careful not to put too much pressure on them, or they will start to avoid you. They just need to know who to talk to if the Spirit touches their hearts and moves them to look for a church.

Finally, we should be willing to bring them to church. When you invite someone be ready to make some changes in your regular and traditional comportment. If you have arranged to  pick them up, get there earlier. Introduce them to other members. If they have children offer to go with them to the Children’s area. Sit with them. Explain parts of the service if they are not accustomed with the kind of service that your church offers. These are just a few small things that can make their visit pleasant.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Philip just invited and took Nathanael where Jesus was. Jesus and the Holy Spirit did the rest. You probably know that Nathanael became one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. We never know what can happen and who will have their lives changed, and we can never know when the Spirit will touch somebody’s heart and change it forever. Just invite someone to church!

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Be thankful

Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”Most of us are used to thanking God only when a miracle or a great deliverance happens. But small things should also move us to thanksgiving. Gratitude should be part of our daily life.

If you decide to express your gratitude to God in small things you will experience changes in your mind, in your heart, and in your life. We cannot calculate the benefits of a grateful heart. It will exceed all of your expectations.

Gratitude is based on our faith and trust in God. There is no place in our lives for gratitude if we do not know that there is a God who sovereignly controls the universe, and consequently, our lives. God’s hand is behind everything that happens to our lives, and that should motivate us to give thanks. Let me share with you some characteristics of His hand.

  1. The invisible hand– The first one is the one that we do not see, or we do not perceive. I call it the invisible hand. That hand can be seen only by faith. You do not see any sign of His presence in the situation, but you know that He is there, no matter what happens. This is how we can understand why Paul asked of the Thessalonica church, “1Th. 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  2. The loving hand– The second characteristic of it is the loving hand. The psalmist wrote this: “Psa. 107:1Give thanksto the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”God is love; consequently His hand is a loving hand. If you trust in His love, you will be able to thank Him all the time.
  3. The gracious hand– The hand of God is a gracious hand. What does that mean? It means that we receive many things in our lives that we do not deserve and we did not earn. God, by His grace just decided to give them to us. This is what the Hebrews’ author wrote: “Heb. 12:28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,”
  4. The powerful hand– Finally we give thanks because of His powerful hand. The psalmist wrote: “Psa. 107:8Let them give thanksto the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,”Wonderful deeds, powerful deeds, tremendous deeds. This is our God working in our favor. His hand is able to perform great deeds. When we look to the universe, the human body, the mountains, the oceans; they are breathtaking. But His power is also manifested in small miracles that we witness in our lives and in the lives of people around us.

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians said this: “Eph. 5:19-20Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, alwaysgiving thanksto God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

My friend, the Hand of God is present, not only in the universe, but also in your life, so make a decision to be thankful.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Get involved with a mission

Do you know that you have a mission in the Kingdom of God? Yes, you really have! Every Christian has. When we are brought to Christ and His Lordship we are designated to an area in the Kingdom. We receive spiritual gifts and with the natural talents that God has given to us they are supposed to be combined and used in His Kingdom.

Some of us believe that our gifts are just to sit in church and watch the service, and we do that almost on a regular basis. Others do not believe that they have anything to add to the mission. Both of these viewpoints are totally wrong. They are missing great opportunities to grow and serve. On the other hand the Kingdom is missing talented people who were gifted by the Holy Spirit to be productive in God’s Mission.

There are many challenges and hurdles that need to be overcome. We need to find what, where, and how. Yes, you need to find your gifts, the areas where you should apply them, and how you should use them. But one of the biggest challenges is to make a decision to be involved. Some people know what they can do, where they should be, and how they are supposed to work in the Kingdom, but, and there is always a BUT, they are not willing to do it.

One of the excuses used is TIME. “I do not have time.”We are not asking you to give all the time that you have. Maybe you were not called for a full-time ministry. I understand that not everybody is, but all of us have a calling and a mission in God’s plan.

I also understand that sometimes the church does not offer the outlet for you to use your gifts and talents, so you end up not getting involved at all. People say: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” When someone understands that God called him or her, they will make an extra effort to find a way of getting involved.

You need to understand that no church can do everything. Most of them are able to do some of the basic tasks of a regular church, such as outreach (some mission and evangelism), nurturing (teaching, discipleship, small groups), and worship. Some churches, because of their size and the involvement of their members, are able to do more. It is possible that even these churches will not be able to reach every aspect of God’s mission.

To solve this conundrum we need to work together, churches helping and working with other churches. You also can help your church to start that specific ministry for which you have a passion. The other option is the important work of “Parachurch” organizations. The prefix “para” is Greek for beside or alongside. These are Christian faith-based organizations that usually carry out their mission independent of churchoversight.

Do not get me wrong; I am not advocating the need for anybody to leave his or her church for a bigger one or to go to a parachurch to fulfill God’s call for his or her life. My desire is for you to make a simple and small decision to get involved in some aspect of God’s mission in this world. If your church cannot do it or is not willing to do it, partner with other organizations that are already doing the work. Just do it!

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Pray for your pastor

You probably saw these numbers somewhere on the Internet. They reflect a sad reality about pastors. Here are some of them compiled by Pastoral Care Inc.:

Statistics in the Ministry

90%of the pastors report working between 55to 75hours per week.

80%believe pastoral ministry has negativelyaffected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.

75%report a significant stress-relatedcrisis at least once in their ministry.

80%of pastors and 84%of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.

50%feel unable to meet the demandsof the job.

70%of pastors constantly fight depression.

70%say they have a lower self-image nowthan when they first started.

70%do not have someone they consider a close friend.

40%report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

70%of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

50%of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

1out of every 10ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

80%of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.

66%of church members expecta minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.

4,000new churches begin each year and 7,000churches close.

Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.

#1 reason pastors leave the ministry— Church people are not willing to go in the same direction and have the same goals as the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.

The list is longer, but these numbers can give us a good idea of the many challenges that pastors face in their lives and ministries.

This is why we find in many letters in the New Testament the apostles asking for the churches to pray for them. Here they are:

2Cor. 1:11as you helpusby yourprayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalfforthe gracious favor grantedusin answer to the prayers of many.

Col. 4:3Andpray for us, too, that God may open a doorfor our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, forwhich I am in chains.

1Th. 5:25Brothers, pray for us.

2Th. 3:1Finally, brothers, pray for usthat the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.

Heb. 13:18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.

The apostles in these texts are asking for the church to pray for them in specific ways, here are some of them: Help, that is the first request, help us by your prayers.”The prayers of the people help the pastors. Maybe you cannot do a lot, but everybody can pray.

The second request is to pray for a successful ministry, “That God may open a door for our message”, “that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly.”Some times members of the church are quick to complain and to criticize, but how many are praying for the pastor and the ministry that he/she is doing?

The third request is to pray for their lives, so they can have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” Many pastors face problems in their personal lives because people do not pray enough for them.

So if you can make a big difference in your church and in its ministry, start praying for your pastor.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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