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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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Use your words to edify someone

“Stupid” This is what a cashier said to me when I did not understand her. I had just arrived in the US and my English was not good enough. An American lady who was helping me with my English became very upset with the cashier’s attitude. I did not understand what she said to me, so it did not hurt me. Ignorance is bliss. It hurt later when I realized that the cashier did not know me enough to say something like that. Words can hurt, no matter if you understand them well or not.

Some of us have heard hurtful words like this, and some of us, unfortunately have said something like this:

“I’m not going to waste my time talking to you.”

“Nobody would be dumb enough to believe that.”

Or using sarcasm, “I’ll listen to you because you’re the expert on this topic, right?”

“You’re a failure,” or “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“Why are you behaving like a child?” or “You don’t even know what’s right, do you?”

“I don’t care what you do anymore,” or “I don’t need you.”

“I never want to see you again,” or “You are no longer welcome here.”

Those words have the ability to disregard a person, demean or devalue someone. We are watching friendships and families being ruined by words such as these. I know that we cannot control what people say, but we should and we must control what we say.

The Bible is clear when it tells us that words can destroy and build up. Here are two texts that emphasize this: “Prov. 12:18Recklesswords pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. AndProv. 16:24Pleasantwordsare a honeycomb, sweet to the soul andhealingto the bones.”

In the New Testament we find the apostle Paul writing to the churches and asking them to use their words to build up other people, and not only that, he also asks them to encourage other people to do that. Here are a few texts that help us with that: “1Th. 5:11Therefore encourage one another andbuildeach otherup, just as in fact you are doing.And “Eph. 4:29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful forbuildingothers up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Paul goes further when he wrote that even when we have to say the truth we should do it in love, “Eph. 4:15Instead, speaking thetruthinlove.”

The expression build up means: “to edify, strengthen, develop another person’s life through acts and words of love and encouragement”. We build up someone when we say nice things. If you do not have something nice to say, do not say it. We build up when we say something helpful, when we are part of the solution and not part of the problem. We build up when we comfort someone who is going through a tough situation, or is experiencing a bitter season. We build up when we offer our knowledge to teach someone and help him or her to discover tools that will make him or her grow. We build up people when we share our experience, helping them to know that they are not the only ones who are facing that situation.

My friend, you can do that. With just a few words, you can help and edify someone. You can make a big difference in their lives.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Volunteer to a good cause

“Is there anyone here who can help with this project?”This is one of the most frustrating questions that a pastor can ask. People roll their eyes, pretend they are not listening or pretend that they are doing something more important. Normally, the answer to this call is very poor.

Some pastors, knowing that, decide to take the guilt trip, trying to twist the arms showing the need, and what will happen if nobody answers the call. On the other hand some pastors go with the high calling and fear, emphasizing that God is the one calling them, and if they do not respond, they will answer to God Himself.

Believe me, I have tried all of them and a few more. The conclusion is volunteers are very hard to find. Statistics prove that to us; just 20% of the members do the work in a regular church. Most of the people are there for the ride. They want to be served and not to serve.

Here is a definition of a volunteer: “Volunteer is a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking; a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.”The key words here are “offers himself/herself”, “willingly and without pay”. In other words, a volunteer is someone who sees the need and offers to help.

People have many excuses for not volunteering: they do not have time; they do not know how to do it; they are tired; they have more important things to do, etc. We always have a good excuse to offer when someone asks for help, or when we see a need.

The Bible makes clear that volunteering is a matter of heart. Here are two texts that help us to see that: “Ex. 25:2“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heartpromptshim to give. Ex. 35:21and everyone who was willingand whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.”When your heart is in the right place you will offer your help.

The other thing that we should know is that God is the One who gives us abilities to help, serve, and work. This is what James wrote: “James 1:16Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. James 1:17Every good andperfect giftis from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”God gave you talents and gifts for you to help not only yourself, but also other people. He also gave you the ability to learn new things.

Finally, when you volunteer, do not do it to show off. Jesus said that the only reward that people who do that will receive is the praise of other people. This is what He said: “Matt. 6:3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, Matt. 6:4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.There are two main reasons why we should volunteer: God wants us to serve and there is a real need.

So, my friends, look around in your church, neighborhood, and city, and find a place where you can offer your service. People will be helped, you will be blessed, and God will be pleased.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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