People who missed a great opportunity to worship

In Brazil there was a tradition among the preachers that, if we were on vacation and decided to visit a church event, such as Bible Study, Service, Prayer Meeting, etc. the Pastor of the church could call us to preach, to teach, or share a “word from God”. Because of that every time that I visited a church during my vacations I would bring my Bible, one or two sermons, and a Bible Study inside of it, just in case the pastor would recognize me all the way in the back of the church and invite me to come up front to share something with the congregation.

I do not know if that tradition is still valid nowadays, but when I was pastor in Brazil I had not only the experience of being invited to preach, but also I invited preachers to preach in my church. Of course if you were not a good preacher the pastor would only recognize you and welcome you, but you would not be invited to preach or teach. We all can understand that. The pastor of the church had the authority to make that decision on the spot, without consulting the elders of the church.

This tradition had some very good aspects; the first one is that it would keep us, the pastors, on our toes all the time. We had to be prepared. The second one is that it would give some churches, mostly the small ones, an opportunity to have once in a while a good and famous preacher preaching there. Another positive aspect is that it would keep attendance high during summer time because our members would never know when they would have a surprise preacher on Sunday morning or evening.

This reminds me of the story of the resurrection narrated by John on John 20:19-29. On the first day of the week, and this is why we have our main activities on Sunday, Jesus appeared to the disciples for the first time, but Thomas was not there. This is what the text says: “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. John 20:24” He missed the opportunity to see the resurrected Jesus and to worship Him.

Every Sunday, God shows up in our sanctuaries, not only to be worshiped but also to talk to us, to touch us, and to listen to the prayers of His people. The statistics tell us that an average of more than 50% of the members do not attend church on a regular basis. Maybe they, like Thomas, do not believe that the living Christ will be there.

We never know when God will have something special just for us. We never know when He will talk to us in a specific way. We never know how He will touch us. Most of the time God uses His Word to do that, but sometimes he uses the choir, or a hymn, or a prayer, or a brother or sister to communicate to us His love, His grace, and His mercy. But if we don’t show up for the service, like Thomas, we will miss that great opportunity. So, my friend, make an extra effort to go to church and worship, as much as you can, you never know what God has in store for you.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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People who missed a great opportunity to serve

In the early 80s I was the pastor of a midsized church in the capital of a very important state in Brazil. My church with other churches partnered with Youth for Christ to organize a special event for young people. It would be on a Saturday afternoon. Because we wanted a high quality event, Youth for Christ invited a very well known Christian (Gospel) rock band. The event was a success.

That same Saturday late at night, I received a call from the Youth for Christ director. He was very upset and disappointed. During that whole week he contacted many churches in the city (the largest ones) to entertain and host the Band on Sunday morning. All the expenses were covered, yet nobody wanted to have them in their church or be involved with them.

Now it was late Saturday night and he could not find any church for the Band. I told him that my church was not the biggest one in town, but I would be glad to open the doors for them and have them in our Sunday morning activities. I do not need to tell you how glad he was when I said that.

Next day they came. They had their sound system and instruments setup in our chancel. They did the whole program; worship, preaching, everything, and they did it very well. I was happy with the opportunity to serve them. What I did not know is that that band would become the biggest Christian (Gospel) Rock Band in the history of Brazil. For me they were just young people who wanted to play and serve the Lord. We started a very good friendship from then on.

Have you ever had an opportunity to serve someone only to find out that the person was an important person? We all have been in this kind of situation, in one way or the other.

Now, have you ever missed an opportunity? Have you ever missed the opportunity to serve someone but you did not think that he or she was important, and you came up with some lousy excuse and did not do anything. Later you learned that the person was someone very important or famous.

“If regret could kill, I would be dead.” This is what we say when we miss this kind of opportunity. This probably is the feeling that a Pharisee felt when he realized that he had the opportunity to serve Jesus Himself, the Messiah, the Son of God, and he just MISSED.

We find this story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 7, verse 36 to 50. Most of the time we see the story from the perspective of a woman who anointed Jesus. But that story is a tremendous illustration of a missing opportunity. This is what happened. A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him. Many people were present. Among them someone who was not invited, a woman with a terrible past. She came and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, anointed and kissed His feet.

When that host complained, Jesus told him that he did not offer water for Him, he did not kiss Him, nor anoint Him (verses 44-46). These practices were expected from the host, but that Pharisee missed a great opportunity. That woman, even with a dark past, seized the opportunity and served the Lord of the Universe, the Savior, and the King of Kings.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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People who missed a great opportunity to be saved

We all know the story about the religious man who was on the porch of his house when a storm was approaching. Someone came with a car and asked him to get in. When the water was getting inside the house another man in a truck offered help. Later when he was on top of the roof another neighbor in a boat came by. Finally when the water was up to his waist a man in a helicopter – threw down a ladder and told him to get in.

He turned down all the requests saying that God would perform a miracle and save him. When he arrived in heaven with broken faith he complained: “I thought God would grant me a miracle and save me, but I have been let down.” Then he heard the response: “I don’t know what you’re complaining about, we sent you a car, a truck, a boat and a helicopter.”

We know that salvation is in Christ and in Christ alone. The Bible is very clear when it states that truth: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12”

We also know and understand that many people in our world do not have the same opportunities that we have here. The access to the information about the Gospel and Christ are limited and in some places almost nonexistent.

But, unfortunately, many people are treating the salvation of their soul in the same way that the man in our story treated his rescue. They are given all the opportunities possible to hear about Christ and to receive Him as their Savior and Lord, but they are still waiting for something else to happen.

This reminds me of the time when the Pharisees and leaders who were waiting for the Messiah asked Jesus for a sign and Jesus was right there in front of them. This is part of the text: “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42”

God gave them Moses, God sent the prophets, and then sent John the Baptist, and finally God sent His one and only Son. But they just could not believe. This is what they said when He was on the cross: “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One. Luke 23:35”

My friend, our generation does not have any excuse to offer when the time comes to face God and His judgment. We have the Scriptures, church, friends, flyers, TV, Internet, and much more. We have been bombarded on a daily basis with the message and Gospel of Christ. We probably are the generation that had more opportunities than anybody else in history had.

The sad part is that many, and I mean many people will miss the opportunity that has been graciously offered to them. Do you know anyone who is missing this tremendous opportunity? Are you one of them? If you know someone who is missing this opportunity or if you are one of them, I pray that the Spirit of God will touch your hearts and help you to surrender your lives to Christ.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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People Who Missed a Great Opportunity

In 1986 I was invited to and hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to attend the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam. At that time I was an itinerant evangelist for Youth for Christ of Brazil. It was the first time that I travelled out of Brazil. It was a tremendous experience.

When we did our registration we received a bag with many things. We got the binder for the conference, books; advertisements from many Christian organizations, a crank cassette player to be used in areas without electricity, and a set of the New Testament cassettes.

There were so many things to do and to see that I did not check “all” the papers in that bag. Unfortunately, I learned later with deep regret, that I should have checked “everything” right away.

Inside that bag, among other papers and cards, there was an invitation to sit on the stage with Billy Graham and all the other speakers at the conference. In every main event of the conference they invited a few evangelists from all over the world to sit with them on the stage. I found my invitation a few days later. What a missed opportunity!

Thank God, that did not affect my participation or the conference for me. I was so happy and excited that it became just a hiccup in the whole experience. But it left a bad taste in my mouth.

How many opportunities do we lose in our daily lives because we do not pay attention to what is important? We are so entertained by all the colorful things, the gismos, and the actions, that we do not pay attention in what is important and essential. Because of that we miss them.

One of the constant teachings of the Bible has to do with missing opportunities. We have so many people that had great opportunities right in front of them and they just took another route. Some of them did not realize the extent and magnitude of their opportunity. They could not grasp it.

In the letter to the Hebrews we find this interesting text: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Heb. 13:2”. The writer is talking about the importance of hospitality, and people who did that had the opportunity to entertain angels.

When Jesus was entering Jerusalem He said this: “and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. Luke 19:44” The people at that time were expecting the Messiah at any moment, but they were not able to recognize that the Messiah was right there, in front of them. They missed a tremendous opportunity.

During the next weeks we will learn important lessons from people in the Bible who missed great opportunities. I am not talking about simple and small opportunities; I am talking about opportunities that have eternal implications, opportunities that can change not only our lives but also the lives of other people forever.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Our New Book

There are some decisions that can change our lives forever. Here you will find ten of them that, according to Jesus, can make an extraordinary difference in your life and in the lives of people around you.

 

 

 

 

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – Conclusion

“Everybody has a story of sorrow to tell.” This is what a Brazilian friend and colleague used to say. We all have. We live in a broken world, and we are broken too. The prophet Isaiah puts it in a beautiful way: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5.”

The Psalms of Lament describe real situations that real people were going through in their lives. They are not fiction or poems created to portray human suffering and pain. No, the psalmists were going through a very tough time, and decided to share their ordeal with others. We are blessed for having these psalms in our hands. Let me share with you why.

First of all because they show us that everybody is subjected to this kind of situation. Sometimes we think that things happen only to us. We are the only ones going through hardships, or through that specific kind of hardship. The psalmists experienced a little bit of everything. They faced enemies inside and out. They struggled in their relationship with God. Friends and family mistreated them. They had to deal with their own sins and wrong doings.

The second reason for us to be blessed with these psalms is that they teach us how to be real with God in the middle of our suffering. The psalmists teach us how to pray, and to say things to God that sometimes we think would be wrong to say. We learn from them to be truthful in our prayers and clamors. If it hurts, say it. And say it as it is. We think that if we do not say, God will not know what we are feeling. How dumb is that? The Bible says that God knows what we are thinking and feeling before we can express them in words. So, if you are going through a tough time, just say it.

The last reason why we are blessed with these psalms is that they are supposed to give us hope and lift us up. In all these psalms we have the psalmists coming before the Lord with a word of trust and faith. They are desperate, they complain, but they always come to the conclusion that God is a powerful God, He is a good and merciful God, and He knows what is going on in our lives.

So, my challenge for you is to not only read those psalms, but also pray them. If you look carefully, you will find a psalm that describes your situation and your feelings. Make them your words; immerse yourself in their verses. Open your heart to God and ask Him to intervene in your situation. Do not fear, God is with you and He is listening.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – I want to come back!

Have you ever wandered away from God and His church to the point that you felt a stranger to your own faith? People come to you and ask you about your God, your church, and your faith, and you do not have anything to say?

Those situations have the ability to bring feelings and memories that tell you how important that group of people were in your life and development and how much you miss them. You remember your Sunday School teacher, the pastors, the elders, the programs, the worship, and the music, even those bloopers that every church experiences. You just wish you could go back.

In Psalm 42, we find an interesting plea from the psalmist. He is asking God to let him go back. He finds himself in a strange and foreign land and he can’t take it anymore. Sometimes we leave by our own volition, we do not like the church; we need to move for other reasons, such as school, work, etc. But sometimes we leave as a result of the will of other men. This is the case of the Psalmist. He is in the Babylon in exile. He was taken captive.

His cry is: “Psa. 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” He wants to go back to God. He says, “my soul pants for you, O God.” He wants to have a good and healthy relationship with God. He had that in the past, and he wants to have it again. Sometimes God allows us to experience some desert in our spiritual journey, so we can remember that He is the Fountain of the Living Water.

But it is not only God. He misses the church, the celebrations: “Psa. 42:4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.” How many times you were transported to a forgotten time just because you heard a hymn or you read a Bible verse?

It is interesting that the people around the psalmist, even though they did not believe in God, are the ones used by God to push him in God’s directions. They keep asking him: “Psa. 42:3… “Where is your God?” The psalmist challenge is that at that point of his life he finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He longs to leave but his reality does not allow him to do it.

What can you do if you, a member of your family, or a friend is in a similar situation? The psalmist throughout this psalm helps us to deal with this kind of situation. The first thing that he does is to remember. “Psa. 42:6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar.” Keep the memories of God and that special time alive in your heart.

The second thing is to be sure that God loves you and cares for you. This is what the psalmist sings: “Psa. 42:8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me — a prayer to the God of my life.” Never forget that God loves you.

The next thing that we learn is to present our prayers, cries, and requests to the Lord. If you are facing exile from God raise your voice and ask Him to help you and to let you come back to Him (vs. 9).

Finally, never lose hope. No matter how far you think you are from God, always have hope that God will act and change your circumstances. Twice he says this: “Psa. 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Hope will enable you to sing in the middle of adversities.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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C’mon God, Give Me a Break! – If I am following you, why am I still being persecuted?

Have you ever wondered why good people suffer? Yes, we all do it. David is not different. He knew very well that he was not the most perfect person around, but he was on the right path. But even though he was trying to do the right thing he was suffering on the inside and out. Psalm 40 is a beautiful picture of that season in his life.

In this psalm he starts saying that he was rescued from the pit. He recognizes that God saved him and restored him. This is what he says: “Psa. 40:2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Praise and worship followed that redemption. David recognizes that he could not get out of the pit without the action of God, and because of that he was grateful. “Psa. 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”

He goes on to state that that redemption was more than just a little help. David recognizes that the redemption means surrender of his life to the Lord. This is how he puts it: “Psa. 40:6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” The expression “my ears you have pierced” is a reference to the voluntary servanthood (Ex. 21:5-6).

David also mentions his desire to do the will of the Lord. “Psa. 40:8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” He does not want to be a nominal servant. He really wants to follow the Lord, keep His commands, and obey His law.

Finally David says that he will proclaim the Lord’s righteousness. He is making a vow to go public with his decision to follow the Lord. “Psa. 40:9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.”

Probably, like me, you are thinking, wow this David is doing everything that he can to be a good member of God’s family. He was redeemed, he offers worship and praise, and he dedicates his life to serve the Lord. The Lord will protect and help him, right? Not necessarily. Doing everything right does not guarantee that our life will be trouble free.

David learned that. He complains that even though he was doing everything that he could the problems were still there. “Psa. 40:12 For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” They were not few. They are coming from different directions. He mentions his sins and the enemies who surround him. Yes, the enemies are still there. These are the expressions that David uses to describe their actions: “all who seek to take my life, all who desire my ruin, those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!””

Like David, sometimes we find ourselves doing everything right and despite that we continue to experience troubles and trials. During those times we should act like David did, keep doing the right thing and plead to the Lord to save and help us. Let us pray using David’s words: “Psa. 40:17 … I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.”

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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