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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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Include God in your conversation

When I say that I do not mean what normally we hear in most conversations. Things like: “JESUS CHRIST!”; “FOR CHRIST’S (GOD) SAKE!”; “OH MY GOD (OMG)!”. Those expressions would be include in the Third Commandment: “Ex. 20:7“You shall not misusethe name of the LORDyour God, forthe LORDwill not hold anyone guiltless who misuses hisname.”What I am saying is that God should be included in our regular conversation.

If we believe that God is a powerful God, who created and controls everything. If we believe that He is a personal and loving God. If we believe that He is a present God, who is with us everywhere all the time, we should understand that everything that happens, not only in the world, but also in our lives has in some way His permission and His hands. Because of that we should make Him and His actions part of our daily conversations. The question is how can we do that?

Be courageous– Mentioning the name of Jesus lately became politically incorrect. There is an underlying rule that precludes people to mention His name. So, if you believe in Him, if you know that He is involved in your life, and you want to recognize that, you will need to be courageous. Brothers and sisters all over the world are suffering persecution not only because they believe in Christ, but also because they confess Him. Do not be afraid to say it.

Be constant– Sometimes or most of the time we are not able to recognize or identify the presence and participation of God in some aspects of our life. For some of us, we are aware of God only Sunday morning or when we experience a big deliverance. We must be conscious that God is part of our whole life. James in his letter has something very interesting to tell us: “James 4:13-15Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

Be creative– One of our biggest challenges is to find creative ways to include God in our conversations. Thomas Edison said: “Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”So, if it was for him, it is for us. We need to find our own ways to involve God and His kind and powerful acts in our conversation. Create your own expressions; pay attention in what other people say, if you like reproduce; in your reading of the Bible highlight those terms, phrases and sentences that express your sentiments, and start using them.

Be sincere – The most important part of including God in our conversations is to be sincere. People will notice when we say words that are empty. You have to believe in what you are saying. Do you really believe that God was there protecting you? Do you really believe that it was God who gave you that gift, job, blessing, etc.? Do you really believe that God was the one guiding you? Do you really believe that God saved you, forgave you, accepted you, and adopted you in His family? Then say it. Make that part of your conversation.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Be nice to other people

We are living in a time when emotions are running high. We are seeing people exposing themselves in the worst way possible. People are just being mean. It seems that the Internet has given a megaphone to those people and now they can manifest who they really are, without the need to hide their real character. The worst part is that they feel good vomiting those evil words all over the place, not preoccupied with whom will read them. We are witnessing a little bit of everything, from fake news to bullying and everything in between.

A few days ago, I saw people posting something very stupid on Facebook, and I was very tempted to write something and let them know how stupid and blind they were. Thank God, writing for me is more challenging. So, while I was putting my thoughts together to reply to them I had time to realize that it would not work, I would be as mean as they were, and I really did not need to do that. This is one of the benefits of having English as a second language. But the temptation was there, and I was very upset.

Being nice has become something out of fashion. In the New Testament we have three words for being nice. One means being kind and benevolent. This is the word that we find in this text: “Col. 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, KINDNESS, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Another one means good and positive. Among other texts, we find that word here: “Rom. 15:2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his GOOD, to build him up.”

Finally, we have the word gentle. Here are the texts: “1Th. 2:7 but we were GENTLE among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” “2Tim. 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

As you can see the followers of Christ must be nice to other people. We should be nice first to our neighbors. That includes everybody around us. It does not mean only our family, the members of our church, or the people who have the same political view that we have.

Being nice and kind also involves words and deeds. If someone around us needs help, no matter who they are, the color of their skin, their social status, or political affiliation, our obligation is to be nice, kind, and do something to help them.

Finally we need to be nice all the time. I know that this is a big challenge for many of us. Being nice, good, kind, and gentle must be part of our character as disciples of Christ. Paul includes kindness as an element of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We also cannot forget that we represent the Kingdom of God on this earth and to our neighbors. The Bible calls us ambassadors (2Corinthians 5:20). Therefore we should discipline ourselves and make every effort to be nice to other people.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Guard Your Thoughts

“As if we could!”, you would say. Some thoughts we can control, but some are far from our reach. Some scientists believe that each person has an average of between 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot of thoughts. If you have an average of 70,000 thoughts per day, you have about 3000 per hour or 50 per minute, almost one per second.

Ninety-five percent of them we repeat every day; they are the same. But what is most interesting is that 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative. Our brain is hardwired to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. That is not bad at all; it serves us well for survival.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines thought as: “an idea, plan, opinion, picture, etc., that is formed in your mind, something that you think of, the act or process of thinking, the act of carefully thinking about the details of something.” The challenge for us is when you add to the mix our sinful nature corrupted by rebellion against God and His Law. That changes everything. The psalmist wrote: “Psa. 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” God is not part of our natural thoughts. The idea of a Superior Being, who knows everything, and dictates rules for our lives, is not welcomed in our minds. We want to be god, our own god. We want to dictate the rules for our lives, and if possible for everybody else’s lives.

It is because of this that we should guard our thoughts. Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

  1. Recognize that your thoughts are not God’s thoughts. This is what the Lord said to Isaiah: “Is. 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” We must understand and accept that we do not have those good thoughts naturally in our minds. They are far from us.
  2. Realize that God knows everything, your thoughts included. This is what the psalmist wrote: “Psa. 139:2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” God is aware of every thought that crosses our mind. It does not matter its size or importance. In another place the psalmist said: “Psa. 94:11 The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.”
  3. Ask the Lord to help you to control your thoughts. This is an uphill fight. There is no way that we will win with our own efforts. We need help, a lot of help. This is what David wrote: “Psa. 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” David uses the “meditation of my heart” as an expression of his thoughts. He is asking God to make his thoughts pleasing in His sight.
  4. Finally, feed your mind with positive things. We live in a time when information and misinformation dominates our lives. We have been bombarded all the time with bad stuff. This is why it is so hard to guard our thoughts. Paul wrote: “Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Put good stuff in your mind, read and meditate in the Scriptures, read a good book, watch a good movie (good luck with that). Act intentionally to nurture your thoughts with good and honorable things. That will make a big difference in your life.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Work on your temper

There is a very well known Brazilian song that was the theme of a famous soap opera in Brazil. The song is called: “Modinha Para Gabriela” by Gal Costa. The chorus of the song goes this way (free translation):

“I was born like this,

I grew up like this,

I really am like this,

I will always be like this, Gabriela

Always Gabriela”

Does it sound like someone you know, perhaps a colleague, a friend, a relative, or yourself? Many of us who struggle with our tempers most of the time use something like this as an excuse: “I am this way,” or “I was born this way,” and some go to the extreme adding, “And I will not change.”

The word temper means: “a particular state of mind or feelings, a habit of mind, especially with respect to irritability or patience, outbursts of anger, or the like; disposition, heat of mind or passion, shown in outbursts of anger, resentment, etc.”

A Christian is supposed to have his or her temper under the control of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying that it is going to be easy, but it is a journey that every one of us must take. The Bible tells stories of some people with a temper problem. Saul (1Sam. 20:7) was one of them; violence was always present when he lost his temper. He tried to kill David many times.

Another example is a prophet, Jonah (Jonah 4:9). After seeing God being merciful with Nineveh, he lost his temper because of something insignificant, a plant. That poor plant was the last straw. We also have one of Job’s friends (Job 32:2), who lost his temper with Job, even though he knew that Job was going through a terrible time in his life.

As you can see, among others, we have a king, a prophet, and a friend with a temper problem. That means we are not immune to it. Because of that I would like to suggest a few steps to help you or someone you know to control their temper.

The first step is to recognize that you have a problem with your temper and that you have a short fuse. This is not difficult to find, but it is hard to accept as a problem. We always find something and someone to blame.

The second step is to let the Spirit of God and His Word work on your temperament. God knows you and He is interested in changing you, and that includes your temper. Yes, God can change your temper; you just need to let Him do it. Study the Word and prayer should be a crucial part of this regimen.

The third step is to ask for help and prayers from your friends. If you recognize that you have problem, share with someone who you trust and ask him/her to pray for you and with you. We cannot go alone in these battles.

The fourth step is to find situations where it is easy for you to loose your temper and avoid them. You know when the conversation is going in a direction that will be hard for you to control yourself, not to raise your voice, or not to say something that you will regret later. Just, stop, say that you will come back to that topic on another occasion, and leave, or change the subject. Plan an escape route, so you will not be caught by surprise.

Finally, recognize when you did something wrong and apologize. Do not be ashamed to tell people that you are working on your temper but you are not there yet. Avoid finding excuses for your outbursts; just say, “I am sorry, please forgive me.”

Remember, this is a lifetime journey. You will have to watch your temper your whole life.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Small decisions that can make a big difference – Watch Your Mouth

“Arghhhh, @#$%&!…” Is this what comes out of your mouth when things are not the way you want? Or maybe when you hit your thumb instead of the nail? Those bad words find a way out of our mouth so quickly that we do not have time to hold them back. When we realize, they are already out there.

I remember when I was young and became a Christian. A lot of things started to change in my life; I stopped drinking, changed my companions, stopped fighting, but had no idea that my mouth was still dirty. Until a day when I was talking with my mom, and she suddenly stopped talking. I looked at her and asked, “what happened?” she turned to me and said, “Did you pay attention to what you just said?” I answered, “No, why? Did I say something wrong?” She calmly, which was way different from her style, said, “You should be more careful with what you say.” She did not need to say anything else. At that moment I realized that my mouth had not been changed yet. I was a new Christian with an old mouth.

From that day on, I took some steps that helped me take control of my mouth. The first thing that I did was to make a list of Bible verses that talk about mouth and word. Here are some of them:

I learned that a bad mouth was a characteristic of the wicked:

“Psa. 10:7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.”

I learned that our words just express what it is in our hearts:

“Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

I learned that we will have to give account for every careless word that we pronounce:

“Matt. 12:36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

I learned that we should control our mouth:

“Eph. 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I memorized those verses so I would have them in my mind, heart, and mouth when the opportunity to say something bad emerged.

Another thing that I did was to make a list of the bad words that I used to say and come up with an expression or word to substitute them, so, I would always have something to say when the opportunity to curse arrived.

Finally I recognized that I could not do it by myself, like the psalmists I learned to pray, “Psa. 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” And “Psa. 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

This whole process took some time, prayer and discipline. But it was well worth it. I am not saying that I am perfect, far from this. But the changes were visible, not only for me, but also for everybody who knew me. It just takes a small step, a small decision to achieve a great change.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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