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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People who missed a great opportunity to check out baby Jesus

Do you remember this saying from Jesus’ lips: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. Luke 10:13.” Yes, He really cursed those cities, because they had Him there, they heard Him, and they saw the miracles, but they decided not to believe in Him.

When I think about those cities and the Lord’s curse I cannot stop thinking about Bethlehem and the region. We all know the story about the shepherds. They received the visit from an angel and after that a great company of heavenly host, confirming the message of the angel about the baby. The message was simple: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11.” Those shepherds, not only believed, but also went to Bethlehem to check it out.

The problem is not with the shepherds and their experience, but what came afterwards. When they saw Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus they realized that the words from the angels were true. So, we should not expect them to do any other thing than spread the word and praise God. This is exactly what they did. Here is the text: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:17-18.”

So the question is, why the people in that region did not accept the shepherds’ report and testimony and went there to check baby Jesus? How could they miss that extraordinary opportunity? Let me share some possible reasons with you.

Maybe they did not go there to check that out because of the shepherds. They were the ones chosen by God to receive the message, but for the people in the region they were the least. So, some people did not believe in them because they were not qualified to deliver such an important message

Or maybe it was because of the place. When they heard that the Son of God was in Bethlehem in a cave designated for animals, they simply shut down. If He was supposed to be the Messiah, He should be born in Jerusalem, in the Temple, or in the Palace, but not in a small town, and have a manger for a crib.

Or maybe it was because of the news, the message in itself. The angel was very clear that the baby was the Savior, the Christ (Messiah), and the Lord. They did not hear wrong. That baby was the Son of God, the long waited Messiah, and the one who was coming to save them and be their Lord. Probably it was too much for them. If he was a prophet, a teacher, a good man, or a strong leader, maybe they would believe, but Savior, Christ, and Lord, no, it could not be.

Unfortunately, this Christmas many people around the world will miss the opportunity to check Jesus out. Maybe because of the messengers, or because of the place, a small town, small church, who knows. But many will decide not to believe because of who He is. When you understand that He is the Savior, the Christ, and the Lord, the only viable option that you have is to surrender to Him and praise God.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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People who missed a great opportunity to surrender to the King of kings

All of us, like it or not, have a queen’s syndrome or a king’s syndrome. We all want to be king or queen. I believe it is inherent in our human nature. We do not only want to dictate our own path and destiny, but also the lives of people around us. We have this need to be in control of everything and everyone.

The problem is that most the time our will does not prevail and we get frustrated and upset. Sometimes another king or queen inferior to us shows up, and dethrones us, which is very humiliating.

In the Christmas story we have the case of king Herod. He was a very powerful man in his time. On a certain day a group of Magi from the east came to Jerusalem saying that the King of the Jews was born and they came to worship Him. I do not need to tell you how disturbed Herod and his court became.

The story is in the Gospel of Matthew 2: 1-18. He called the experts of the law and priests to tell him where the new king was supposed to be born. They told him that Bethlehem was the city.

From that point on he had two options: The first one was to accept the prophecies and the words from the Magi and go to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King. This attitude would mean that his posterity would not reign in Israel. He and his family would be removed from the throne and the new King would rule.

This option was not even considered. He was too big to fail. He would not surrender his kingdom to someone that he did not know, even if that person was the Messiah, the Son of God, and the King of kings. No, he would definitely not do that.

It is interesting because Herod was not supposed to be on that throne anyway. He usurped that throne and kept it for himself and his family. He did not belong there, but he took it.

The other option was the one that he procured. He gathered the information from the spiritual leaders and the Magi and decided to eliminate the competition. His action killed many boys under two years old. He did not want to take any risk. That throne would be his and of his sons at any cost. He just missed the greatest opportunity to surrender to the King of kings.

Sometimes we have this same attitude of king Herod during Christmas. Jesus did not come to be a good person, a good teacher, or a good example; He came to be the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord, and the King of kings. He wants to rule and control our lives. The problem is we think that the throne of our lives belongs to us. We believe that the crown is ours, and we do not want to give them to anybody, not even share them.

During this Christmas season you will have the opportunity again and again to surrender the throne of your life to Christ. I pray that you will be wise and will acquiesce to the move of the Holy Spirit to do so. Do not miss this extraordinary opportunity and put the crown that is on your head at Jesus’ feet. Surrender your life to Him.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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People who missed a great opportunity to have the Savior in their house

In Brazil we decorate for Christmas, but not like here. People here take Christmas decorations to the extreme. I remember the first time that I saw that. We had an American missionary friend in Brazil, and I went to his house a few times. So I was familiar with what the house looked like. Until the day that I went there during the Advent season. It was another house. All the decorations were changed, lights, trees, presents, etc. I hardly recognized the place. It was a cultural shock for me.

By now your house, if your family is an average one, is totally decorated for the Christmas season. Santa, trees, lights, and if you are a religious person, you will have a manger scene somewhere there.

We all know that most of the symbols of Christmas that we use come from pagan traditions. With that said, I would like to ask this: How many Christian symbols do you have in your house? Are they in the most visible or important area of the house? How do they compare with the other symbols?

Christmas is about one person – Jesus. He really is the reason for the season. Unfortunately, we are missing the opportunity to have Him in our house during the season.

This reminds me of the original Christmas story, when Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to stay and they could not find any, so they had to stay in a cave where the animals were sheltered. You can read the story in Luke2: 1-7.

At that time, in a small town like Bethlehem, they did not have a traditional or regular Inn. What they had were homeowners who would build extra rooms in their houses to make some extra money during the religious holidays. Joseph, Mary, and their son Jesus could not find a home to entertain them, so the cave with a manger was the best that they could have.

That family that owned the manger missed the opportunity to have the Son of God born inside their house. Can you imagine that? If they knew that that little boy was the Son of God, they probably would give their best room and serve them with the best that they had. Do not get me wrong; if we were in that situation we would do the same.

So, where is Christ during this season? Is He present in your house? Is He present in your family? Is He present in your life? Does He have the preeminent place? Is He celebrated, worshiped, and followed? Are you replacing Him with other symbols, characters, celebrations, and parties?

During this season, do not miss the opportunity to have Christ in your house, in your family and in your life. Make an extra and intentional effort to bring Christ back to Christmas. That boy came to be the Savior, the Emmanuel – God with us. So when Christ is in your life, it means that God Himself is present with you.

My friend, celebrate Christmas in the best way you can, but do not forget that Christmas is Christ. Because of that move Him to the center of your festivity and put Him in the first place in your life.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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People who missed a great opportunity to see

“The worst blind is the one who doesn’t want to see!” This is a very famous Portuguese saying. Unfortunately it is based on an allegedly true story. In the 16th century a French doctor was able to perform a surgery that cured a blind man. The surgery was a success, everybody was happy but the patient. The world that he saw horrified him. He was so desperate that he asked the doctor to reverse the surgery or to remove his eyes. When the doctor said that he would not do it, he took the case to Paris and Vatican courts. The courts gave victory to the man and his eyes were removed. In this way he became the first blind man who did not want to see.

That saying applies to circumstances when people have the truth right in front of them and they just do not want to see it. They refuse to accept the truth

In the Advent story we have something like that. When the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the Messiah, King Herod heard that and he was extremely disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. He then called all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law and asked them where the Christ was to be born. Here is their answer: “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:5-6.”

It is important for us to understand that during that time the leaders, priests, teachers of the law, and the people were expecting the coming of the Messiah. The Messianic hope was very alive and well. This explains the answer that Herod received from the leaders.

For Herod, Jesus was just a competitor, someone who came to take his power away from him, but for the priests and the teachers of the law he was the long awaited Messiah. The Kingdom of God was at their doorsteps. The problem is that they could not see it, or more probably they did not want to see it.

In all of the Gospels we do not have any reaction from those leaders searching and trying to find out what the Magi was talking about. The only reaction was from Herod trying to kill the boy.

Jesus, the Messiah, was right there a few miles away. The Magi gave them a very impressive sign and the prophecies confirmed their narration, but they decided to ignore it. They just did not want to see it.

How many times have you been in this kind of situation? The Word of God was very clear, wise people close to you confirmed it with their wisdom, but you decided to ignore and to continue in the path that you designed for yourself.

Have you ever talked with someone and were able to share the Good News with him or her in a very clear way, just to hear the answer: “No, I still can’t believe what you are saying is the truth”? Or, “I still do not understand.” The truth is right in front of them but they just cannot see or they do not want to see it.

During this season I hope and pray that you will be able to see how much God loved you and also you will be able to share that love with other people.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Give Thanks! (Part 2)

Maybe you do not know, or are not aware, or are not sure, or you just cannot see, but there is an invisible hand over you and behind you to protect, to guide, and to help you on your journey.

1. Give Thanks For What God Does

In the Scriptures we find this sentence repeated many times, “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. Psalm 107:8.” It seems that the psalmist want us to know two basic things about gratitude. One is that we should give thanks for who God is, and give thanks for His love, says the writer. God is love and we should thank Him for that. The second thing that the psalmist says is: give thanks for his wonderful works to humankind.

Because God is God, and everything that He does is good and perfect, we should give thanks to Him. Sometimes we are not thankful because we do not take time to think and ponder on everything that God has done for us.

Just take a moment and meditate on a few areas of your life where God did something. Some areas will seem insignificant, and other areas will be of an extreme importance. Do not worry, just make a small list for today, and thank God for what He did or is doing in your life.

Let me help with a few topics:

1. Your spiritual journey – how much has He done in this area for you? He saved you. He put people in your life to teach about Him and His Word. He gave you gifts and talents to be used in His Kingdom. He adopted you into His family, and the list can go on and on. Maybe you should make a list of some of those things that God did for you and thank Him.

2. Your health – It is important for us to understand that we live in a broken and fallen world. We are getting old, our bodies are in some way deteriorating, but even so, we are still alive. Medicine is getting better each day. We are living longer and better, and because of that we should be thankful. Could you name an area of your health that you should be thankful about right now?

3.Your family – Most of us still have their parents alive. Some of us have their grandparents alive. Our spouses, our children are blessings from God, and we should be thankful for them. What specific thing is God doing in your family that you should thank Him for?

4. Your finances – “Yeah! right! We are in the middle of a huge financial crisis and you want me to be thankful?” Well, maybe you are right. But wait a moment, did you eat today? Do you have a job? Some of us are still looking for one, but God has been faithful, and He is providing for us. We do not live in the home of our dreams, but we have a shelter. God did not promise to give us everything that we want, He promised that He would take care of us, and for that we should be thankful.

As you can see my brother and sister, even though we sometimes do not see His hands, they are there in our lives, protecting, helping, and guiding us.

Take a moment in your busy day, and give thanks for what God did and is doing in your life.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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