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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Give Thanks! (Part 1)

In a time when people believe that they are entitled to almost anything, it is hard to cultivate a thankful heart, not only for people that do something for us, but principally for God. On top of that we can add the daily struggles that each one of us is facing, such us unemployment, illness, finances, stress, disappointments, etc.

1. Give Thanks For Who God Is

When we look around and see all the difficulties and struggles that we are facing, it is hard for us to look up and be thankful. Someone already said: “Do not look at the size of your problems, but the size of your God.” If we want to be thankful we need to start thanking God for who He is.

The psalmist wrote: “Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1.” When we look in the Scriptures we find a God who is good. We also learn that His love endures forever. But there are other attributes in our God that help us to be thankful.

He is powerful. Sometimes when we face difficulties, we feel that nobody can help us, even God. When we understand and believe that God, our God is a powerful God, a God who created the whole universe and maintains control over everything by His providence, then we can start to be thankful.

He is also merciful and gracious. Someone said: “Grace: Where we get what we really don’t deserve. Mercy: Where we don’t’ get what we really do deserve.” Yes, that is a great definition of both words. God gives us so many things that we do not deserve, and we should be thankful for that. We also, because of our human and sinful nature deserve judgment, and we do not get it, because of His wonderful mercy.

But for me, one of the most crucial and beautiful characteristics of our God is His presence with us. When we face hard times we lose the ability to feel or even believe that God is with us during those times. One of the most beautiful promises that we find in the Scriptures is the one that God made to Abraham: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… Genesis 28:15.” Isn’t that great, to know that God, the powerful one, the creator of the universe, the merciful and gracious, is with you and will watch over you wherever you go?

My brother and sister, no matter what you are going through in your life, you still have many reasons to be thankful, and one of them is for who our God is. So, Give thanks to the Lord!

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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My New Book

“Happy holidays!” “Have a wonderful holiday season!” “Seasons greetings!” or just “Bah, humbug!” Christmas is loosing its central point. A celebration that became the epitome of Christianity now is just another holiday. Christmas is about Christ, His life and His message. This book offers some meditations about Christmas and suggestions on how to make it a Christian Holiday again.

Friends, here is my new book. Click on the image

 

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Limping your way in the Kingdom

Our generation places great value on those who are the healthiest, the strongest, the fittest, the youngest, and the smartest, leaving behind a throng that do not fit in this mold anymore. In this new era there is no room for aged, weak, small, sick, or people to are not used to the new gadgets.

When we turn to the Scriptures we find, almost without exception, among the heroes that are people that were hurt, small, old, too young, female, and sometimes not the smartest ones around.

The story of Jacob (Genesis 32), is a very good illustration of that. After fleeing from the wrath of his brother, finally the day to face him arrived. On the evening before that, he had a fight with the Angel of the Lord. The Angel touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. The Angel changed his life and changed his name, calling him Israel.

Isn’t interesting that God sent him to meet the biggest threat of his life limping? This should put things in perspective for us. If we believe in God and if we trust in Him, it does not matter our health, size, age, gender, or anything else. It is God who will take care of us, and it is HE who will use us.

Sometimes people will look down on you. They will think and sometimes say that you are not fit to serve in this or that ministry. They will give you the impression that because of you the rest of the team, or church will need to slow down and set a different pace. Guilt will be the weapon that they will use against you. They will make you feel bad. They won’t get rid of you, but they will push you away or aside as much as they can. Sometimes people just decide to leave.

Unfortunately, many people in our churches left and are leaving because they do not fit the spiritual, ministerial, or current profile. They cannot run any more. They do not understand all the terms and technologies that are taking over the world. THEY ARE LIMPING.

If you think that you are among those who are limping, let me tell you something, you are in great company. Abraham limped in age. Jacob limped literally. Moses could not speak well. David was too young. Ruth was a foreigner. Esther was a slave girl. Peter and some other apostles were unschooled, and the list goes on and on. Those hurdles were not enough to stop God.

If God wants to use you, no matter who you are, and how capable or not you are, He will use you. Even though you are limping and can no longer run, do not  give up, do not stop, do not leave. There is a place for you in the Kingdom of God, and He will use you.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Probably some of you remember the 1980s sitcom Cheers. The music theme, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, was “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”. It goes like this:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

and they’re always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see,

our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows

Your name.

You wanna go where people know,

people are all the same,

You wanna go where everybody knows 

Your name.

In that case it was a bar where people would meet for a drink, tell their stories and interact with each other. It was a very successful sitcom back then.

It is sad that people would need to go to a bar to be known by their names. The church was supposed to be that place, where people know each other, help each other, and grow together. This is what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:16.”

Unfortunately, people are leaving churches where they can be known by name to go to huge churches where they become unknown. They just disappear into the crowd. They do not want to get involved. They do not want to have relationships. They do not want to help someone to grow or to be helped in their spiritual growth.

Churches are becoming impersonal. People get there almost on time for the service. The lights are dimmed down, so you do not see people around you. You see only the band and the pastor and when it ends you pick up your stuff and kids and go home, only to come back next week.

If you are a Christian, a seeker, or just curious about Christianity, you need to know that when you become a Christian, you automatically become a member of His church. Being a member of His church means that you will be under the spiritual leadership of someone, you will have fellowship with other Christians for mutual support and growth, and you will be involved in His mission.

Maybe you did not get the memo. Maybe you thought that church was just one hour a week and you would be allowed to skip as many as you want if you did not like the message, or the people, or something else. Church is not a club. The church is the assembly of the people that were saved by Jesus’ grace. They gather together to worship, to support each other, to grow together, and to do HIs mission.

Are you going to a place on Sundays where they know you by name? Do you know them by name?

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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When God Calls Our Name

Abraham, Moses, Samuel and Paul are among those people who heard the voice of God in a special way. God called them to a different place and life, to a mission, to become a prophet and judge, and to become an apostle of the new community of disciples. We could mention many others but these will give us an idea about the call of God. Sometimes we think that God calls only special people. Other times we think that His calls were limited to biblical times. We could not be more wrong. God is still calling people.

God did not stop calling people by name, but He has been doing this in a different way. Today it is the Spirit who lives inside of us who calls us. The Spirit is that voice that guides us through our hearts and minds. It comes through reading, studying, and meditating on the Scriptures, with an impression of His hand on our hearts. Other times it is just that small voice telling us where to go or what to do. We know when He is calling. The problem is not the calling, the problem is with us.

Sometimes we do not hear because of the background noise. We live in a noisy world. Right now as I am writing this, I have a fan on, the A/C is on, the computer is making noise, and people in the other room are talking. There are other kinds of noise that muffle the sound of God’s voice. They are emotional noises, intellectual noises, and spiritual noises. With all of them, it is hard to hear His voice.

Sometimes we hear but we do not respond because we are busy. When was the last time that you stopped and listened to the voice of God? The system of this world is accomplishing its task to impede us from hearing and responding to God’s call. You heard His call, but you cannot do anything right now because your schedule is full. It is like sending God to the end of the line, and ask Him to wait a little bit more. Some of us have a call from God that was issued a long time ago, and God is still waiting for our answer.

Sometimes we do not hear because we do not want to answer. Some of us try to keep busy and to stay around as much noise as possible because we do not want to answer God’s call. It is like we almost know what He will ask and we do not want to go or to do it. We have a different agenda in mind. We have our own plans, our own life to live, and we do not want to change that with what God has for us. On the other hand some of us are just afraid of what He will ask. We think that He will put us in a bad situation, and ask something very difficult.

My friend, maybe you are not listening God’s call for you because of the noise. Maybe you are too busy, or maybe you do not want to hear. This does not mean that God is not calling you. Some of you have been called a long time ago, and God is still waiting for your answer. Some of you have a new call coming up. My advice for you is to open your ears and heart, to listen to His voice, and after listening, respond.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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