Challenges and opportunities

Last Saturday, a few people from my church and I went to Francisco Morato, a city near São Paulo, to visit one of the facilities of a non-profit organization called JOCUM (short for “Jovens Com Uma Missão”) which is the local branch of YWAM (short for “Youth with a mission”).

Five loaves of bread and two fish
Photo credit: © Anyka – Fotolia.com
At this facility the missionaries work to help and provide for a very poor population (Francisco Morato is one of the poorest cities in Brazil). Their main focus is the children, for whom they provide several activities in order to keep them from drugs and criminality. They have soccer practice, English and Spanish classes, and they also teach them the Word of God.

The vast majority of these children comes from broken homes. In that region, unfortunately, it is common that the father flees and the mother is left behind to care for herself and the many children.

It is overwhelming to see such poverty so close to São Paulo, the richest city in Brazil. Yet, it is reassuring to see the sacrifices that those missionaries face every day in order to reach for those people. I am sure many other missionaries face similar difficulties all over the world at this very moment.

Looking at such poverty and overwhelming need, I kept thinking about how God works.

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I shall not want

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1 – KJV)

Young girl praying
Photo by: ©iStockphoto/AlexMotrenko

This is the first sentence of the most known Psalm in the Bible, Psalm 23. That is such a powerful affirmation! However, the second part of the sentence is sometimes misunderstood.

Most often, people think that it says that the Lord will give them everything they want. They assume that if the psalmist says that they don’t want anything else, that is because they have everything they do want.

Notice that the subject of the second part of the sentence is “I”. “I” is the person doing the action, and the action is “not want”.

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The unlikely adversaries of God

When we talk about the adversaries of God, everyone thinks about Satan and his demons. But the painful reality is that, sometimes, the ones that claim to follow God put themselves in a position that creates opposition to His plans.

Wrestling
Photo credit: prayerfriends (Creative Commons)

One of the most painful experiences I had in the church was facing opposition inside the church against something that I was positive that God had instructed me to do.

The Bible gives us several examples of people who had good intentions, they never meant to oppose God’s will, but in fact they did.

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The rise of the underdog

I love sports, and I enjoy the Olympic Games very much. I like to watch all sports matches whenever I can, even if I don’t have a favorite to root for.

Gold medal
One thing that has always fascinated me is my behavior towards a match where two athletes or two teams that I don’t root for compete. As soon as I know that one of them is the favorite, I start rooting for the other one. Actually, I think most people do the same thing.

In fact, one of the most special moments of sports is, in my opinion, when the underdog beat the favorite one.

But we don’t like it to be unfair. We want the underdog to rise to the occasion and beat the favorite, and do it fairly so.

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Jesus, the promised Messiah who came

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Scriptures scroll
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If you read this verse and you’re not very familiar with the Bible, you might think that it came from the New Testament, because it seems it is talking about Jesus, right?

How about this one:

They pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. (Psalm 22:16-18)

Doesn’t it look like a description of the crucifixion? It does. And that’s because it is.

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Praying and listening

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

Praying
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There are many verses that talk about prayer in the Bible. And some of them, when taken out of context, may give us the idea that God is like a genie: He is there listening to our requests in order to grant them. And it obviously isn’t true.

Praying is not telling God what you want Him to do. It is listening to God to know what He wants you to do. (Click to tweet this quote)

The Easton’s Bible Dictionary has a beautiful definition for the word “prayer” (you can check the entire article here):

Prayer is converse with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him.

Prayer is a conversation, a direct talk between you and God. You talk and you listen, God talks and God listens. He does his part, every single time. Now we need to do ours. We need to talk to Him instead of sending a list of demands, and most of all we need to listen.

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God doesn’t have grandchildren

According to the Bible, God has one son, Jesus Christ. Jesus allows us to be forgiven of our sins and become children of God by adoption (check John 1:12-13).

Hand to the skies
Photo credit: ©iStockphoto/liquedus
The term “children of God” has lost its original meaning along the years. Nowadays, it is common to hear people saying that “everyone is a child of God”, but that is not true (check this post for more details).

The Bible says:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)

Another fact about our relationship with God is that God doesn’t have grandchildren. What I mean to say is that, if a person is a child of someone who has a relationship with God, that doesn’t mean that this person is saved.

Salvation is personal, and so is a relationship with God. It is not inherited from our parents.

We have many examples in the Bible of godly parents whose children got away from God. And unfortunately, that is a common fact nowadays too.

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The difference between liking and loving

When we talk about liking and loving, most people think that the difference between them is the intensity of the feeling, but it actually isn’t. They are quite different in fact, but still most people get them mixed all the time.

Love
Photo credit: Linds (Creative Commons)
I’m not talking only about romantic relationships, this applies to all relationships in our life.

When you like someone, it is all about how that person makes you feel. You are proud of them, you like being near them, talking to them, spending time with them, etc, because they make you feel good.

However, if something happens and that person disappoints you, the feeling you have for them starts vanishing. Why? Because this feeling is based upon what you get from that person, it is conditional.

Liking is about you.

On the other hand, when you love someone, it makes you put that person’s interests before yours. No matter what the person does, even if they disappoint you, you still love them. True ove is unconditional.

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