READ: Matthew 5:17
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
Jesus is beginning his public ministry and it was important for Him to state what He came to do. He protests against the thought of cancelling and weakening the OT. But by his setting up to be a teacher in opposition to the scribes and Pharisees, some might charge him with an intention to destroy their law, and to abolish the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really to fulfill or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets. The OT prophets wrote many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by His life and His sufferings.
As we see the prophecy fulfilled, reflect on the great sacrifice that was made on your behalf. God’s love for you is really unfathomable!
Find someone you can share that love with today. It will be so exciting to have many opportunities to share on this trip.
The third day of clinic an older lady had been seated in a chair in front of me for a dental extraction. I looked at her form to see if she needed spirtual counseling and saw that she was a Christian. As soon as I mentioned I had noticed she was already a believer, she took over the conversation. She shared with me that I was her brother because we were both Christians. She pointed up as she told me about the power of Jesus and the joy she had. Then she looked at me with piercing eyes and reached up and patted me on the heart as she told me how much she appreciated our team coming to Brasil to minister to others. She said it was evident we had Jesus in our hearts because we had made such a long journey. She said we were doing a great work in the community. Then she looked up and continued to pat on my chest over my heart as she pronounced a blessing on me. I remember the first time I came to Brasil. I felt as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders as I boarded the airplane in Atlanta, because I thought it was my responsibility to take Jesus to Brasil and I felt so inadequate.
I remember how shocked I was to find out that Jesus was already alive and well in Brasil. I guess I was just a typical American and thought somehow we were the only ones that had Christ. To my amazement I encountered spiritual giants in Brasil that first year. Now after several trips I know we do not have all the responsibility to bring Jesus to Brasil. All we have to do is be willing to go and be used in God’s plan.
READ: Matthew 5:16
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The simplicity of the children’s song, “This little Light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” says a lot. Our light is to shine, “till Jesus comes” so that “others may see our good works.” Our works are not to be seen and praised by men. Our works, as a fruit of the Spirit is to bring honor to God and to influence others to glorify Him. Our life is to be holy, pure and faithful, which will bring honor and glory to Him. Matthew Henry states, “The glory of God is the great thing we must aim at in everything we do in religion.”
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11
Are my good works motivating others to see the power of God’s grace? Think of how you need to be aware of not just serving and doing for the sake of “doing.” Help me to “do” by being filled with the Spirit and “serving” as the Lord leads.
Pray that God will show me how to serve with pure motives.
On the last day of clinic, I had a 5-year old girl help lead her dad to Christ. When my translator Douglas and I asked all the adults the question, “What does it take to get to heaven?” The father in the group said, all of his family went to church and that he knew he needed Christ but he just wasn’t ready. Then his 5-year old daughter said that she had asked Jesus into her heart and had asked Him to forgive her. Douglas and I were astounded! We talked to the dad for several more minutes and he was just not ready. We kept talking to the daughter as well and she just kept amazing us with the things she knew. The Dad was so proud of her. I finally asked him, “do you believe that your daughter is going to heaven?” He said, “yes.” Then I asked him if that was the case, “what would happen to you if you died today?” He said he did not know. I asked him did he ever want to see her again, if she was going to be in heaven and he was not. He became convicted at that point and he started crying and said he wanted what she had. Oh the faith of a little child!
READ: Matthew 5:14-15
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
The light of the world physically is our Sun and spiritually is our Savior. Both lights render us visible, showing our form, our nature, our beauty and our deformity. Many of the cities of Judea were placed on the summits or sides of mountains, and could be seen from afar. Jesus physically noting this to His followers is saying, My LIGHT cannot be hidden. Long before, Jesus preached this sermon, Isaiah stated.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Isaiah 60:1-3
REFLECT: As you are rendered visible by God’s light, what does it show? Our time is come. Pray that you can reflect the Light in your life with those that God has put in your path of life.
A small group of 10 of us were selected to go to a Prison to do a mini medical clinic and hold a worship service. We did not know what to expect ahead of time. As we were arriving, we were surprised to not see many guards visible to us. We later learned they were stationed high up on the corners where they could view the prison from above, as there were no roofs. The prisoners were housed on two sides of this prison. An open courtyard/activity area separated the two housing areas. The prison was a contrast between good and evil, light and dark. Without seeing it physically it’s almost impossible to visualize, but the contrast was EXTREME! I was to preach and I was fully prepared, until I arrived and was overcome with the Holy Spirit. Experiencing the prisoners and the situation there, God laid on my heart what to preach at that moment. I’ve never preached in a situation like that, but this was an anointed and appointed time and place. God used us that day to touch many lives, but He also showed us dramatically the darkness and stench of sin as contrasted with the cleanliness and pleasing aroma of a life that is lived for Him. As we went anticipating to be LIGHT to them, many of us were convicted of the LIGHT the Christian inmates showed to us!
READ: Matthew 5:13
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.”
As followers of Christ, we are called to be the “salt of the earth.” As He called His first disciples and told them to ”go into all the world and preach the gospel,” He calls us to do the same. Salt is used for cleansing, flavoring and preserving. Salt as flavor can easily go far and wide, so with that comes our responsibility to share it. When salt lost its saltiness, it was rendered useless. It could not be discarded in a field for it would destroy the field. It could only be discarded in streets to be “trampled by men,” just as those without Christ are doomed to ruin and rejection.
Does your life exemplify the characteristics of good salt? Daily we must be cleansed from our unrighteousness and daily we must seek to be that pleasing “flavor” in other’s lives. As you grow and study, you are able to preserve the saltiness in your life that brings honor and glory to God. Ask God to help you to be the good salt!
Elsa had begged us the day before, to visit her ailing bed ridden Mother. Mrs. Umbelina was 94 years old and lived a few doors down from where had our clinic. We entered the courtyard surrounded by high walls topped with broken glass to a surprise of brightly painted green walls. A dog barked in the corner, as Elsa took us through courtyard and into her den. Her home was cheerful and family photos covered the shelves and wall space. Elsa led us into a small bedroom where her aging mother lay. She slept soundly curled up in a ball with the thickest, glorious white hair framing her very wrinkled face. She looked so peaceful and we urged Elsa not to wake her. Elsa would have none of that. She pulled back the covers to reveal a wounded leg that needed attention. While our Medical Professional tended to the leg, our interpreter helped us get more of Umbelina’s story. Umbelina had been a great evangelist in her community. She had prayed for her people and led many lost souls to Christ. When her wound was cleaned and dressed, I knelt by her bed to thank her for having us in her home. With her cloudy eyes and bad hearing I touched her thick snow white hair and said all I could in her language, “God bless you.”
She smiled and replied, “Jesus loves you.” Her unbelievable grace humbled me and moved me tears. I have learned a phrase in the last few years, “long obedience in the same direction.” It has new meaning now after meeting Umbelina. Without health or strength she is faithful to proclaim the love of Jesus to all she sees and she is known by the mark of Jesus on her life. I am inspired to continue in faith as strongly as I possibly can, to finish well and to leave many behind following the path of righteousness. Umbelina has lived a life being “good salt.” What a testimony!
READ: Matthew 5:10-12
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
As you read this devotional today, there are many followers of Jesus around the world who are trembling in fear for their lives. Some of them have witnessed their fellow church members of loved ones beheaded or imprisoned, simply because they chose to place their faith in Jesus. It is hard for American Christians to fathom what true persecution is like, but it is a reality for a record number of followers of Jesus today. While we do not experience severe persecution in America or even in Brasil, true followers of Jesus living in this sinful, fallen world experience intimidation and unfair treatment every day. We must realize that Satan will try to discourage and paralyze us in many different ways. That is why our daily walk with God through His Word and prayer is vital. Without depending on Him, we are doomed to fall victim to a Satanic attack and find ourselves spiritually unable to reach others for Jesus.
Do I pray enough for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? Set aside time today to pray for Christians in countries where it is illegal, even punishable by death, to follow Christ.
Am I aware of the ways Satan is trying to intimidate me and paralyze me, and am I praying about it? Spend some time asking God to help you with challenging people or situations that Satan is using to hurt you and paralyze you spiritually. Pray for your enemies today. Ask God to open their eyes and to help them to follow Jesus.
Pastor Douglas also took Sharon and team members to the top of the favela, where a few years ago, a mission team from Tennessee and Alabama helped to begin a new church. The new church was located right next to a long established voodoo temple, where Satan worship and animal sacrifice took place for years. As Douglas led the new church to be established, the secretary of the voodoo temple cursed him and the church. As Douglas continued to show love to her and the church people shared Jesus with her, the former voodoo church
secretary became a follower of Jesus, and now serves as the caretaker of the new Baptist Church. Last year, the man who owned the voodoo temple died, and God led the man’s son to think of Douglas as a kind and Godly man. He approached Douglas and offered to sell the entire voodoo temple area to the Baptist Church. Douglas was speechless that a place that had been so opposed to the new church God had planted next door was now being offered to him to be bought. Even though Douglas only had change in his pocket at the time he was approached, he knew that God wanted him to purchase the voodoo temple area and turn it into a lighthouse for Jesus. Douglas stepped out in faith, God provided the money for the down payment, and now what was once a place of evil, sacrifice, sin, and self-mutilation has now become a place where Jesus is proclaimed as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Many of us witnessed the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit as Douglas took us to the very spot where animal sacrifices and Satanic worship had taken place. As Douglas extended his arms toward heaven and shouted that he claimed this place in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit permeated the entire place with His presence. It was God’s confirmation that there is much more work to be done to reach people for Jesus in Costa Barros, and that God has anointed Douglas to reach the thousands of people there with the love of Jesus
READ: Matthew 5:9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Being a peacemaker often goes against every grain of our flesh! Because of our sinful, self-righteous nature, we often want to take what we perceive as unfair situations and resolve them in the flesh without consulting God. If we take difficulties in our relationships into our own hands and forget to follow God step-by-step, disaster and broken relationships are often the result.
Jesus is reminding us in this verse that as children of God, we are to promote unity in the church. We are to be ready to display forgiveness, patience, self-control, and gentleness, even when our flesh is screaming out to start a fight. This doesn’t mean that we are to avoid dealing with sin. It simply means that we are to conduct our relationships with a Christ-like love and demeanor. We are to avoid gossip and talk that will hurt someone. We are to model patience, humility, and flexibility for the sake of God’s work being protected and accomplished.
Is God revealing any areas of my life where I’m promoting strife among others? If you struggle with gossip or complaining (If you’re honest with yourself, we all will admit that we struggle with this), ask God to help you to become more of a peacemaker. Ask Him to help you to be more flexible, gentle, and patient in your church, in your family, and in your ministry experiences that God gives you. Ask God to give us supernatural unity and common purpose as our Brasil mission team works together in sometimes pressure-filled, uncertain situations.
Oh how impressed I have been with our translators. We could never reach the people of Rio without their faithfulness to come alongside us for the week. They travel from all around Rio to work long days with us. They are very sensitive to the needs of the people we talk to, and they show great care and compassion. Many times we don’t realize the sacrifice they make as they leave their regular jobs for a week to serve with our team. We are truly thankful to God that He has given us remarkable, dedicated translators. Please remember to pray for them as they are preparing to serve with us.
READ: Matthew 5:8
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
For all of us, being pure in heart is not possible in our sinful state. Romans 3:23 reminds us, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” However, if you know Jesus personally, there was a point in your life when you earnestly and sincerely sought God’s forgiveness through Jesus. Our hearts are made pure when we turn away from our sin and give control of our lives to Jesus. Because through Jesus’ blood we have been cleansed and purified from our sin, we have the hope of eternal life. We can look forward to seeing God in His glory someday. Even though we are saved and forgiven, probably already by the time you read this today you are reminded of the sinful urges that continue to tempt us. While we still struggle with our old, sinful nature every day we continue to live on earth, we can turn to God daily for cleansing. We can ask Him daily to give us pure motives, an ability to overcome our sinful desires, and the ability to be used by Him to reach others. With His help, we can see people around us through His eyes, and He can use us to be involved in His work to bless others.
Is there anything in my life today that is keeping me from seeing God? Even though you may know you’re a follower of Jesus, you may have allowed Satan to have some strongholds in your life. Make today the day that you let God set you free from bondage. Let today be the first day you experience a new level of freedom in your relationship with Jesus. If you need to, pick up the phone or go and talk to a trusted Christian friend for encouragement and accountability. As we allow God to give us victory over sinful strongholds in our life, we fall in love with Jesus and are used by Him in new and exciting ways.
I was cleaning teeth and saw a man I recognized from the year before. The previous year I had shared the gospel with him and he listened intently yet did not made a decision to follow Christ. I prayed for him and his two daughters the entire year. On Sunday, I noticed that the man’s two daughters were now attending the church and helping to lead in worship. When I saw the man at the clinic I asked if he was attending the church now, he looked down and said no, that he was still not ready. However, he said that every time he walked by or heard the sound of worship from the church, he felt drawn there.
I spent time, sharing, singing, and praying with him, and while he enjoyed our conversation and the fellowship time, he still was not ready to make a decision to follow Jesus. But, he did say that he would like Pastors Douglas and Olivier to visit with him in his home next week. Please pray for this man, that the Holy Spirit would continue to work to point him to Jesus.
READ: Matthew 5:7
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
When God forgave us of our sin through Jesus, He showed us the ultimate example of mercy. He took away the Hell that we deserve and replaced it with countless spiritual and material blessings that will never fade away. If you just take a few minutes and begin to write down the blessings that God has given you, you will soon find that you have literally been flooded with blessings from Him in your life. If you also try to write down why you deserve any of those blessings, you will see that if you are honest, that column will be blank. God has been merciful to us! As His followers, Jesus expects us to, in turn, show this mercy to everyone in our life. We are to be forgiving toward those who hurt us. We are to pray for our enemies. We are to be patient with those who have not yet given their lives to Christ, while continuing to show love to them and to share Jesus with them at every opportunity.
Is there anyone in my life that I need to forgive today? If you choose to not forgive someone in your life who has wronged you, you are being disobedient to God. You are also placing yourself into the bondage of misery and bitterness. This is not God’s will for your life! Let God examine your heart today about anyone in your life that you need to forgive for something. Go to them and offer your forgiveness, and experience the restoration that only God can bring. Ask God to give you a merciful spirit toward those who will do wrong to you today. We cannot live lives of mercy in our own strength. Only with God’s help can we be forgiving toward others. Ask God to spiritually prepare you to be merciful when you encounter difficult people today.
The woman who sat in front of me the 2nd day of clinic had pictures of her children and one of her husband, in the top pocket of her shirt. As we looked at the photos, I noticed how her eyes seem to become wet with tears. She had come in to discuss her medical condition which was a headache, but God’s Spirit prompted me to ask her what was really troubling her. She shared how her husband had left her and the children to pursue an adulterous relationship, leaving her with little means to take care of the physical needs of the children. She shared that she woke the night before feeling that she needed to come to the clinic and that God was trying to get her attention.
At this point, I shared with her about a God who had loved her so much that He would send not only a group of imperfect Americans to Brasil just to have a divine encounter with her, but more importantly He sent His Only Son to die for our sins. God so desired a relationship with her that He awakened her in the middle of the night and compelled her to come to the clinic that day to hear of this great love. She listened and realized what an amazing love God had, not only for her, but also for her family. After she prayed to receive Christ, she said that she did not feel that she would need the medicine that I had prescribed for her headaches because she no longer had a headache. She returned during the week and shared how her children had noticed that when she had returned from clinic, she had a changed countenance on her face and they knew that something was different about her.
READ: Matthew 5:6
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
The Pharisees proclaimed to be filled with righteousness brought about by their own works. Jesus referred to them as a “brood of vipers!” (Matthew 23:33) The truth is that as people, we are all sinful and there is “none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) We are in need of God’s righteousness for our salvation when we come to Jesus for the first time. Also, as born-again followers of Christ, we cannot live a victorious daily Christian walk on our own. We must constantly let God help us overcome our sinful flesh, dying to ourselves and letting Jesus live His life through us. Paul says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:24-26)
Am I hungry for God’s righteousness in my life? Are you daily asking God to help you crucify the sinful desires of your flesh, and letting the Holy Spirit fill you and direct you to live your life with God’s priorities and God’s power? Am I burdened over the things that burden God? Our flesh treasures things and self-indulgence, but God treasures people. He desires that people come to know Him personally, and we are His called-out servants to accomplish this task. Am I letting God lead me to pray for people on His heart, and then to go and reach them? Spend time letting God lead you to change your priorities and to intentionally reach out to share Jesus with someone in your life.
Roger from afar, looked like a typical handsome, athletic 18 year old Brasilian man. Dr. Page introduced him to me and asked me to see him for severe varicose veins. Immediately I noted he had scars on his inner thigh as I examined his veins. When asked about them, he responded, “those scars are from injuries.” I had trouble getting Roger to look me in the eye, but when he would, I noticed a glassy nature to his eyes. Tania, a faithful translator and nurse, assisted me in fitting him with compression hose. We discussed his medical conditions and lifestyle changes that needed to occur for his overall health.
We noted that he was not a believer, yet seemed embarrassed and ashamed when we talked to him. At that point, we introduced him to Wesley, a young leader in the church. Wesley was aware of Roger’s cocaine addiction and his struggle to overcome it. Wesley is burdened for his community and the people of Costa Barros. So many people live in desperation there. The same is true everywhere though. How burdened are we for those who are desperate right around us?
READ: Matthew 5:5
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”
Many people misperceive meekness as weakness. Meekness actually requires the Holy Spirit to bring us into a place of submission to God’s will in our lives. Jesus is the perfect example of meekness when He continually chose to submit His will to the will of the Father. When tempted, He used the Word of God to defeat Satan. He had perfect self-control and never sinned. He was obedient to do His Father’s will, even to the point of dying for us on the cross. We would never say that Jesus was weak. In His meekness, He accomplished the salvation of the human race, and He now sits at the right hand of God the Father. He will one day soon take the title deed to the universe and return to set up His physical Kingdom here on earth. Since we have submitted our lives to God through Jesus, we will reign with Him! We can also serve Him obediently today.
Am I letting God determine my priorities? Ask God if you are letting Him decide what your personal priorities are in every area of your life. Are you using your talents, resources, and spiritual gifts to impact people for Jesus, or are you choosing to indulge yourself? We all struggle with this every day. Ask God to help you be completely surrendered to Him in every area of your life.
In my trying to manage time and people I almost missed my “appointment” to lead a sweet lady to the Lord. It was one of the first groups coming through the line that day to the eye clinic. A group of 4 ladies and one man came through, and Lance noticed there was no indication on their form that they had been through evangelism. In my haste, I hadn’t noticed so I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll be glad to share.” I asked if I could tell them a “Love story.” I shared with them the love that God has for all of us and He gave His only Son for all our sins. As I continued on with the plan of salvation, one precious lady raised her hand with tears in her eyes and wanted to pray the sinner’s prayer. I was reminded, how many times do I miss opportunities just because of not taking time to listen to the Holy Spirit?