Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Will Sing of Your Love Forever

How Do You Express Love?

From Psalms 89: 1-4; 19-26: I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: "I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.' " Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and said: "I have set the crown on one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him; my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him. My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted. I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He shall cry to me, "You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!'

My wife has a collection of letters, poems, silly writings, cartoons, etc. that a certain young pastor wrote to her while trying to woo her. I pray those will be destroyed upon my death. They were expressions of my love to her. In this psalm we see the psalmist expressing his love towards God, and his inclination, given his musical talents, was to sing of his love toward the Lord forever. He would use his vocal abilities to share all about God's faithfulness to all generations. Though his voice is now silent, his words are still with us; and many are those of us who still count the psalms as blessings of inspiration and encouragement.

The second part of this psalm goes into sharing what happened in his own life. God spoke a word of faithfulness to David and his household. The promises shared here speak of what God would do and did do, for David while king of Israel.

What has God done in your life that inspires your creativity and sharing? What is stopping you from singing, dancing, shouting, writing about the faithfulness of God in your life? Whom has you blessed with your message about God lately?

PRAYER: Come, Holy One, into my heart in ways that inspire me to shout and proclaim of Your love and faithfulness to me and my house. Let me speak a word of inspiration and encouragement to others today; in Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

From Pasture to Palace. Never Forget God!

Journey a Thankful Path with the One Who Guides You Always

From 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16: Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, "See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent." Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you." But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Those children who grow up in Sunday school or in the church usually know the answer to Where is God? Most will say, "God is everywhere!" And indeed God is everywhere. In the Old Testament history, God never wanted a house, to limit the answer to that question, as in, Where is God? "God is over there in that house/building." God never wanted a throne either, the closest God allowed was the ark of the covenant, built like a throne, but with the knowledge that God doesn't sit much. That changed in this setting, where David is settled in his palace and the thought came to him that God was still in a tent. David's intention was to build God a proper house, a temple where God could be worshipped and whose presence through worship could be felt and experienced. God's word came back through the prophet Nathan, who asked David the question God asked, "Are you the one to build me a house to live in?" Nathan was reminded by God that He had not had a house in the entire time the people of Israel had known Him. In fact, God turned around the desire of David to bless God into God's desire to bless David. God did so by reminding David where he was when God first called him, and the journey David had taken, thanks to God, from the pasture to the palace. And God declares that the house that would be established is David's house, meaning his descendants would be taken care of by God.

What's your journey been with the Lord God? Have you started out in a pasture, and all that image brings to mind? Alone, in a field with animals and their waste products, though perhaps not literally, but you may have been there spiritually, when God first called you out? Have you battled more than your share of giants? Have you engaged in many battles, and been victorious because of God? And do you find yourself now "settled in a house" like King David? Seek to bless the Lord and many times you will be the one blessed. Seek to build a house of God, and God will establish your house. You can't outgive God!

PRAYER: Awesome God, thank You for the journey You have traveled with me. As I am reminded of the places and people we have seen and met, no one has come close to blessing me like You. Guide me farther, and more faithfully, to where You would have me be. This I pray in the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Update: Rev. Harold Onwiler's surgery went well, and he is resting in Austin and should be home when the doctors say he is ready. Pray that he listen to the doctors.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

To God Be the Glory!

May we be as wise as those who sought Him that night...

God is Worthy of our Praise

From Romans 16:25-27: Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

"Do you have any prayer requests?" I asked a woman on Saturday. "Yes," she replied immediately, "Pray for the world." Indeed. The world needs this prayer of Paul; I need this prayer of Paul. We need to recognize that we are weak in so many areas and it is showing in the world today. We've become weak in sharing the gospel and in proclaiming Jesus Christ. We're making the mystery stay secret to those who need to hear it. Glory is something we're seeking, rather than giving it to God.

God has made His wisdom available to us, and what have we done with it? Paul's prayer comes at the end of his gospel to the people of Rome. His list on instructions share the names of so many who were active and working for the good of the gospel in the capitol of the greatest nation in the world at that time. These were the wise, who had taken advantage of the Truth once shared with them, and they knew it was to God's advantage and theirs, to share it with all who would listen. The gospel brings hope, joy, and peace, and as we pray for the world and ourselves in it, we know we need of these things as well.

This epistle lesson comes after the announcement to Mary that she would bear this wonderful son for the good of the world. May our lives be part of the prayer that helps save the world from itself, and saves it to God.

PRAYER: Loving God, to You be all honor and glory. May Your strength be ours, as we seek to proclaim Your love through Jesus Christ to all the world. This we pray in His holy and strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Request: Please keep Rev. Harold Onwiler in your prayers this morning as he undergoes a heart procedure in Austin, Texas. Also, keep his sweet wife, Roma, in your prayers. May God bring healing to Harold and peace to Roma.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Am I Dreaming?

Eliana, my granddaughter with her contagious laugh!

The Fullness of Life is Like a Dream

From Psalm 126: When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

You've had those moments, and I have had those moments, when we think, "This just seems too good to be true!" It was when Nellie and I first started dating that we would tell each other, "Pinch me, because I think I'm dreaming!" And yes, several times, we would. Not hard, thank God! It was as if to say, "This just seems too good to be true." And for the sinner who awakens to find his/her sin removed, it seems just too good to be true. For the captive in life-threatening vices, who discovers that she/he has been released, again, too good to be true. For the patient who gets the notice of remission or healing, again, yes, too good to be true. The psalmist knew those moments, and he writes almost wishing the people of God would know that feeling when their "fortunes" were restored. Laughter should follow, as should jumping and leaping as we praise God for God's restoration of our lives to that level marked "Full."

Advent continues that journey of expectation and hope, that those who do not yet know the goodness of God might come to know and come to have their hearts and lives re-set to Full. May the tears cried in sorrow turn to great shouts of laughter; and may that laughter be contagious to those around us. This is just too good to be kept to ourselves.

PRAYER: Awesome God, what joy has come to us who have been forgiven, healed, restored, reconciled to You, and the list continues; let our tears turn to joy and laughter, and the kind of laughter that makes others notice and turn to You. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hope and Joy in the Midst of Life

Image from Agnusday.org

Listen, Learn, Live the Way of the Lord

From Isaiah 61:1-4; 8-11: The LORD God's spirit is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for Zion's mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the LORD to glorify himself. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past. I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and dishonesty. I will faithfully give them their wage, and make with them an enduring covenant. Their offspring will be known among the nations, and their descendants among the peoples. All who see them will recognize that they are a people blessed by the LORD. I surely rejoice in the LORD; my heart is joyful because of my God, because he has clothed me with clothes of victory, wrapped me in a robe of righteousness like a bridegroom in a priestly crown, and like a bride adorned in jewelry. As the earth puts out its growth, and as a garden grows its seeds, so the LORD God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations.

The Lord Jesus stood up in worship one day and read this passage from the prophet Isaiah, and then He shocked those listening by saying that this scripture was fulfilled on that day. He was saying that the scripture was being fulfilled in Him, but those who knew Him were distracted by the fact He was the son of a carpenter. The truth is every time you and I read this and accept it and live it, the passage again is fulfilled. You and I have the awesome responsibility of sharing God's liberating truth: God's Spirit can be upon us, and we can be the bearers of the good news to the poor, to help the brokenhearted heal, to declare freedom to those held in captivities of all kinds; even freedom for those imprisoned in prisons with no locks. That is Good News.

I heard from a struggling small church last night that once a month they do a food pantry. People in that small town line up as early as 2 a.m. to make sure they receive a box of food. As this church has been doing this, the people they are helping have come to ask them for a Bible study. The sad thing is that those who help in the food distribution say they don't know how. Part of my message to them is that they do know how, for God is with them and will give them the words. Imagine how many of those lined up for physical food stand in need of the Good News? How many of those have hearts broken? How many are trapped deep in the clutches of a powerful, demonic vice? How many in the prisons of hatred, revenge, and anger? The need is there. The need is right around you as well. Open your mouth, for God has filled it with the words you can share to bring Good News to all.

PRAYER: Lord, Advent is a time of preparation for Your coming. It is also a time to remember You came a first time and left us with things to do until You return. Help us get busy. In Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Update: Alison Singleton's surgery went well, and we thank God. Thank you all for your prayers!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

An Advent Checklist

Image from http://heatherlydee.blogspot.com

Begin with Never-ending Joy!

From 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

As now who travels constantly, that first ten miles are the most difficult. I have a mental checklist of things that I should have packed, and then to help stress myself more, I ask if I left the stove on. Nellie, who travels with me, will help in this as well. Years ago, I printed out a literal checklist that I had on my dresser of absolute essential items that needed to accompany me on whatever trip I was taking. This journey of Advent, the writer of Thessalonians say, has its own checklist of those things that absolutely must travel with us for our own good.

The first is a joy that won't quit. I have joked with some of my pastors and said that I want to publish a coffee table book called "Faces in the Choir." With no particular church in mind, there have been some moments in worship that I, as a worshipper, have noticed that perhaps the preacher has not. Most in the choir kept a cherub's face, holy and blessed, thankful to be sitting where they're sitting. Some, and these are the ones I want in the picture, let's just say have other things on their mind, with joy being the farthest thing from their mind and heart. This holds true for those in the congregation as well; sometimes me too. Joy in the morning blesses us, and for this Advent to make it a part of a daily checklist, will bless us these days as we await the birth of Jesus and as we await the Lord's return. The second item is to "pray without ceasing." We need to stay connected with God. I preached bilingually at the district conference of El Valle District and God gave me the illustration for a church that does not pray, as being an aquarium filled with fish and no water. A person that does not pray is like a fish out of water, flopping around, fighting for breath that can only be found in the water. And a fish, like an aquarium, without water soon stinks. Pray without stopping! The third is that attitude of gratitude that runs through most of the Bible. We are recipients of God's grace and blessings. We should give thanks to God for everything; the good and the not-so-good. I asked one pastor struggling in his church if he ever said from the pulpit if he was thankful to be the pastor there. The answer was obvious. I replied, "From now on, starting with this Sunday, first thing you say from the pulpit is 'I am so thankful to be your pastor and to be in this church!' Now, you may not mean it, but you keep saying that and thinking that and before too long, you won't be lying about that anymore."

God's will is for our attitude to reflect all that was mentioned above; a joyful, prayerful, thankful life. This helps us in our worship life as we listen to sermons and read books of inspiration. We should seek to find and hold on to the good that is out there, and do our best, with God's help to stay away from every kind of evil around us. God will make us holy in every aspect of our lives, and our souls will be, as the writer says, "sound and blameless" when Christ comes again. God is faithful and will provide all these things. Our job is to ask and receive these things.

PRAYER: Awesome God, what a joy it is to be in prayer with You. Increase our joy, make us people of prayer, and grant to all of us an attitude of gratitude; for we know the better our attitude, the higher the altitude we can soar in life. Keep us sound and blameless, for we ask these things in Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Request: My Office Manager's daughter, Alison, undergoes a delicate surgery this morning in San Antonio. Please keep Alison, her husband, children Jenna and Asher, mom Sheila and dad, Don, in your prayers.

Monday, December 08, 2014

I'll Tell You Who I'm Not

Image from stickyjesus.com

Intro to John the Baptist, Witness to Light

From John 1:6-8; 19-28: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord,' " as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

John's Gospel starts on the spiritual level for which it is known; no birth of Jesus story, straight to the facts as he sees them. He does know that the prophet Isaiah did speak a word of one who would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. He also knows that as he reflected back on John's ministry and words, that John the Baptist was a "witness to the light, so that all might believe through him." John, the writer, says that John the Baptist "was not the light," but came to testify to it. John records the interview between the priest and Levites, and John the Baptist, about who he truly was. Question one: Are you the Messiah? John: "I am not the Messiah." Question two: What then? Are you Elijah? "I am not." Question three: Are you the prophet? Question four, and notice their anger getting a bit riled up: Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? John: "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said. Those sent by the Pharisees then asked, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John: "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."

At some point in his life, John came to realize who he was. It took him to the place where he realized what he was not, but was humbled to know the One who was coming behind him. Tradition tells us that John the Baptist and Jesus were related; some say as cousins. In their relationship there may have come that vision or voice that told John all that he was to share on behalf of the Messiah. Also, in that relationship came the realization that this Messiah was an awesome person, and John knew that in the face of this Christ, he was not worthy to even untie his sandals. It was not about position or power for John the B; it was about faithfulness and service. His job was to lift up the Christ, not himself. His job was to give witness about the Christ, not himself. His job was to proclaim an unpopular message that riled up the religious authorities, putting himself at personal risk and danger. And yet, he still was faithful.

Our job as believers is to say, "Let me tell you who I'm all about - Jesus!" Following the model of John the Baptist, we lift up Christ and His love and purpose, while downplaying who we are; we are servants of the Most High, and there is no better place in which to find ourselves. We have lots of work still to do...

Get busy!

PRAYER: Loving God, help me to humble myself in Your presence so that I may lift high the Name and person of Jesus. Help me to be a witness to all the good You have done in my life, so that others may come to life in You. This is my prayer, in Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde