Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I Need More Faith!

Image from angusday.org

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’ (Luke 17:5-10)

Sometimes it is easier to order a tree to uproot itself and move somewhere else, than it it to forgive.  Jesus had just called the disciples to be people of continual forgiveness, and they ask for more faith.  They knew who they were dealing with and living among, and so they know they need more faith just to comply with all that Jesus has asked of them.  Jesus again speaks of discipleship and the difficult it is to be just a believer and more so to be a disciple; we can't expect a place of honor when the work we are to do is that of a servant; and work that is expected to be done.

If you want to see servants at work, find a church that truly takes the teachings of Jesus seriously; you will see work beyond its campus, things given away, not sold, lives who will never step foot inside their worship space receiving blessing after blessing, and those doing that are doing it out of love and not thinking, "What's in it for me?"  And these are also people who know how to forgive, for they themselves have been forgiven.

What "mulberry tree" in your life needs to be uprooted?  It's probably one that enjoys prime real estate in your life and you need it removed and out of sight so that you can get on with living the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER:  Loving God, help me remove the mulberry tree in my life that is blocking my view of what could be.  Help me to be a person of forgiveness and service, obedient to You and Your ways.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Weeping Prophet

Image from midwaypresbyterian.org

I drown in grief. I'm heartsick. Oh, listen! Please listen! It's the cry of my dear people reverberating through the country. Is God no longer in Zion? Has the King gone away? Can you tell me why they flaunt their plaything-gods, their silly, imported no-gods before me? The crops are in, the summer is over, but for us nothing's changed. We're still waiting to be rescued.  For my dear broken people, I'm heartbroken. I weep, seized by grief. Are there no healing ointments in Gilead? Isn't there a doctor in the house? So why can't something be done to heal and save my dear, dear people? (Jeremiah 8:18-9:1)

At a very early age I was exposed to the prophet Jeremiah in an indirect way.  Somehow, my mother came to know that Jeremiah was the weeping prophet and whenever we wept, and didn't want a reason to cry, she would ask in español, "Why do you weep, Jeremiah?"  This passage says exactly why this prophet wept so much.  The people had rejected God so much that the prophet asks, "Is God no longer in Zion?  Has the King gone away?"  He goes on to say that their disobedience and rejection of God has become a game; flaunt their idols and forget about God.  This was not fun, nor funny for Jeremiah.  He is heartbroken, weeping with much grief for their rebellion against God.  He asks if there is no balm in Gilead or a doctor who could do something to heal God's people.

I venture to say that Jeremiah would still weep at some of the things going on inside and outside the church.  We're a people that is drifting away from God, along with people who don't care about God, and those who have not yet heard and no one is willing to care enough about them to reach them.

Our prayers should be laments for those lost, and our action should be that that reaches them as quickly as we can.

PRAYER:  Loving God, please heal our hearts and heal our nation.  Help me be aa part of those who reach the lost.  I ask this in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

First Thing I Want You to Do is Pray!

Image from ifitnessnh.com

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.  Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned:  that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us - Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth. (1Timothy 2:1-7) The Message.

Prayer is sometimes the last thing we do.  Say you cut yourself accidentally while preparing a meal.  What's the first thing you do?  Okay, no swear words!  Easier said than done, right?  You wash the cut,  You go to the first aid kit and hope your grandkids haven't taken the last bandaid for their doll or stuffed animals.  You dress the wound.  But what if the cut is deeper than you thought?  The bandaid is soon saturated with blood and you realize you need medical attention...  Okay, sorry for an early morning illustration that may affect your appetite for food.  The point is that sometimes we put prayer at the end of the need.  Paul here says, pray first.  Pray first thing out of bed.  Pray as you start your day.  And he says, "Pray every way you know, for everyone you know."  That is powerful in and of itself.  Add to your prayer list those who rule over us, even for those who run over countries we may not be fond of.  This weekend saw the 15th Anniversary of that tragic day and event we now call 9-11.  And one pastor recalled how another clergy person in the days after in planning a prayer service for the community said, "Don't forget we need to pray for those who are behind this attack."  That might irk some people who don't know better.  I heard a sad illustration just this Sunday as the pastor shared how that week he and another pastor spent time with the K-9 agents of the border patrol.  They started to share how they also spend time with prisoners in the jail.  One of the agents said, "Why do you waste your time on them?  They're locked up for being convicted of wrongdoings against others; they don't deserve your time!"  Sigh.  That agent, the pastor related, is a United Methodist.  

Paul reminds us that Jesus wants us to live as He taught, not as the world teaches.  Jesus said to pray for our enemies, and to visit the sick, those in jail, and to love others as ourselves.   Jesus came to reconcile the world to God; everyone saved, not just us.  It's easier to live as the world teaches, but precisely why Jesus came, to show us a better way, a loving way; a saving way.

PRAYER:  Lord, forgive me the times I have chosen the world, prayed at the very end or when I finally remembered to pray.  Teach me Your ways, help me to love everyone, with no exceptions.  Help me to be part of those who show salvation as something given to me.  In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.  

Eradio Valverde

Monday, September 12, 2016

Money Can't Buy Me Love

Image from angusday.org

Jesus said to his disciples, "There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said, 'What's this I hear about you? You're fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.' "The manager said to himself, 'What am I going to do? I've lost my job as manager. I'm not strong enough for a laboring job, and I'm too proud to beg. . . . Ah, I've got a plan. Here's what I'll do . . . then when I'm turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.' "Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'  "He replied, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' "The manager said, 'Here, take your bill, sit down here - quick now - write fifty.'  "To the next he said, 'And you, what do you owe?' "He answered, 'A hundred sacks of wheat.' "He said, 'Take your bill, write in eighty.'  "Now here's a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way - but for what is right - using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you'll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior." Jesus went on to make these comments: If you're honest in small things, you'll be honest in big things;  If you're a crook in small things, you'll be a crook in big things.  If you're not honest in small jobs, who will put you in charge of the store?  No worker can serve two bosses: He'll either hate the first and love the second Or adore the first and despise the second. You can't serve both God and the Bank. (Luke 16:1-13)

This parable always confuses me; in fact so much so, that I decided to see what The Message version of the Bible says.  It is a bit clearer reading it in this modern paraphrase of The Bible.  Studying some commentary on the passage, one says the point is in verse 8 (Yes, you'll have to use your Bible at home/office to read this again!), and the application in verse 9.  Jesus is trying to prepare his followers for the future.  Jesus knew the way of the world in His times and things have not changed much.  Verse 8 above is the one which says, "Now here's a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager!  And why?  Because he knew how to look after himself.  Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens.  There are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits."  That's the point of this story.  And the application is this:  "I want you to be smart in the same way - but for what is right - using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you'll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior."

The call is to be honest and to be ready.  Planning ahead for all things, especially the things of God is what blesses God, and in the long run, blesses you.  Ultimately, it is to know that the best work is the word done for God and not for money (or the bank); our love should be directly only at God, for God is whom we serve.

PRAYER:  Loving God, help me in my planning and in my day-to-day dealings.  I want to serve and love only You, and not material things.  Help me be right in my heart towards You today, so that as tomorrow comes I might be blessed by You.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, September 08, 2016

God Turns Life Around; Even Yours!

Image from shutterstock.com

Bilious and bloated, they gas, "God is gone." Their words are poison gas, fouling the air; they poison Rivers and skies; thistles are their cash crop. God sticks his head out of heaven. He looks around. He's looking for someone not stupid - one man, even, God-expectant, just one God-ready woman. He comes up empty. A string of zeros. Useless, unshepherded Sheep, taking turns pretending to be Shepherd. The ninety and nine follow their fellow. Don't they know anything, all these impostors? Don't they know they can't get away with this - Treating people like a fast-food meal over which they're too busy to pray? Night is coming for them, and nightmares, for God takes the side of victims. Do you think you can mess with the dreams of the poor? You can't, for God makes their dreams come true.Is there anyone around to save Israel? Yes. God is around; God turns life around. Turned-around Jacob skips rope, turned-around Israel sings laughter. (Psalm 14 The Message)

The Lost think there is no God or that God no longer cares.  I remember the time the New York Times or one newsmagazine quoted, "GOD IS DEAD."  John Lennon infamously declared The Beatles bigger than Jesus. And one person, maybe even in one of your church pews or church chairs is silently thinking things along that line.  It could be a girl who has yet to see a good father in the biological one she has.  It could be an adult man who has lost everything, or so he thinks, and God is to blame.  Something or someone poisoned them and now they are poisoning others.  I've been bing watching a TV show where one of the story lines is this very imperfect preacher who inherited precious land where his church sits and bet an angry man who has long wanted to raze the church.  You see that angry man lost all his family while they were skiing, the gondola fell, killing them all.  When the father of the preacher went to visit him, the only thing the angry man wanted was for the preacher to denounce God from the pulpit. "DENOUNCE HIM AND END THE BIGGEST LIE EVER TOLD!"  You may have felt like that at one time yourself.

The psalmist says that even in spite of our ways and our thoughts, God still loves us, so much so that this version of this psalm says, "God is around, God turns life around.  Turned-around Jacob skips rope, turned-around Israel sings laughter."  I love that imagery.  God is so powerful and yet so merciful He can turn our lives around and give us new hope; so much so the old man Jacob picks up a rope and starts jumping like those happy kids laughing and screaming for joy as they master the art of jumping rope.  And the adults of Israel are so happy seeing the old man jump, they can't help but start singing laughter out of the joy that only God can provide.  

Our job, our joy should be to find the Lost and tell them all about it.  Then sit back and enjoy the rope-jumping and the singing in whatever forms they may take.  God is good.  God is awesome. God is right here.

PRAYER:  Wow, Lord, You are good!  You are awesome,and more importantly, You are right here!  Amen and thank You.  Now let me go forth in joy to find the Lost and tell them all about it.  If I am one of the Lost, help me find You in the real way, so that I can start jumping rope and singing laughter.  I pray this in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Jump rope if you can.  Don't get hurt.  But do find the Lost!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Thankful the Me of Yesterday Stayed There

Image of Bruno Mars from brunomars.com

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-18)

Bruno Mars has played the halftime show of the Super Bowl, and he's a well known, Grammy Award winner.  And his picture appears here for those of you who may not know him and because I share the lyrics of one of his songs: "Oh, oh, oh I, I was a city boy, Riding to dangers where I'd always run a boy who had his fun; But I wouldn't have done all the things that I have done, If I knew one day you'd come."  Later he sings in the same song, "I wish I was seventeen so I could give you all the innocence that you give to me."

The "me" of yesterday was not at all like the me of today.  It's what Paul is saying, and it is what most of us sinners of the forgiven kind say to the Lord, along with "Thank You, thank You, thank You!"  Paul lists just some of his sins:  blasphemer, persecutor, a man of violence.  But notice, "But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of the Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus....Christ came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost (chief)."  Paul uses that status as, as one version has it, "Chief among sinners" so that other sinners can see the love, patience and mercy of Jesus, so that they too can come to believe in Him for eternal life.

Is that you?  I try to show that the oldness and sinfulness of us can stay in the past, and the new journey, the best journey begins with us as new creatures, forgiven and made ready for the journey.  We cannot let the old "me" walk with us any more.  There's a world of lost sinners perhaps waiting for your example to convince them there is hope.

PRAYER;  Like Paul, dear Father, I thank You for not letting the me of yesterday be the me of today.  I sometimes feel like the chief of sinners but for the wrong reason; let it be that You have taken the chief of sinners and made me the chief example of what You are capable of; making us all new.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

PRAYER UPDATE:  Our dear brother, Herman Gorena continues to linger with us and last night his wife asked that we pray for him to receive, in his words, "Peace and rest."  May it be so.  

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Lost.  And Found.

Image from agnusday.org

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’ (Luke 15:1-10)

This passage gives us a wonderful glimpse of Heaven.  It's a place of joy.  And that joy comes when the lost are found.  God put you and me in the Lost and Found business.  You and I were once lost.  You and I are now found.  Our job is to bring joy to Heaven by helping bring the Lost back to God.  Yes, our churches are filled with lost people, but the sad part is that most are comfortable being lost and continuing to "play church."  Some pastors are too.  The Found Department is the one which looks for the lost.  The two parables involve a lot of searching, almost frantic searching.  A lost sheep was a precious thing to those who owned, and especially among the owners those who loved it.  Ninety-nine was not enough if you started with one hundred.  The woman in the second story needed ten coins, not nine, and did not rest until she found that lost coin.  Then all Heaven broke loose with celebration upon its discovery.  

You and I work among the lost.  You and I shop among the lost.  You and I may run along the lost.  And you and I cannot, and should not, rest, until the lost are found.  God cares that much and God's love is that persistent.  And so should we love all, and search for all; until the last one is found.

PRAYER:  Lord, we have much to do.  Give us the courage, the heart, strength, and wisdom to find the Lost.  We can if You come alongside us to help us in this very important search.  This we pray in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, September 05, 2016

Work and Labor are a Part of Life

Image from blog.homerbarrowortho.com

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Col. 3:23 NIV

I thank God for most of the jobs I've had. I've learned from all of them and I'm grateful. I've had a job since I was 9 years old. Juan Chapa hired me, as he had my dad, to work in his store on Saturdays for $1.50. That was great money for a nine year old, and he kept me away from the slicing machine and sharp knives. He taught me a lot; and I learned to tithe starting with the .15¢ that belonged to God from that $1.50, thanks to my mother. Mostly from each job I learned that what my father told me constantly, "You have to go to college so that you won't have to work as hard as me." When he was a milkman I didn't buy that, for I thought that truly was the greatest job in the world. The smell in the creamery when they were making ice cream, the sound of a big truck with which to deliver both milk and ice cream, traveling the roads around Kingsville in that truck; it all added up to dream job. From there I went from making $1.50 a day to $1.25 an hour in Houston working in a rug company. We hand washed Persian rugs that were worth more than I've made in all jobs since then until now. We used toothbrushes, larger brushes, and we lugged those heavy rugs up to a room that had ceramic space heaters stacked three or four tall along all four walls where the rugs would dry. Sermons on hell came to mind every time I stepped into that room.

My hardest job was there summer making casings for huge fans, for these casings were made of fiberglass. Fiberglass was invented in the pits of hell by Satan himself, for it is a material that contains microscopic bits of glass that get into your skin and you itch like the worse disease you can get and not ten showers in one night can remove that itch from you. I was paid well but I left soon; I'd rather make less money and be able to sleep than to believe ants had taken over my bed.

We remember those jobs and those who have worked hard on our behalf. We are thankful that through them God has allowed us to receive that which has provided for our needs. I am thankful for the many jobs my Dad had before and after that dream job. I am thankful for my mother who during my lifetime never worked outside the home, but she did work very hard. I am thankful I married a woman who had her degree and was teaching when we married. Nellie never suffered lack of employment for in all the towns and cities we lived, God opened doors for her to teach. I am thankful that our four daughters are all gainfully employed and all with their degrees. And we await for the jobs that will come to our grandchildren. Our prayer is the same; that they value each job while striving to better themselves and attain whatever education and career they feel called to; and bring a blessing of positive transformation to the world.

Enjoy this day off, those who have it, but pray for those who work today to keep us safe, to keep us well, and to provide for us.

PRAYER: Dear Father, for the memories that have come to us for jobs past, we are thankful. For the current job and career we have, we are also thankful. We pray for those who work today and we pray you keep all safe today we enjoy a day of rest and who travel back to where they live, to start again tomorrow, with work you have provided. In Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed Laboy Day!

Eradio Valverde