Monday, May 25, 2015

Nick at Night Made all Things Bright!

Image is from the network Nick@Nite

John 3: 1-17 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Nick at Nite is a television channel devoted to children. It was the favorite of our children as they were growing up and they were exposed to some of the "old" stuff that Nellie and I used to watch; Donna Reed, Dobie Gillis, and many others. I just checked and the channel still exists, though we've not seen that channel on our tv in a long time. I remember the first time a preacher preached on this passage and he called it "Nick at Night," referring to the person and the setting this passage contains. A devout man (Pharisee), who also served on the Sanhedrin, comes to see Jesus at night out of fear. He feared an open, meeting in the middle of the day would expose him to his colleagues and that might not fare well for him. Something was nagging Nicodemus, for it is evident in his opening statement to Jesus: You have come from God; no one could do what you do if they were not from God.

The exchange between the two yields some important truths about our faith: One must be born again (from above, or anew), meaning that keeping an earthly attitude and not letting God transform our lives and thinking will not allow us to understand the heavenly things. Nick didn't get this right away; but Jesus explained it to him. Second, Jesus said who He truly was and where He was from. He also reveals that as Moses brought life to those perishing in the desert by lifting up a serpent, so would Jesus bring life to the perishing by our looking up to Him on a cross. Then, the heavy duty truth; the verse that is perhaps quoted more often from the New Testament: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life." There is is. God's declaration of love as expressed by His only begotten Son. God loves the world. That means, all people, all creatures, all of creation. God does not want any to perish, and so, God offers eternal life. The closing verse of this passage; "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that there world might be saved through Him."

Salvation is ours. Salvation is everyone's who chooses to believe and become what God intended. It is our job to share about salvation with any who will listen. God desires us to be saved away from sin and into the fullness of life, and ultimately that salvation will lead us to eternal life.

PRAYER: Loving God, use me to share what Jesus shared with Nick, but let me hear it and share at all hours of the day. In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.

Eradio Valverde

Monday, May 18, 2015

Guide Me into All Truth

John 15:26-26; 16:4b-15 "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, "Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is when the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven in the form of flames as of fire. The act would be a memorable one and one that Jesus is seeking to prepare His disciples for witnessing and experiencing. In fact, the Gospel of John was placed between the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, believed to have been one volume, because of the emphasis and preparation that John spend on the Holy Spirit. Here is what Jesus shares with us: 1) The Holy Spirit is an Advocate sent from the Father. 2) He is a Spirit of truth who testifies on Jesus' behalf. 3) We are called to share what we know about Jesus because Jesus has been with us. 4) Jesus had to go away in order for the Holy Spirit to come. 5) The Spirit's arrival will do many things that th world doe not already know: a) He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. b) Sin will become real because people will know Jesus. c) Righteousness will be real because Jesus will be God the Father and the Holy Spirit will speak about what is right. d) Judgment is coming to he who rules the world (Satan). 6) The Spirit will guide us into all truth, for what He shares is truth from God Himself. 7) The Spirit will glorify God and this will be revealed to us.

Pentecost Sunday is celebrated because every time the Church invites Him down, He comes. Every time we invite the Holy Spirit in, He enters. And life lived without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is a weak life.

PRAYER: Come, living Spirit, into our lives. May we seek to receive and be all that Jesus prepared at the Holy Spirit's coming. We pray in the strong name of Jesus our Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where Are You Planted?

Psalm 1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Those who delight in all things of the Lord, do well in all places. For they know Who planted them there, and they seek to stay connected, watered, fed, nourished, and grow where they are. Some may blame the place they are for how they are. Others may blame where they came from for the way they are; yet, these are the ones who have not yet fully and truly connected with God. The Psalmist knew the way to connect and delight in the Lord. For him it was to know God's Word. He sought to know more about God with every free moment he had. It may have been one of those moments as he sought to know more about God that he saw the trees planted by a stream. Those trees had roots directly in the source of life, the water, and as a result they were stronger and more alive than those who found themselves far from a stream and who depended more on rainfall. Connected trees are fruitful, and come what may, their leaves do not wither; everything they encounter is a prosperous endeavor. Those who reject the Lord are like trees who dry up easily and just blow away. The psalmist knew that the Lord watches and blesses those who seek Him.

Take a look around where you are. What you see may reflect your relationship with God. If you seek opportunity and blessings waiting to happen, you may be walking with God. If you speak blessings and hope to those around you, you may be listening to God. If you seek to be a blessing to those around you, you are living with God.

PRAYER: Loving and Living God, grant to me the connection of life right from You, the source of life so that I may be a blessing to You and others. This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Adding to Our Number

Our oldest granddaughter, SaraĆ­ Evangelina Cortez, lifting her hand, for she knows the answer! Do you?

Acts 1: 15-17; 21-26 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, "Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry." So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection." So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

"I want you to be on the ground floor of this new and exciting opportunity!" Have you ever heard that and thought, "That's just too good to be true?" You know the rule that says, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't? Imagine being Barsabbas or Matthias. You would probably know Peter, James, and John; and certainly you heard of Judas Iscariot, but more importantly, you know Jesus. You saw, heard, witnessed and believed all things about Jesus. And then you get the offer: Would you like to join the Twelve? How many of you would have said, Yes, I would!

What sort of invitation have you made to others; keeping in mind that you are a believer and follower of Jesus. What evidence have you shown, spoken, or lived that might attract someone to say, "Yes, I'll have what you have!" This work of invitation is not easy, but we should not attempt it on our own. It is Holy Spirit work and work that the Spirit can do for us if we but ask. It should begin with our prayer life where we say, "Make me an example, a living proof of faith that You live in me and that You have blessed me; and let me draw others to You." And then the opportunity and words will come so that you can share with others about fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Awesome God of life, fill me with faith and love. Let the joy that I have from You be evident in a contagious, attractive way so that all the world may come to know You. This I pray in the name of Jesus my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Our Heart's Testimony

Image of Chelsea McMahon and Rev. Greg Hackett, as she shares her testimony at our confirmation rally.

1 John 5: 9-13 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

A little girl was asked to share her testimony in front of our confirmation rally this past Saturday. She was, as all could tell, and as anyone would be, scared to death; but she had a story to tell. Her dad died before she was even baptized. Her story is that she was raised in the church by a congregation that loves her and cares for her. Standing tiny at the pulpit of First UMC-Beeville, she was accompanied by her pastor, whose presence gave her strength and courage to go forward and share what God has done in her life through the witness of those who know and love her.

The presence of God is power; and those who know God, as this passage says, have a testimony to share about God and God's Son, Jesus; and that is a story that needs to be shared. Years ago, the United Methodist Church has a weekend event called the Lay Witness Mission and it was designed to allow people to come and hear the testimonies of people such as themselves about what God had and was doing in their lives. As a result of that weekend, many heard the call into ministry. And who, once they've experienced, cannot but share the truth about God's love and power? This writer says: "And here is the testimony: God gave us eternal life,and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life."

Do you believe? If yes, then you, too, have eternal life. Live like it!

PRAYER: Loving God, for the testimony in my heart, I give You thanks! May I share it with others so that they too may believe in the life that never ends in Jesus Christ; in Whose name I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, May 11, 2015

Not Being Lost in the World

The Confirmation Class of 2015 from St. Luke's UMC in Corpus Christi, with Pastor Paul and Mrs. Tess Allan, and yours truly, in front of the Welcome Center of FUMC-Beeville. This was the largest group present at our Confirmation Rally.

John 17:6-19 "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Some years ago, our firstborn worked for Texas Lutheran University and was on the road a lot. One early morning found her in the state's largest city and she was lost. She called me and asked if I was on the computer and needed help in getting to her first appointment of the day. Being from Houston I know some of Houston; there are some parts I don't know and may never know. However, the Internet and computers have come a long way since then and we also now have GPS apps for our phones and some cars come equipped with those; and she who was temporarily lost became found. Being lost in a big city can be a bit scary; but being lost from God is even scarier. This passage shares with us one of Jesus' prayers for us. One of the key elements of this prayer is our protection and our relationship with God; Jesus does not want any of us lost. Jesus also wants us to remember that we are His, and He wants the best for and from us.

I can think of no better way to start the work week than having read and having been reassured of Whose we are. No obstacle, no challenge, no bump in the road we encounter this week can beat this precious and powerful message. Live your life in that faith.

PRAYER: Loving God, what Jesus prayed for me, I claim. I am Yours and You are mine. Whatever I may face this week, let me face it in the name and faith and spirit of Jesus. Let me bring glory to Your name! This I pray in the Name above all names, the strong name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, May 04, 2015

Love One Another

Prayer Cross at Clergy Family Retreat

John 15:9-17 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Chosen to love is how we may sum up this passage; yet, if we do not love, what have we been chosen for? And making this even harder, Jesus is asking us to love everybody! Not just the ones who love us, or look like us, or dress like or even talk like us: Everybody! It is how we're known as Christians; by our love. Jesus stresses the importance of keeping commandments and makes this a new commandment, that we love one another. A love that bears fruit, that is to say, love that produces more who love because they have seen love in us. Which begs the question, what do people see in us if we do not have love?

PRAYER: Loving Lord, I want to be all about love; may love be seen in me, and may the love in me bear fruit of new people who love. This I pray in Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde