Monday, July 06, 2015

John the Baptist Gave All!

Image from atlantaserbs.com

Mark 6: 14-29 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The ministry of Jesus showed the great power that God had given Him. In the passage immediately before this one, Jesus has sent the Twelve out to do His work and they were very successful, driving out demons, and healing the sick; and in the midst of this comes one of the most disappointing and heartbreaking moments in Jesus' early ministry, the death of his kinsman, John the Baptizer. The author takes this opportunity as Herod is questioning who Jesus is, to relay the details of John's death. Herod, upon hearing of Jesus' ministry, asks if Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead. And this caused him fear, for he had personally put to death one of his chief critics. John, you see, could not keep quiet about immorality, namely that Herod had taken his brother's wife as his own, but no one wanted him dead more than Herodias herself, but she feared that Herod would protect John as he was afraid of his power and influence. You know the rest of the story; a great party takes place, the daughter of Herodias dances and as a reward for her great dance gets to ask for whatever she wanted, even half of the kingdom. But Mommie dearest wants only one thing: The head of John the Baptist on a platter. And that was what she got.

John was faithful to his God and to the calling that God had placed on his life. John feared nothing for he knew the extent of God's power and love, and knew that even facing death he would be with God upon his death and lived and shared the truth about God's justice and demands for our righteous living. Unlike many of us who encounter a setback or challenge and we feel like giving up. John surrended all for the sake of being faithful to God. He knew the great cost that God had already paid for his life and he assumed that a greater price would be paid in the life of his cousin, Jesus.

What about you? What are you facing that you believe you cannot go on because it would cost a lot of you or from you? You may not be asked to surrender your head, but whatever challenge or cost you face, God faces it with you. What you may show others may just be the blessing that others have been waiting to see from you.

PRAYER: Loving God, to You I surrender myself and my life. Whatever you may be asking of me, I accept and I want to go forward and serve You. Grant me boldness and courage. This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Take Time to Worship

Image from praisecommunitychurch.org

Psalm 48 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within its citadels God has shown himself a sure defense. Then the kings assembled, they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they were in panic, they took to flight; trembling took hold of them there, pains as of a woman in labor, as when an east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes forever. (Selah) We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. Your name, O God, like your praise, reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with victory. Let Mount Zion be glad, let the towns of Judah rejoice because of your judgments. Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.

If you stop to think about it, worship is a little bit about you. It's not about you, but you come to realize the need you have in your life for God. It is a time to refresh, reconnect, recharge, and ready yourself for service for God and those who are not yet of God. It is a time of realization that God is always present and always ready to bless and help us. The first words of this psalm sum that up: "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God." He then shares how even in the midst of what seems to provide protection from enemies, God is needed. What good is a fort or a castle without the presence and power of God? Enemies that may dare show their face against us will see God and flee. Where can we go that we can say that God is not there? When can we say that God has not been victorious?

Take time to worship. Find a quiet place today and just ponder the power of God in your life. Then come the day when you (should) worship, find a fellowship of believers and join them in singing praises to God, praying together, and listening to God's Word read and proclaimed and see again what purpose there is in your life to serve God.

PRAYER: Awesome God, come into the place where I am and bless me. Let me be a blessing to You today and all days, so that others may see Your awesomeness and strength. And dear loving God, you know the enemies I am facing; defeat them. For those facing the enemy of illness, win! For those facing the enemy of helplessness, give power and strength. For whatever enemy may be trying to encamp near me, make them flee! In Christ Jesus' powerful and precious name I pray, amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

You Can Do Great Things

Image from abcparish.blogspot.com

2 Samuel 5:1-5; 9-10 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, "Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel." So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

What distinguishes great people from good or average people? Great people always seek to do better today than they did yesterday. They are never content with their performance or service, and seek ways to improve. Great people also know that they accomplish nothing alone, but do so with the power of God helping them, and leading them. This comes from the Bible and in persons like David in this story. David, faithful to God since boyhood, always sought the Lord and to serve the Lord. Evidence is shown here as the people of Israel and Judah come together to ask that David become king over both of them. They had seen the caring shepherd quality that he had learned as a boy over sheep applied to the way he ruled as king. Now, he was asked to be king over them as well as Judah.

You may not be king, but whatever you have control over, you can do greater things, if you invite the Lord to be with you. You have to have a humble heart, like David, to seek the Lord more and more. You have to have a loving heart, to care for people and to work together with them if you are to lead them. And you have to be a person of deep and constant prayer. The key verse in this passage to me is the last one; "And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him." If God is with you, strive to do even more in whatever you are doing for Him. If you feel God is not with you, seek God and invite God into your life and heart; great things await. But, do your part, seek to do more and more, and realize you may just have to get out of your comfort zone, out of your pew, out of your house, and into the world that awaits God's blessings through you.

PRAYER: Loving God of hosts, bless this dear reader to become a blessing for You and to You. Be with us in all things and in all ways, and lead us to greatness in service and humility for You. This we pray in the name of He who is King of Kings, Jesus our Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, June 29, 2015

Be, Where You Are What You Are; Don't Worry About the Rest!

Image from angusday.org

Mark 6:1-13 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Jesus was Jesus everywhere He went. People were people everywhere. But, there's the matter of one's hometown. No matter what you do, if you stayed in one place long enough for people to know you and watch you grow up; people there will always remember "something" about you. And this was even in the days before social media. Mary nor Joseph could not Facebook pictures of Jesus in the Labor and Delivery room. Joseph was not photographed holding little Jesus for the first time. Jesus took His first steps and said His first words without Joseph following Him around and recording everything on the smartphone. Yet, the people of His town saw and remembered and guarded memories of Jesus and whom they thought Him to be. They knew His parents and their status, where He lived, and what He did. So, on this holy day, Jesus began to teach in his home church and many were astounded; not all for the positive side of astounded - "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not HIs sisters here with us?" And they were offended. Offended and angered to the point where they infused the air with this indignation that nothing positive could come out of any attempt by Jesus to do a positive thing. You and I have been in those settings before; a church council meeting where change is being proposed, or a trustees meeting where the new color of paint/carpet is being "discussed," with the pro-red folks trying to beat out the pro-blue folks and the reality is there, that God is taken out of the equation and the self has taken control. It may not be said out loud, but voices and thoughts and expression are saying, "This is all about me, not God!"

I thank God you have not been one of those; well, I know you have, but I thank God for the power of forgiveness. Because if you're still one of these people who put your interests and desires before God, Jesus will be "amazed at (your) unbelief." Jesus will go to those places where He is welcomed and believed. And yes, it does happen. People's lives are transformed and good begins to take root and people go into the communities and begin to help the poor and needy; children begin to show up for church and even VBS!

Jesus sends out those believers like He did the Twelve in this story. He sent them out two by two to cast out the unclean spirits, to share thoughts and words on peace, and even how to leave those places where you are not welcomed. And the results will be like those mentioned here: "They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them."

You were called to be a believer and a worker of Jesus right where you are right now. You may be asked by God to move on one day, but for now, shine brightly and do what you know Jesus expects of you! And bless others by bringing peace, hope, and healing.

PRAYER: Lord, lead me to where Thy wilt; let me be Your instrument. This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Morning by Morning

Image from esermons.com

Lamentations 3:23-33 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, to put one's mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), to give one's cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not reject forever. Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

Good day dear friend,

Throughout my life there have been certain things that I have counted on every morning. As a high school student, it was the smell of fresh coffee that my mother had made. As a college student, it was the smell of freshly made eggs. As a newlywed, it was breakfast made and ready for me as I awoke. Morning by morning; that means day by day, a daily hope the psalmist had as he wrote this in this book with the sad title, Lamentations. His is a great faith, as should be ours, in a God who loves us enough to provide each morning, His mercy. Have you ever heard that wonderful hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness? Written by Thomas O. Chisholm in 1923 and based on this passage, the refrain says, "Great is Thy faithfulness! "Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning, new mercies I see, all I have needed Thy hand has provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!" Later in the third stanza this wonderful line: "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow; blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!" It's an awesome hymn and one of my favorites. The hymn, like this passage, is about our needing to trust God to be there. Every. Single. Day.

Is the Lord "your portion?" If He is, then you have the hope you need for this day. Our faith says to wait upon the Lord, for He always provides.

PRAYER: Loving God, thank You for the daily dose of hope You share with us; let me receive it with joy enough to share, for many are those who do not yet know. In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Enough? Not Enough!

Image from www.bulimbaunitingchurch.org

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you —so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little."

Good Morning

My first formal Bible class for university credit came through the loving care of The Rev. Virgil Matthews, Dean of Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas. His job, beside being Dean of Students, was also to head the ministerial department in a small United Methodist junior college that drew heavily from Houston and the Texas Conference. He shared the wonders of the Old Testament and the challenges of the New Testament, or do I have that backwards? But we quickly learned that after he presented a passage or lecture he would pause and look at all of us and ask, "Enough? Not enough?" The last part was usually a question but sometimes the blank stare of our faces made him declare, "Not enough!" And he would proceed to try to make even clearer that explanation to us.

Have you asked yourself lately, if what you do for the Lord Jesus Christ is enough? Lord have mercy on those who have and who have declared, "Yes, I've done enough." Paul is writing to early believers and issuing a challenge to do more. And not only more, but to excel in all they did for Jesus. Paul knows that to follow Christ is to commit to doing our best in faith, in how and what we share in our speech with others, to learn as much as we can about our faith, to be extremely eager to know Him and to share Him in love, and to love. Are you excellent in love toward Jesus and to others?

Paul compares what we offer to what Christ Himself offered. Notice the key verse from this passage that you probably already know (or should know!), "Our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for (our) He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich." We're not talking pocketbook rich; we're talking spiritual pocketbook rich. What we do, all we do, should be done with eagerness; much the same way we tackle ice cream or doughnuts! The verse explains that: "For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has -- not according to what one does not have." I remember the eagerness I had to get my driver's license! I made my poor mother, recovering from surgery who should have been in bed resting and recovering, to drive me to the DPS office to take my test so that I could get my license. I repented of that terrible act, but such was my eagerness. And then once I had my license, our home could not have enough bread or milk! "Mom, do you need me to go to the store? I'll go to the store!" And she'd find an excuse for me to drive the family car to the nearby grocery store. Soon, that eagerness went away. "Son, can you go to the store?" I would reply, with no eagerness, "Do I have to?" Sadly, in some of our cases, when we first learned of God's great love for us through Jesus Christ, we were eager to learn and do more. And the day came when the eagerness faded and we were content to stay right where we were. As the old joke goes, we went from singing Standing on the Promises to Sitting on the Premises.

Have you done enough for Jesus Christ? Is your eagerness to serve still there? Are you growing in faith in what God can and does do for you? Are you sharing witness to the things God has done for you through the years? Are you still in love with God? God's still in love with you!

PRAYER: Loving God, we thank You for all You have done. I ask forgiveness for those days when my eagerness is not what it should be; rekindle my eagerness for You and for the things I have promised to do. Help me to grow in love and to truly say each day, "I've not yet done enough." This I pray in the powerful and precious name of Jesus Christ my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ready for a Miracle? Part II

Image from life2Christ.org

Mark 5:35-43 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The miracles continue in this the second part of the passage from Mark 5. After the woman was healed, Jesus continues on to the home of this leader of the synagogue to see his daughter who was very ill. The word comes that the daughter had died, and the question, "Why trouble the teacher any further?" This was, of course, not meant for Jesus to hear, but He did and He replies to the father of the child, "Do not fear, only believe." Jesus continues on toward the home with only Peter, James and John. They encounter people mourning and crying loudly as you would expect at the home where a loved one had died. Jesus asks, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." This causes laughter from those near Him. Jesus sends them all outside, and taking only the parents with Him comes to the place where the child was. He speaks, "Little girl, get up!" And the 12 year old girl gets up and walks around. A miracle. People were amazed, Jesus tells them to keep it quiet and to feed the newly awakened dead girl.

Miracles happen when you invite Jesus home with you. You may encounter Jesus in a worship setting, you may touch Jesus and have an encounter with Him, but invite Him home with you. And never let your faith limit the expectations for whatever you are facing. With Jesus by your side, and faith in your heart, you will be able to face whatever challenge or obstacle may come your way. Of course, our prayers may not be answered in the way we want, but the presence and power of Jesus help us with our understanding and acceptance of things we need to understand and expect, and we receive what we need to continue moving forward and upward. Jesus is the source of miracles. And I again, I stress, a miracle is something we don't need to explain or understand, just to give thanks and enjoy.

You may be facing something quite difficult in your life. It may seem like the end, but again, we let Jesus have the last word. Our relatives and friends may laugh and scoff at our faith, but we bring Jesus with us and we trust Him to be at work in whatever we face. A Jesus perspective gives us new vision and insight towards life; it's part of what He promised when He said He came to bring us life and that in abundance. (John 10:10).

PRAYER: Come, Lord Jesus, into my heart and into my home. You know what I need, and I trust You to be at work in my life and in the lives of those who are near and dear to me. Help me to see as You see; bring me truly into the fullness of life, for I pray in Thy name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde