Thursday, February 16, 2017

Freeways of Faith!

Image from panoramio.com

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me - my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway! Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Affirm your promises to me - promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics - but what you say is always so good. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways! (Psalm 119:33-40 The Message)

1965 found this country boy in Houston, Texas.  We went from a town of several traffic lights, no understanding of rush hour, and a slow pace to Houston.  At church the pastor and all his family, and I think they must have talked about it before church; all asked if we had seen the "spaghetti bowl" yet?  Huh?  We ate fideo, but spaghetti was a school dish - we had no clue.  They laughed and said it was the freeway system downtown of bridges, overpasses of all the freeways meeting there.  We smiled and said, not yet.  Some years later I learned to drive in Houston, passed my driving test in Houston and learned all about the freeways, designed to cut travel time between points A and B.   Okay in theory.  The psalmist in this modern version is talking about getting from point A to point B in his faith walk with the Lord.  He knows and want to be obedient to the Lord and using God's commandments as a "freeway," a travel free of distraction for a life blessed by God.  God's word is wisdom and instruction, he says; a pilgrim's way in which God's promises are affirmed and blessings are attained.  He begs to be free of the criticism of those opposed to him so that he could solely be blessed by God's word.  He knows that to be hungry for God's word and counsel is the way to be preserved in God's righteous ways.

The point of this passage to me, is to stay the course with God.  Yes, distractions come as do challenges, but the person who stays connected to God gets through all that and finds their way to where God is leading.  Whether you can relate this to traveling a freeway to a caliche road you call the "back way," the point is to get where God is leading.  We learn all the way there if we're open to it.  And all along the way we can be blessed and we can be a blessing to all.

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, guide my way to Your knowledge and understanding in a way that builds my faith and helps me be a blessing to You and Yours.  Help me avoid distractions and find my way straight to places of rich understandings.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Being Holy Begins With Loving Others 

Image from pauldazet.com

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour.You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18)

We tend to shy away from holiness or purity thinking, "We don't want people to think we're being 'holier than thou' in our way of living," but we're missing the point.  As God was forming the people of Israel into a nation in the wilderness, holiness was very much what God expected of them.  Here is Moses hearing from God what he should say to the people.  God wanted a nation of priests, or a nation that set the example of how to best live with one another, and the foundation is holiness.  If we are made in the image of God, which we are, then that image should be holiness, for God is holy.  Then God shares a partial list of how we should act with others:  Be just people; show no partiality to the poor or rich; fair with our neighbors in judgment.  We should not slander our people, nor should we profit from the death of our neighbors.  We should not hate in our hearts anyone; we should speak in ways that build up our neighbors; we should not take revenge or bear a grudge against any of our people.  We should love our neighbor as ourself.  And to seal it, God said, "I am the Lord."  No arguments, just obedience.

To be a disciple of Jesus should separate us apart from the rest of the world.  Our actions should show that God truly lives in us and really guides us.  Our words, our actions should reflect the presence of the holy in us.  To live and act just like everyone else defeats our calling ourselves Christians or followers of Christ.  The old adage, If accused of being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict? is a good one to help us judge how we are living with others.  The rhetoric and glamor of today's world cries out for people to love one another, to show a better way, and to a voice of hope and compassion.  We are rapidly becoming a people consumed just with ourselves when the above passage is all about others.

Begin making a difference today in how you treat others.  Make it Valentine's Day all over again.

PRAYER:  Loving God, help me be the person you called me to be.  I want to be holy, and I want to be loving.  Help me to love others the way I love myself; not wanting to hurt them or slander them; let me be a voice of change and hope.  For I pray this in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

PS  there will be no video today with this devotional.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You Belong to Jesus Christ!

Image from keepcalm-o-matic.com

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again,‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23)

This passage is filled with good news!  First, Paul assures his people in the church in Corinth that as the spiritual architect of their faith he laid a solid foundation and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  If we have faith, our faith should be built upon the foundation of Jesus.  In other words, Jesus in everything we do.  Then Paul shares that which we have heard many times:  We are God's temple because God's Spirit is dwelling in us.  Our thinking should be guided by God and our actions should reflect God's glory; and sometimes that may come off as foolish in the eyes of those who don't yet understand.  Yet in Christ we have received all things, "and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God."

What a way to face this day, knowing that we belong to Jesus Christ, and He belongs to God.  That should put a smile on our face, a song in our heart, and a spring in our step as we set out to serve the Lord in the opportunities God may provide for us today.  The goal is to show love in such an inviting and contagious way that others will want to know more about it.  We can bring people to faith through our actions.  

May it be so!

PRAYER:  Loving God, may Your love in me be that which blesses You and Yours.  May a smile from You bring a smile to me; may all I say today be a song of praise to You; and may I step beyond any aches and pains to that place where I will lovingly spring into action for Your sake.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Here is today's video link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IW1CfF4fbw&t=1s

Sunday, February 12, 2017

It's Easy to do the Expected; Do the Unexpected!

‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-38)

It was, forgive the pun, "eye-opening" to learn the truth behind the retaliation law that Moses introduced.  It was during the time when if someone knocked the tooth out of someone in a fight or conflict, the family of the injured would seek to kill the one who knocked out the tooth.  And the same was true for almost any type of injury.  Moses said, it's best if you seek to repay just what was taken from you.  If it was an eye, take the eye out of the one who did it.  Same for a tooth, etc.  Jesus goes further; right into the unexpected.  "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the left one to them as well.  And if someone wants to sue you for your coat, give them your cloak as well.  And if someone forces you to go one mile, go a second mile.  And that was interesting because during the time of Jesus any Roman solider could pat you on your back with the flat of his spear which was an indication to you that you had to carry his gear for one mile.  If you refused, he would run you through with his spear.  Jesus said what He said to say, "Why risk death?  Show others the unexpected of going a second mile when that is not at all expected."  And Jesus goes even further by saying to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in other words, strive for perfection, which is usually completely based on the unexpected.  The world has a set of expectations; it doesn't know what to do when the unexpected shows up.

It's easy to do the expected.  In fact, it's expected.  The difficult things are usually the Godly things; show love in unexpected ways.  Second mile living, giving, sharing, and sacrifice show the God-side of us - and doesn't the world need to see that more?  In this time of hateful rants and rhetoric, can the voice of God in us be a voice of love and understanding?  

It's up to us.  I say we should choose to live in a way that blesses and catches people off guard.  Bless God and you will be blessed!

PRAYER:  Awesome Father, as I set about this day, help me to live in an unexpected way; going the second mile, turning the other cheek, praying for those who hate me and loving those who I thought were my enemies.  I want to turn the world upside down for You.  I pray this in Jesus' name, amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Here is a quick video on first thoughts on this passage:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_rTNXGlg3U

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Follow God's Road

Image from hermentorcenter.com

You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That's right - you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;  Then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.  I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous  ways.  I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me. (Psalm 119:1-8)

I have a pretty good sense of direction except when I'm in some hospitals.  I dislike those hospitals that you know started small and then they just added on to them.  Another floor or two, an annex, tunnels, skywalks, etc.  Before too long you have a large hard to find patient's rooms and then back to the main door through which you came!  It's fun to watch children who have great sense of direction as adults are driving they help navigate their way back to where they need to go.  Our oldest was about two or three and was riding with her mom and a friend and the friend was driving and she said, "I don't know if this is the way I should go." Our baby said, "Yes, you're going right, but up there you have to turn that way and you'll find it."  Our oldest grandson when riding with his grandma told Nellie, "Grandma now that you can drive, you can take me to Dairy Queen!"  Nellie said, "I don't know the way."  He said, "Don't worry, I'll show you!"  And sure enough he did.

This week has been about making decisions and trusting God.  The psalmist in this modern version of the Bible says that blessings are ours when we stay on course and if we walk steadily on the road revealed by God.  Many have been the stories you and I have heard about those who turned the wrong way or so they believed until they realized the good or blessing they were bringing to someone in need because of that wrong turn.  Many have been the times we have been blessed because we obeyed that God-feeling to go a certain way.  Listen again to this verse:  "You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it."  God indeed has prescribed the right way to live and we have to but follow it.

Where do you have to go today?  What is in store for you?  I think it's all part of the God-adventure we're called to live to be a blessing for God.  Listen closely, and walk steadily besides God and you will be amazed  and blessed. PRAYER:  Loving God, guide my path.  Help me stay the course towards where You are leading.  Let me be a blessing to all with whom I come in contact so that You may be glorified.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

PS:  Dear friends, please pray for me as I am on retreat/cabinet meetings this week.  Therefore, no videos with this devotional.  I may have time to share one later today.  

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Making the Right Decision

Image from presbydestrian.wordpress.com

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

I remember my father and mother constantly talking to me about making right decisions.  I wondered when the time would come for those decisions.  In those days I felt they pretty much ran my life.  I had no choices, I thought; I wake up, I HAVE to go to school.  After school, I have to come home.  I have to do my home work.  I have to go play outside (I didn't mind that one too much).  Yes, I had to eat.  (I loved that one.  Still do!).  I had to bathe.  I had to brush my teeth.  I had to go to sleep.  I had to say my prayers.  And in looking back it was the prayers that I lifted up or were lifted up that blessed my life and made the decisions in early life come easily.  I made good friends.  I stayed away from those whose habits were not mine.  I got offered drugs early on and I knew to say no.  I chose not to drink.  And I chose not to smoke.  And when the really big decisions came, I saw God's hand guiding and blessing me.

In today's passage, Moses is talking to the people of God as God is forming them into a nation.  Not just any nation, but a nation of priests; an example to the world of what can and does happen when we trust God fully in all aspects of life.  Yet, it had to be spelled out. It does sound like a Dad or Mom talking seriously to a child they love:  You have these things set before you; life and prosperity, death and adversity.  That seems like an easy choice, but sometimes the four are carefully disguised, some in attractive packages, others in stark contrasts; we still have to choose.  And Moses reminds them as God reminds us, If we walk with God and seek to honor and please God, we will have life, "exuberant life" as The Message version says.  The heart turned to God gets blessed; a heart turned away from God results in sad consequences, even death.  And Moses called upon heaven and earth as witnesses, that he had shared before the forming people of God life and death, blessings and curses.  He says, "choose life so that you and yours may live long lives in the places God is leading you."

Dear friend, do you see God guiding you as you make your way?  Do you trust God enough to call on Him to ask how you should live?  Do you see life and blessings as a good choice, or are you being guided towards death and adversity?  The choices as I said are sometimes very closely identical or seem packaged in a way that we can't go wrong, but I say don't be fooled.  Ask God for eyes of faith to see what is truly behind the choices presented to us.  And choose wisely that which will bless you and yours.

PRAYER:  Loving God, help me to live a life that honors and blesses You.  Help me discern the choices that will come before me today that I may choose the right way.  I want life and prosperity and I want life and blessings.  Make me wise not to be fooled into choosing that which will not be a blessing.  I pray this in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Here is the link for today's video thoughts on this passage:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5rMQkH9GY0&t=27s 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Taking Solid Food

Image from gracewayonline.com

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)

Smoking or Non-Smoking?  Remember that question?  Remember when airlines would allow smoking in the smoking section?  Thank God those days are over!  Imagine walking into a church and the usher asking you, "Spiritual or Flesh?"  You'd probably say, "Excuse me?"  And the usher would say, "Milk or solid food?"  Huh?  This is what Paul is asking as he's writing to the church in Corinth.  "What in the world is going on over there?"  Or, as some parents say, "Don't make me come down there!"  Paul knew his people and he addressed them as such.  For the most part the people in the Corinthian church were flesh people, ready only for milk.  Some were ready for baby food.  No meat yet.  Why?  There was quarreling and jealousy going on in the Christian church.  They hadn't yet become spiritual people; they were behaving like people driven by the flesh.  They were arguing about who had been the better pastor among them.  Some said Paul; some said Apollos.  Paul asks, "What are we anyway?  We're just servants that brought you the faith, and it was the Lord guiding you.  Some came to faith through me, some through Apollos; what's the big deal?"  It's all about God, not about you.  Or us.  Sadly, some churches still have fleshy people.  They've not yet "gotten it," when it comes to being spiritual people.  Those are the ones who still "don't get fed," or "I'm not getting anything out of worship."  Duh.  Worship is geared towards God; Who deserves it.  We don't deserve to be worshiped, nor should we expect that anything in worship is about us.  We should come to worship with hungry hearts, open spirits set on receiving more from the Lord.  The hymns chosen should be about Jesus and God; not about the ones we really like.  We are there to worship God and a renewing of our faith and purpose in serving God.  Paul says, we will receive what we have brought to work with; "For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building."

Pray for yourself as you prepare for this coming Sunday's worship.  Reflect on your attitude and gratitude towards God.  If you think you would be assigned to the Flesh Section, ask to be moved to the Spiritual section.  Pablum (am I giving away my age?) or Steak?  Ask for steak (or whatever meat you eat; ask for the vegan menu if you wish - you know what I'm talking about here!).

PRAYER:  Loving God, as I pray, I pray for myself and for my church.  I want to be that part of the church that worships You and blesses You.  I ask that You move me out of my fleshy thoughts and place me solidly in the spiritual part of worship.  I want to help Your church grow, and I pray this in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

To see ConCafe Off the Cuff video on this passage click here: https://youtu.be/No_7I48ePiY