Thursday, August 17, 2017

God's Face Shines Upon Us!

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May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,that your way may be known upon earth,your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him. (Psalm 67)

Don't you just love people with great big smiles?  Something in them is happy and content and as they see people their mouths just form the perfect smile and you can almost feel the warmth of that person.  Imagine God's smile.  David knew it and wrote about it a lot.  Other Old Testament writers did as well.  We closed our MYF meetings back in the day with the MYF Blessing that included that phrase from the Numbers 6:24-26, "The Lord make His face shine upon you,"  It was asking for our actions to bless God to the point of God smiling upon us.  And this psalm asks the same of God, but it also places on us our responsibility to praise God and to make God's way known among all the nations.

Stop and think about ways that you have been personally blessed.  Now think about how those ways make others know about God and God's role and place in your life.

PRAYER:  Loving God, I celebrate You and Your love.  Let me today cause You to smile upon me by doing that which pleases You and blesses others.  In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

God's Covenant Leaves No One Out

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Thus says the Lord:Maintain justice, and do what is right,for soon my salvation will come,and my deliverance be revealed. And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants,all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,and hold fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain,and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel,I will gather others to them besides those already gathered. (Isaiah 56:1, 6-8)

Monday's text ends with a non-Jewish woman (Foreigner) asking Jesus for her daughter's healing. Remember Jesus' response? "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The woman persisted and even countered Jesus' assertion that "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs," with "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." The prophet Isaiah had heard from God that even foreigners who join themselves to Him, to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be His servants, who keep the sabbath without profaning it, and holding fast to the covenant, will be included now and forever. In other words, God's covenant really does not leave anyone out. Those who desire God, and follow God, will see God, no matter their race or nationality.

We even asked and answered the question, Does God ever give up on us? The answer is still no. God loves us, desires a relationship with us, and even welcomes us back when we have strayed far from where we should be. This is salvation, and it is for everyone.

PRAYER: Loving God, let me never feel apart from You. Let me know always that I belong to You and You belong to me. Let me live my life in that way that shows others that they too, can join in that relationship. Open opportunities for me to witness to Your love. This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord! Welcome others, even "outsiders" into your world!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Does God Ever Give Up on Us?

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I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. (Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32)

Nellie and I once had a marvelous doctor who was known for firing his patients.  He was a kind, loving man who simply expected his patients to do what he told them.  If you did not, you were fired.  He was especially very rough with smokers.  He thought that smoking was very harmful to your health and if you were to continue as his patient, you had to quit smoking.  He would help you with medical options to quit that habit, but you had to follow them and ultimately quit.  Thank God, we were never fired by this doctor.

God will never fire you, nor give up on you.  We sometimes will do or say something that hurts us as we reflect on it to the point where we wonder, "Will God ever forgive me for having said/done this?"  And the answer is, of course, yes, God will forgive us.  Paul as he writes today's passage answers the question many of his day asked about the Jews and their relationship (or lack thereof) with God.  We can apply the questions, and we do, about us or our loved ones and their actions; would God ever grow tired of us and just give up on us?  No.

Ours is a God of love and mercy.  Ours is a God of patience.  We are the one who are hardest on ourselves than God will ever will be; but we need to have our hearts in the right place, filled with righteousness and the desire to please God, and we will never be out of God's favor.

PRAYER:  Loving God, thank You for your love and never failing mercy.  Help us never to take advantage of that; help us instead live lives that bless You and those who need blessing.  Help us share the message that You never give up on us, nor do You ever fire us.  This we pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Bless someone with the message that God never gives up on us!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, August 14, 2017

What's in Your Heart?

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Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding?Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’ Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:10-28)

Did you ever stop to think that what you see in the mirror may be a reflection of what is in your heart?  Certainly, what comes out of our mouths gives away who we are and what we are thinking.  The ever present critics and would-be captors of Jesus wanted to trap Him in anything He might say or do.  In this instance, Jesus and His disciples were seen as not having washed their hands before eating.  This troubled Jesus, for after His encounter with His enemies He still discussed this with the disciples.  Jesus says it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles someone, it is what comes out.  And it's not necessarily what we call curse words, but words that harm and maim and kill.  This week's news from this nation have shown that to be true.  Instead of sharing words of love, peace, and harmony among the races, hate groups like the KKK and the alt.right, and Nazis, came together in a rally.  One of the photos coming out of that meeting was a baby dressed as a Klansman, alone, touching the riot shield of a policeman.  You question, what is in the heart of this baby, and who put it there?  The same could be asked of the adults in that place, and certainly of the 20 year-old who mowed down a crowd killing a young woman.  If you have evil in your heart, evil will come out of your mouth and your actions will reflect the shortcomings you have before God and God's creatures.  It's not about how clean your hands are.  

The actions shifts as a Canaanite woman comes towards Jesus shouting, asking Jesus for mercy for her daughter, who was tormented by a demon.  At first, Jesus does not answer her and keeps walking.  It was the disciples who were bothered by her actions and they asked Jesus to send her away.  Jesus states that His plan was for the "lost sheep of the house of Israel."  The exchange between Jesus and her convinced Jesus of this woman's faith and her request was granted.  What was in her heart was the love and desire for wholeness in her daughter, and she had faith that Jesus was the One who could heal this daughter.  Out of the desire for goodness, goodness was granted to her.

What's in your heart?

PRAYER:  Loving God, examine me and remove from me all that should not be there.  Help me to be a person of faith, who blesses You and Yours.  I long to be one whose heart is filled with pure love for all; an unconditional love like the one You have for me.  Grant it so that I may tell others about You and Your love.  This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.  Love like Jesus loves you today!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Revive Us Again!

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Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation,and put away your indignation towards us. Will you be angry with us for ever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps. (Psalm 85)

There's no telling how many plants I have killed in my lifetime.  I have planted and replanted, and tried to have this or that grow here and there, and what I usually end up having are little pots filled with dust.  The only success was asking my grandson Liam to help me plant a gardenia bush that flourished right away and bloomed some delicious-smelling flowers.  In our move from Corpus here, I donated a Valley lemon tree and a Valencia orange tree to the district office.  But we did discover some plants we had written off as dead, were revived and are now doing well here.

The psalmist knew the land and how planting and growing worked; but more importantly, he knew the need for our souls to be restored and revived in the Lord.  There is nothing sadder than to see a human whose soul is like the pot full of dust. Lack of prayer, worship, scripture reading, conversation about God all lead to the slow death of one's soul. A pot of dust does not have reason to be joyful.  It has long lost the sweet touch of love on it, and no love can come from it for others.  Salvation is the full restoration of that pot from dust to fertile soil to blooming plant; and it can and should happen in our souls.  Seek a relationship with God and all these things will be added unto you.

PRAYER:  Loving God, may the sweet rain of salvation be mine today.  I confess my sins and admit my need for You, so come living Lord into my life and reign there as Lord and Savior.  May the stale dust of inactivity and indifference towards You and Your love be blown away by Your Holy Spirit so that I may rejoice in new life.  This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Seek the Lord while He may be found; then share Him with someone today!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

At the Corner of Despair and Disappointment

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At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ (1 Kings 19:9-18)

We've all been there at one time or another, and pastors especially; right at the corner of Despair and Disappointment.  It seems all we have tried and all we have done has been for nought.  And that's where the prophet Elijah found himself that day.  He had seen a tremendous victory take place over the followers of Baal.  Four hundred (400) prophets of that god and followers gathered to see a contest between the Living God (our God) and the false god Baal.  God won!  But, the fallout from that victory was that the king who believed in Baal and more especially the queen (that mean old Jezebel) wanted Elijah dead.  Elijah went to hide.  And he first sought refuge under a broom tree, then later in this cave.  God came to him and asked what he was doing, and Elijah poured out his heart to God.  Then God instructs him to go and stand on this mountain before God and to await His passing by.  First, there was a great wind that splits the mountains and broke rocks into pieces.  But God was not in the wind.  Then an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake.  Then a fire and again, God was not the fire.  And after a fire, sheer silence.  Then God asks Elijah again, "What are you doing here?"  These terrible disasters that can come from nature happen and God is not in them.  We may be near them or see what they can do to others, but we are not necessarily harmed by them.  Then it may be very quiet and we wonder, where is God?  And God speaks, and God is with us.  

Elijah then heard his new orders, which he followed.  He had the message; God was with him the entire time.  Mountains had split and broken up; earthquakes could come and destroy all kinds of things; fire could come and destroy everything, and in the sheer silence that may follow these disasters, God speaks, "I am here."  Dear friend, whatever you may be facing today may seem as big and as powerful as any of these natural disasters, but listen closely:  God is with you.  You are not now or ever alone.  Then, move forward and continue to do what God has asked of you in your life.  Greater things happen after what we believe to be setbacks or failures.  Never give  up.

PRAYER:  Loving God, as mountains fall and break, and as earthquakes come to shake the ground on which I stand, and as fires sweep through my life, You are with me.  I have to listen and be still and I will hear You.  Speak to me at Your will and share with me that which I am to do.  I ask this in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Say goodbye to the mountains stopping your forward motion; and enjoy the shaking of the ground.  Spit on the fire.  God is with you.  Then move on!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Updates:  Bethel Lester underwent surgery yesterday morning and is recovering in the hospital.  Larry Ehrig had a rough night two nights ago, and Bill Reaves continues to recover in the Seguin hospital.  Prayers please for their recovery.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Salvation is For All

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Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?‘The word is near you,on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10:5-15)

The hardest question ever posed to me was in my first Theology courses in seminary. The professor said, "We know we are saved from our sin; but what are we saved to?" Uh. The class pondered long and hard and the quizzed looks on the faces of my classmates reassured me that I was in the right place in spite of the difficulty I was having in trying to answer it. He replied, "We are saved to a new life, into abundant life!" Yes! And he was sharing that with the right people. We as believers should know all about salvation. God loves us so much (see John 3:16) and read there about salvation. God loves us so much He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to take us out of our sins and destructive ways, and into a life of fullness. (Read John 10:10, here it is: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly). And today's passage is from Paul sharing with us the responsibility we have to tell others about all God has done for us. "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord (and you can do this on a daily basis or as needed in your spiritual walk), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." And then he asks the questions, "How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one in whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Him? And how are they to proclaim Him unless they are sent?" It is you and me that have that task: 1) Help others with their faith to believe in Jesus, 2) Proclaim/share Jesus with others. 3) Send them to tell others as well. This last Sunday was my first to preach at First United Methodist Church of Gonzales, where I am working part-time. As I was giving the benediction at both services, the words came to my mouth, "Receive authority to be the church as we are sent to do God's work among those who are in need." We have the authority, we have the mandate, and we have the message. What does Nike say? Just do it.

PRAYER: Loving God, help me with the task at hand. Increase my faith to the point it cannot be contained only in me! I must share it and in a way that bubbles over in those who have not yet heard. Help me teach them how to share it, and then help me send them on to others so that more can come into relationship with You. Thank You for the abundant life that is ours in Jesus, in Whose name we pray, amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord! Share Jesus today with someone in need.

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Request and Update: Larry Ehrig underwent a successful surgery in San Antonio, and today sister Bethel Lester undergoes surgery in San Antonio as well. Prayers for healing, successful surgery and recover for these and others we know, in Jesus' name, amen!