Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Seek the Lord and Live

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Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:6-7)

No one likes to lose something. And as careful as we are, we sometimes misplace keys, phones, purses, pens, etc. And we panic and we seek here and seek there, throwing cushions, pillows, picking up rugs, putting our hands in places where sofas sometimes swallow things. Have you ever lost the Lord? I mean, with the busyness of life and the demands of family and work, it sometimes becomes too easy to seek everything else, and we forget how near and dear the Lord truly is for us. Amos the prophet heard the words, "Seek the Lord and live." In seeking everything else but God, the people of God were lost, not God. And they were wandering down a road that would soon lead to their death. The word from God was to seek God and live. Nothing beats having the Lord in our lives and hearts, nothing. But seeking the Lord means surrendering all to God, and becoming a person of righteousness and justice. This week's gospel lesson is on the rich man seeking eternal life. What he heard from Jesus disappointed him, for he had found riches and wealth, and the thing that eluded him was the assurance of God's love for him and his life, even beyond this life. It may have been that his life up to that point had been all about finding the riches of this world at any cost, and he had not sought justice and compassion in that undertaking. Our job is to seek to be and do good, and avoid evil at all cost.

Seek the Lord and live. Everything else will pale in comparison.

PRAYER: Loving God, may I seek You and Your righteousness for my life. Help me to know what is truly important and I know the fullness of life will be mine. Keep my heart and vision on You and serving You; let me surrender all to You. This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Approach the Throne with Boldness

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Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4: 12-16)

In these few, short verses are found some powerful truths for our lives. The first is that in God's word, we can find a living and active word, one that still speaks to us if we would be pick up our Bibles, open them (Some of you would have to dust them off first!), and listen as you read to what God may be saying to you. Some of what you may read may cut to your heart as you read the truth about where you are, and where you know you need to be. The Bible is very much your mirror to your soul. Sometimes, we don't like what we see looking back at us. The second is that we cannot hide any part of our lives from God; the Bible speaks to our need and also how to get right with God. The third and very key, is that we have Jesus Christ as our high priest; the bridge between God and us. Jesus has made our access to God possible and it's ready even now. For through Jesus we can confess our sins and find forgiveness; for we have in Jesus, One who understands and sympathizes with us and our condition. And last, we have access to God's throne though prayer, and we should use it with boldness. Since God knows all things, why should we hem and haw about what we need to share with Him? Be bold!

PRAYER: Loving God, thank you for all You have done and all You have shared with us. We thank you for the Bible, for prayer, and for access to Your throne. Hear my dear *|FNAME|* as hearts confess and share with You what You already know. But, bring us forgiveness, bring us boldness for life. This we pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, October 05, 2015

Stuff or Salvation?

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As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.' " He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." (Mark 10: 17-31 NRSV)

The United State of America leads the world in storage rental places. It is a strong indication that we have been blessed (or cursed) with too much stuff. It's a sad note to me personally, to know that if I have no room in my house, then I can rent a place where I can store the stuff. Nellie and I have been blessed in having lived in parsonages which are usually blessed with plenty of space in which to store unused (and really, unwanted) stuff. When we moved from our parsonage to our first home, we had to get rid of a lot of it, so that our home would have just what we needed. We're back in a parsonage and we find we have the same problem; too much stuff.

This is a powerful story about Jesus and about us. This "rich" guy, could be me, or you. He has a troubling question; "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" We don't know his age, but given the place and times, this man had seen more than his share of deaths. We jokingly read of those who read the obituaries first thing in the morning along with their morning coffee, and say, "If I see that I'm not in there, I can have a good day!" But we are faced with our mortality, as was this man. Jesus answers the question: Whatever you learned in Sunday school, just do that, and you'll be fine! The man replies, "No problem I've done all those things." But Jesus knew that death was still nagging this man. But Jesus, notice, "Looking at him, loved him and said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." That was more than he wanted to hear. You see, his problem was his possessions; they possessed him. Stuff? Or salvation? It will be easier for camels to walk through the eyes of needles than for those possessed by possessions to enter the kingdom of God. Those who are willing to, and do, leave their possessions to follow Jesus will find the joy of fullness of life here, and the joy of eternal life in the kingdom of Heaven.

The second part of Jesus' explanation has come true in my life over and over. I made a difficult decision early in my life to leave home to serve the Lord. I was sent to wonderful places at the cost of leaving my mom and dad, brothers and sisters, all for the sake of sharing the good news. I have been blessed with countless moms, dads, brothers and sisters during all of my ministry; yes, even more than a hundred. Dear, kind ladies who would do things for me in loving ways like a mother. Sweet, strong men, who lovingly counseled and guided me, like a father. I set Jesus first, and Jesus blessed me. I have sought to be last, and Jesus has blessed me.

The decision is not easy. It is hard for those possessed by possessions to take leave of them. Many would rather rent more storage space. Stuff? Or salvation? Yes, we can be saved from too many things into the joy of knowing we have enough.

PRAYER: GOD of all provision, thank You for the blessings that have come my way. Help me to know the times and seasons, rhymes and reasons for the time to rid myself of too many things, to enjoy You and the eternal things You have shared with me. This I pray in the name of He who loves me enough to bless me out of false blessings; Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, October 01, 2015

God's Name Echoes Around the World!

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God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs That drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden's dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, Made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, Birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world. (Psalm 8 The Message Version)

This is the same passage in the New International Version: 1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

This psalm is best known for the question asked in verses 3 and 4, and the declaration by the psalmist in verses 5 through 8, and the praise of verse 9. Who hasn't stopped to consider the works of God's hands? If you're one who hasn't; you're too busy or too silly. The artwork for today captures a modern scene of someone sizing us up against God's creation. The blood red moon of a few nights ago made some of us ooh and aww at how awesome this world, and things near our world, are to us. But it still comes down to what Jesus asks His disciples and what the psalmist declares: What about you? What say you about me and my creation? The modern version of this passage has the psalmist declaring that the name of God is a "household name" so much so that even infants still nursing "gurgle choruses" about God; "toddlers shout the songs" that even drown out thoughts that seek to bring us down. We should join their singing and shouting as we consider how close and how loving God truly is in our lives.

Dear friend, God is mindful of you, and God cares for you. Just take some time and look around. And if that doesn't get you excited to the point of singing or shouting, I don't know what will.

PRAYER: Loving God, thank You! Let me join the songs all around me that are praising You and Your work here on the earth. Thank You for caring for me and sharing Your love for me. I praise You in Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hand Made!

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Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.(Genesis 2:18-24)

During my life I have seen some things made by hand. My earliest memories saw my mother and grandmother in the kitchen making flour tortillas by hand. Each one uniquely and specially made, thrown onto the griddle, hand turned and lovingly shared with us. I tried a couple of times in the making of those tortillas only to have my tortillas called maps by my mom, for the ability to make a perfectly round tortilla was not my ability. I also own a couple of pairs of handmade boots. Custom made just for me; I put my socked foot on a manila folder and the bookmaker traced the outline of my foot, measured with tape different parts of my left and about six weeks later I had the most wonderful, beautiful pair of boots I had ever seen. I guess seeing my initials on them made me a bit biased. But nothing compares to the handiwork of God in this story. Seeking to provide company and companionship to the first man, God decides the man needs a helper and partner. Ancient humor comes in as the next scene is the man receiving from God all the animals and birds, the man names them and probably wonders which of these might be that helper and partner. Talking birds? They're only fun for a bit. A giraffe? Too tall for the house, though Adam did not yet have one. Monkeys? Nah. Not a partner nor helper in the bunch. The story goes that God proceeds to cause a deep sleep to come over the man and God removed one of the man's ribs and from that rib made a woman. The divine surgery was so successful that the man turns poetic as he declares, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." Ah, yes. Perfection. Did you expect anything less from the Creator? In the Hebrew "ishah" for woman, taken from "ish" the man. And then the declaration: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh."

The gospel text for this coming Sunday deals with the question of divorce and in Jesus' response to those seeking to trick Him, He quotes from this beautiful passage. Told by the ancients to explain things that we've asked as children, and later as wondering (and wandering) adults: Where did we come from? Why is there such a thing as marriage? The writer points to God. God made all things and God made you and me. We are uniquely and wonderfully made, and in the creation of woman, God brings her to the man and the man declares her perfect and the writer shares how this is how marriage came into being. Poets and poster makers have tried to explain the rib as being that which is next to the man, not under him, or above him, behind nor before him; ribs protect the vital organs, especially the heart and we can make of that whatever we want. (Just go to the next wedding and see how creative the pastor makes the ceremony.)

The question becomes what do couples make or create from their marriage? Nellie and I sought to create an environment for God in our lives and we sought to bring children into our lives. We created great memories and great children, who are making a great difference in their own lives and each in their way contributing to the good of the world. We still work at marriage, trying to create all that God would allow from and for us; seeking to be continually in service to humanity. We do have some "agreement issues," but we work those out and we seek to stay always in love with each other, because our first love is God.

What are you creating in your life?

PRAYER: Lord, for those in marriage, bless and protect them. Help the truth of Your handiwork and love be ever present in us. For those seeking marriage, bless and protect them and provide that which is from You for them. We seek Thy will. For those suffering from a broken marriage, we pray healing and comfort. If there are children involved, may their memories be gracious ones; bless and protect them O Lord. And we pray with faith all these things, in Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Centrality of Christ Jesus

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet." Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you."(Hebrews 2:5-12)

Who is the center of your life? As babies, our mothers and fathers were the center. A shift may have occurred during your toddler years, and one or the other of your parents was the center; and during adolescence, none of those were important because you discovered friends. As you matured, you may have made your intended the center of your life. If you married, she or he became the center of your life. If you had children, each was special and important, and they may have become the center of your life. But, if you matured in faith, and made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, Jesus should be the center of your life. There can be no room for anyone, or anything, taking center place.

The writer of Hebrews understood this and declares the centrality of Christ in the faith: He is the Son of God who is heir of all things; He reflects the glory of God and has the exact imprint of God's very being, paid for our sins, and sits at the right hand of God Almighty. Jesus is superior to the angels, and controls all things, and yet, is not ashamed to call us "brothers and sisters," and will one day be our Advocate before the Father, when He judges between the "quick and the dead."

Dear friend, if you have not yet made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life, right now would be the best time to make the best decision of your life. For too long you have stood on the outside looking in, and as this passage says, seeing Christ for Who He is is better from the inside. A prayer of invitation is but the first thing you can do for the betterment of your life. Faith will follow and that faith will help you do the things that are expected of a believer. We are saved by Jesus by faith, away from our sins, but saved to a new life of abundance, where we work to help bring others to faith, care for the hungry, sick, imprisoned, naked, and alone. And we work within a community of believers to help transform the world.

PRAYER: Loving God, I confess that I have not yet made Jesus the center of my life. I confess I am a sinner and have not yet asked for forgiveness of all my sins. Take them away, make my heart and mind new, and put me to serving You lovingly, faithfully, and fruitfully, so that this new life may be one truly lived in abundance. This I pray in His name, Jesus my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Did Something Die For This Meal?

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, "Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, "Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,' to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, "Give us meat to eat!' I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery." So the Lord said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!" But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!" (Numbers 11: 4-6, 10-16, 24-29)

I have a dear friend very dedicated to his being a carnivore. Whenever we attend a meeting where lunch is provided he hopes for, and seeks, meat. His favorite question to those serving is "Did something die for this meal?" I tell him that I can hear lettuce screaming as we bite into it. The start of this passage reminded me of him as Moses is having to hear the people of Israel complain about what God is not providing. They yearn for the past even if it meant slavery and imprisonment as slaves! Their cries included their old menu; fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. And they dared to complain in the face of the divinely provided bread from heaven called manna. The people wept for the old, and all in the entrances of their tents. This attitude angered the Lord and displeased Moses. Moses then shares some gripes of his own, questioning where he was to find meat to share with these people, but it was God who spoke of what He was about to do. What God did was to share His Spirit with others besides Moses. He directed Moses to gather seventy elders to join him at the tent of meeting, which they did and "the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to (Moses), and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the 70 elders;" Once this was done, these elders joined in speaking for God among all the people. This served to prove that what they were all experiencing, even without meat, was of God and was for God's good purpose in their lives.

We sometimes find ourselves facing or doing what we didn't expect or like, but it is hardly a basis to become a complainer or whiner about what God is or isn't doing. It becomes a basis of prayer seeking God's understanding and wisdom for whatever we think we are facing is difficult. Once God's Spirit comes upon us, we begin to not only understand, but to speak to what God can and is doing among us.

PRAYER: Loving God, whatever my dear reader is facing right now in life, make clear Your presence, peace, and love. May Your Holy Spirit come upon all of us so that we can share Your wisdom with others. This we pray in the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde