Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thank You, God, for Second Chances!

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I give you all the credit, God - you got me out of that mess, you didn't let my foes gloat. God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together. God, you pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out. All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face! He gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. When things were going great I crowed, "I've got it made. I'm God's favorite. He made me king of the mountain." Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces. I called out to you, God; I laid my case before you: "Can you sell me for a profit when I'm dead? auction me off at a cemetery yard sale? When I'm 'dust to dust' my songs and stories of you won't sell.So listen! and be kind! Help me out of this!" You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I'm about to burst with song; I can't keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can't thank you enough. (Psalm 30 The Message)

If on the freeway of life you miss the Perfection exit, get off on Second Chance.That the best comment I could think of on a devotional on second chances.  I wrote, for I have missed that exit many a time, and I thank God for second chances.  I also tried to think what I'm perfect at, and I could only think, "I'm pretty good at messing up!"  And you might be too.  That's what the psalmist was thinking as he wrote the ancient version of this psalm quoted above in a modern translation.  We get into messes, God pulls us out.  We yell for help, God answers us.  We find ourselves near death either physically or spiritually, and God is there to pull us out of the grave; and God does grant us second chances, yes, even at life.  I think back to the number of jobs I have had since high school, and all of those were for money; I won't list them for some people are still doing those jobs and are quite content to have a source of income, and I say, praise the Lord; but as I pondered my future, and by most of those jobs in later years such as high school and college, I already had my calling and I knew where I was going, but I still gave each job my all, and sometimes I did miss the perfection exit, but the very next exit was Second Chance.  

In our relationships with spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, we also sometimes get off on Mess Up Lane, we drive along for a bit, get back on and see the Second Chance exit, which we should take.  And yes, as believers we have sometimes gotten off on That's Enough or I Doubt That, but getting back on and heading on to Second Chance, we should take that.  God is a God of Second Chances.

PRAYER:  Lord, we don't know where we would be in we hadn't gotten a second chance from You; there have been so many times.  But remind us of Your love, and pull us out of whatever mess we may have fallen into or created ourselves, and guide us safely towards Perfection in Love. This we pray in Christ Jesus, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Just Do What the Lord Says

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Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’ He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’ But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:1-14)

The Lord used many voices to get one man made whole.  The man was a successful military man, general in rank, and beloved by his king.  He had a defect, he suffered from a dreaded skin disease, leprosy.  Through the voice of a POW, a little girl whose name we do not know, told her mistress about a man back in Samaria who could cure his leprosy.  So, the man heard from his wife, who had heard this from their slave girl.  Naaman was the name of this man and he goes and tell his king, who orders a letter of introduction written to the king of Israel, and to sweeten the pot adds silver, gold, and clothing.  The king of Israel does not receive the letter well; he tears the clothing in despair thinking this could be the beginning of war.  But the prophet heard about the letter and sends word to the king that he would take care of this general.  And so here comes this entourage of horses, chariots and foot soldiers to this prophet's house.  The messenger for the general knocks on the door of the house, and Elisha's servant goes and tells the messenger to tell his general to go and wash seven times in the Jordan River.  The general expected that the very least the prophet could do was show some common courtesy and come and greet him, but he didn't.  He expected the prophet to come and pray over him, waving a hand over the leprous spot and that would be it.  And seeing the Jordan and its dirty waters wondered why this river when back home we have beautiful rivers?  Then the general hears from his soldiers, "Father, if the prophet had asked something difficult of you, you would have gladly done it; why can't you just go into the river and do as the prophet said?"

We can only imagine getting into the river, finding the spot where he could immerse himself and then begins his path to obedience and healing.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  And  you know he kept watching that spot, seven.  And now his skin was like that of a baby.  Healed.  Whole.

At any point of that journey, the general could have gotten more frustrated and could have reached the point where he would have said, "I've had/done enough.  I give up!  I will just to to M.D. Anderson in Houston and they will cure me."  But it was the encouragement of voices from others that helped him keep going until that request before God was met.  You and I have traveled the same road, and many have been the times we think giving up is the best solution, but God knows different and God sometimes uses the voices of others to get us where we need to be.

PRAYER:  GOD, speak to our need and use other voices if necessary, and help us listen.  Help us reach the point where You would have us be.  We pray in faith in the name of Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What Have You Sowed?

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My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Forneither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:-16)

Have you tested your work lately?  What are you dedicating yourself to?  Is it FaceBook?  Instagram?  SnapChat?  Or are you maintaining a balance of all things in your life?  This passage is basically asking that question along with sharing with us what should be important in our lives.  There is the matter of sin (transgression) and restoration, for sinning can be replaced by restoration.  And this in gentleness.  Tempted?  Well, we all are in different ways, but if we have someone with whom we share faith and accountability, we can share with them and together we can "bear one another's burdens."  Then there is the matter of what we are sowing.  This is related to work; how much time are we dedicating to each area of our lives?  Family?  Church?  The Lord?  Our personal prayer life?  etc.  The more time we spend in each the more we shall see the fruits of that effort.  A church by which we walk has on its sign, "Feed Your Faith and Your Doubts Will Starve to Death."  And that's right along the lines of this passage; the more time we spend with God in His Word and in prayer, the less chance other negative have to ruin our day or our life.

See to be a new creation in the Lord; put to death those things that should die or that are draining our time away from the things that really matter.

PRAYER:  LOVING God, help me to be wise in You; help me to sow that which will bear eternal fruit.  Help me to be a compassionate person, a better brother/sister to all, and one who cares about all people.  This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, June 27, 2016

Work to Be Done!

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After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’ The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

The work is right here, right now.  We don't have to go far to find someone who has yet to hear or accept the good news of Jesus Christ.  Jesus demonstrates this in this passage when He sends out a group of 70 to towns and places where He Himself intended to go.  These advance people went to do the work of the harvest, and Jesus said they were not going alone, for the Lord of the harvest sends and accompanies those who go out and do the work.  Jesus' explanation was simple; the work is crucial and there will be those open to it, and those who won't; find the ones who are and stay with them.  Share with them the word that the kingdom of God had come to them, then cure the sick and share the good news.  And regardless of the work still to be done, those doing it will have their names written in the book of life.

God is with us, and God has and will give us that which we need to say and do, to win more lost souls for His glory.  The work starts now.

PRAYER:  Loving God, I know there is much to do, but I want to be in that number of those who work for You.  Equip me, train me, and deploy me.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Afraid of the Dark?  Don't Be!

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I cry aloud to God,    aloud to God, that he may hear me.  In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;    my soul refuses to be comforted.  I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;    I will remember your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all your work,    and muse on your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy.    What god is so great as our God?  You are the God who works wonders;    you have displayed your might among the peoples.  With your strong arm you redeemed your people,    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.           Selah  When the waters saw you, O God,    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;    the very deep trembled.  The clouds poured out water;    the skies thundered;    your arrows flashed on every side.  The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;    your lightnings lit up the world;    the earth trembled and shook.  Your way was through the sea,    your path, through the mighty waters;    yet your footprints were unseen.  You led your people like a flock    by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20)

Today's Upper Room devotional which I read online, was about being afraid of the dark.  It's a common fear and one not easily dispelled by some people even when someone older and wiser says, "Everything's the same, you just can't see it!"  Yeah, and you can't see the monsters, snakes, spiders, mummies, werewolves, and zombies that come out when the lights go out!  This is a psalm of strength, through faith that came to the writer.  God hears us, and we can cal out to Him and we can seek Him.  During the day or even at night when it seems all is lost and everything is out of control, we can think on God and regain our perspective and focus; after all, God is the God of wonders and miracles.  God, says the psalmist, is so awesome even the deep waters (another fear of some) are afraid of Him.

Re-read this psalm as a reassurance of all that is ours through faith in God.

PRAYER:  Loving God speak to our hearts; the fear of the unknown frightens us, but we have You and You have all things.  Make us strong, grant us more faith.  In Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It's Your Choice; Check Each That Applies

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For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:1-13-25)

If you call technical support, or it you take a car in for servicing, your phone will ring after your experience.  "Would you mind answering a few questions about your experience today?"  And then the questions start and you begin pressing numbers to help them improve their service.  What if God did that after church each time you went?  "My child, would you mind sharing with me what you learned today in worship?"  Well, in a way, that survey is happening even now.  "Would you say you live led by Me, or by the flesh?"  "Would you say that your life decisions reflect freedom or slavery?"  "Would your neighbor say that you loved him?" "Which of the following have you done lately, press 1 for fornication, 2 for impurity, 3 for licentiousness (Dial 0 if you don't know what means), press 4 for idolatry, 5 for sorcery, 6 for enmity, 7 for strife, 8 for jealousy, 0 if one or more not on the list apply to you...an operator will be with you shortly to remove the operator already in your life..."

How much better would it be to hear God saying, "I love you and what you are doing with your life!  I see how love is important to you, and how you love others, and joy!  Joy seems to be pouring out your pores!  And peace is yours, so much so, you're blessing Me and others!  Patience, well, you're working on that; you'll get there soon - And kindness is evident, as if generosity, but give a little more of what you earn to your church, just saying...Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all present, check those boxes my child!"

You get the picture.  Now draw that painting in your life!

PRAYER:  Awesome Giver of Good Things God, grant to me a life that blesses and pleases You.  May I live in such a way that others will know that You live in me.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, June 20, 2016

Are You Ready?  Don't Look Back!

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When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:51-62)

As we make disciples, we must train them to be ready to move ever forward and upward.  We must counter the idea of comfort and complacency, both of which plague the modern church.  This passage is a teaching passage on that very thing.  Jesus was called for a mission and purpose and to that He dedicated Himself.  He knew to keep moving forward and to do His work along the way, even moving steadily toward His death.  He moves toward Jerusalem and enters a village where He is not welcome.  The disciples, especially John, is ready to ask that fire from heaven come and destroy this village, but Jesus rebukes John and the disciples.  As they come to another village they find those who have heard of Jesus and want to follow Him, but they have their conditions that they want met before they move onward.  The first wants to make sure that he has a place to sleep.  The second says, "I will go, but first there's a funeral I must attend."  Jesus replies that the dead should bury the dead.  The third says I must first say goodbye to all my family and friends.  Jesus says, if you put your hand to the plow you can't look back.  

Discipleship is an active, ever-moving endeavor.  Discipleship is not about finding or seeking rest, it is about finding and making disciples.  Discipleship is not an endeavor you put on hold while personal business is tended to; you must keep moving forward.  Discipleship is not an endeavor that waits even for personal farewells to loved ones.  It is like the farmer who is plowing, s/he must keep his/her eyes on the row being plowed to keep it straight and to make sure it is being done correctly.  If you're ready, you should already be on the way!

PRAYER:  Lord, help me to understand the demands of discipleship.  I want to be faithful, ready, and already at work.  In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.

Eradio Valverde