Thursday, April 16, 2015

How Do You Sleep at Night?

Master Davis J. Barnett of Kerrville, Texas

Psalm 4 Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? (Selah) But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. (Selah) Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, "O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!" You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Back in July I wrote, "Sleep is the most purposeful of all vices." It reflects a running dialogue with myself and sleep. At times I am like my grandchildren and don't like the idea of sleep; there's too much to do and so much fun to be had - sleeping just might get in the way! Other times I cannot fight staying away or keeping sleep at bay; I just surrender and close my eyes and I am out. The older I get the more that becomes the reality. But I love sleep and I love waking up. I have also discovered that many, while living a life filled with secrets and sins, have trouble sleeping. Nightmares and troubled dreams will fill the soul during the day and come out to play at night, making for a terrible sleep. The psalmist knew God well enough to know the secret to a good night's sleep: Talk to God, enter into God's presence, especially when you're in distress; talk to God some more, receive God's grace; don't be influenced by those not living right, and seek faithfulness as your daily goal. Then seek to live a life that gives away the good you have received from God, for God has filled your heart with joy and gladness and joy and gladness is what you will share. Then, as the psalmist says, "(You) will both lie down and sleep in peace; for You (God) alone, make me lie down in safety."

PRAYER: Loving God guide me to that place where joy and gladness fill my heart, and then let it flow out freely to all. This I pray in Christ Jesus, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Power in the Name of Jesus!

Acts 3: 12-19 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, "You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. "And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out,

Sin is an awful walking buddy. Sin will weigh you down, slow you down, and eventually paralyze you spiritually. Walking with Christ will no longer be a desired option; you will long only for what sin dictates for your life. Sin makes bad, deadly choices, but your sin-controlled mind will tell you the opposite. It's a long crawl back, or so it will seem, to a life free from sin, but it is possible only in Jesus Christ.

Today's passage showed the power found in the name of Jesus. The apostles Peter and John used that name to free a man from a life of incapacity to walk, condemned to beg for his livelihood. "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." (Acts 3:6). The man not only got up, he, as the song goes, "went walking, and leaping and praising God," for he knew he had a new life; so can you and me, if we turn over our sins to God.

Peter used this opportunity to preach the Good News, which is all about being forgiven of our sins. The key verse for me is "And by faith in His name, His name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you." And the invitation: "Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out."

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, we can send out sins walking. May they walk, better yet, as this scripture says, may they be wiped out of our lives, and may our walking now be with the best walking buddy in history: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

PRAYER: Loving God, send my sins packing; wipe them out from me,and let me go, as that dear man, walking, and leaping and praising You for the new life now in me. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, April 09, 2015

A Powerful Chapter!

Image of Mount Hermon in Palestine

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Three verses, and that's the chapter of Psalm 133. But three very powerful verses that I've had to read both for myself and for some meetings that I have attended or presided over. Verse one sums up the desire of God for all meetings. I've often (mis)quoted Jesus as having said, "Where two or three are gathered, there's going to be trouble." Sadly, that's not far from the truth in some instances. You and I have been at special events, i.e. weddings, funerals, births, finance committees, where instead of some celebration taking place the worst in people comes out. The word kindred in this translation speaks volumes of the need for those related in some way, either by blood, marriage, or even faith, but especially faith in God, should interact. The brother mentioned in verse two is the famous one who helped Moses in his ministry. And the purpose of all meetings should be for there to be unity in all things.

The anointing of a person, such as Aaron, meant that the oil poured on his head would flow down from his hair, over his face and beard, to the collar of his robes. Mount Hermon, the highest peak in Palestine is often snowcapped and it provides dew down the mountain. This covering of blessing should cover those who meet together for whatever reason, especially in the service of God. For where the brothers and sisters agree on the positive for the work and good of God and God's people, God's blessing will be there; ultimately "life evermore."

Today, find a chance to speak a positive word about your purpose and relationship with someone who might need to hear it. You will be a blessing from God!

PRAYER: Indeed, loving God, in all of my dealings this day, speak a word of hope and peace, so that indeed unity may be present. This I ask in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Not a Needy Person Among Them

Acts 4: 32-35 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

First Church Jerusalem should be the eternal model of all churches. The members were so devoted to God and Jesus Christ that the key verse is the very first one above: (They) were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common." Compare that to some churches where 1) Pews are "owned" every Sunday by those who "always sit here!" 2) Offices on committees are "owned" by those "who always have served in those positions."

Compare the next verse: This church gave testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Some church members are afraid to talk a word about their faith, especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Well, it was a faith event, anything could have happened to make them believe 'something' happened, but we're not really sure, are we?" Grace in many churches is the name of the lady who left to join the Baptists.

The verse that touches me: There was not a needy person among them, for as many owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." Do I really need to explain this in comparison to what really happens today?

The key is for us to truly give witness of this Easter message: Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed. If anything, find occasion to share that with someone in conversation. It's really not that hard to do, and it might just bring a blessing to someone who has never heard. And second thing; if you see someone in need, help them out! It may be a person in line at the grocery store and they don't seem to have enough money; it could be a child you see with old shoes; you know the drill! Serve the Risen Savior!

PRAYER: Loving God of the Resurrection, resurrect my heart and soul to be like those of the first disciples. Help me to live a life of resurrection. This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Image from clickseed.com

1 John 1:1-2:2 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

I was quite the marksman growing up. Growing in up in a small South Texas town, it was pretty much expected given our options and resources for entertainment. My grandfather, Carlos, showed me how to make a slingshot out of tree limbs, old shoes, huge rubber bands; all with using just one knife. He showed me how to select rocks for it, and how to aim, draw back, and release to hit my target. Sadly, I came to be one who enjoyed the slingshot, and later a very powerful BB gun. I was hitting all the wrong marks. As my fellowship with God and Jesus grew stronger, I realized I was missing the main mark; I was sinning to kill little animals for no reason. I still remember the day that standing on the street, I cocked my BB gun, aimed at something hopping in our alley, shot and killed what I found to be a bird. I dropped my rifle and never picked it up again. I realized there was a mark that I should be hitting; growing in my love and devotion to God.

It would be later in college and seminary in studies about sin that the basic definition of sin is missing the mark. Yes, we all sin, but the good news in this passage relating to life here and life eternal is that those who confess their sins are forgiven and the fellowship with God continues. Jesus' death was for the sins of the whole world. We represent Christ and should tell the whole world about this fellowship of life and love that is available to all.

PRAYER: Loving God, I confess I am a sinner and I have missed the mark; I ask for forgiveness and that You help me turn my life towards life and love, joy and peace. Help me to spread the news: Easter is not over, and it's all about You! I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Risen Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, April 06, 2015

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

John 20:19-31 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin ), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Turn to someone today and say, "Easter is not over!" As Christians, we've entered Eastertide; all the passages for the next few weeks center on Jesus' resurrection and teachings that should help us become the disciples we should be. This year Eastertide ends on Sunday, May 24th. This passage is one of those teachings. It was late that first Easter Sunday that while the disciples cowered in fear, Jesus came and stood in their midst. The doors were locked and the disciples thought no one knew where they were, for their fear was that they were next to be crucified. But several things worth nothing: 1) Jesus' message again centers on peace, which builds on even on the presence of fear. 2) Jesus showed them physical evidence of His resurrection, showing them his hands and side. 3) Jesus again shares the word and blessing of peace, but this time accentuates it with a very precious and powerful gift, the Holy Spirit. 4) Sin is still around, so Jesus wants the forgiveness of sins to still take place. 5) Jesus' work continues even when we are absent. 6) Jesus meets our doubts and fears head-on. Jesus wants us to believe. Our belief will allow us to join Doubting Thomas in proclaiming Jesus as Lord and God.

PRAYER: Loving God, thank You for Easter and its message of hope, life, and power. Help me to live in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit to live in me. Easter is not over for those who believe, so let me be counted among the number of faithful and fruitful believers. I pray in the name of the Risen Christ, amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

Image from wheelsms.files.wordpress.com

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!

From Luke's Gospel, Chapter 24:1-12: But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

It was a hurried burial, with no time to properly bury Jesus. It fell to the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and the other women with them, to anoint the body with the spices according to their tradition. They come to the tomb and find that the stone had been rolled away. Entering the tomb, they found no body. What they did find were "two men in dazzling clothes," who asked the key question: Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Christ is risen. That was the reality and the message these women experienced on that first Easter Sunday. The women heard and believed and rushed back to tell the disciples,who receive these news as something akin to an idle tale and sadly, "they did not believe them." The last verse, verse 12, added by ancient authorities add that Peter was driven to action, ran to check out the tomb and found just the linen cloths, went home amazed.

Today is a special day that some call the Birthday of the Church, or it could be just another day, depending on your faith. Either something supernatural happened, or it is, as the disciples thought, "an idle tale." You can choose the power of life, or the power of doubt. But whatever you choose, don't choose the third option, the deadly power of apathy.

I choose to believe in the power of God to resurrect Jesus from among the dead, and that same power still at work in the hearts and lives of those who still seek to live among the dead.

PRAYER: Loving God, strengthen my faith and let me believe to the point where I can't keep it to myself any longer! Take my mind, body, soul, and spirit to the place of the living; this dead stuff ain't working for me. I pray in the name of He who rose from the dead, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord! He is Risen!

Eradio Valverde