Thursday, March 23, 2017

What More Could I Need?

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23 King James Version)

I still find it interesting to be in a large department store or at least a store with a toy department in it, for the drama that occurs there daily is something to be observed.  It involves both boys and girls.  A stroll through the toy aisles will reveal something that a child will want.  The child will bring this want to the attention of one or both parents and the child will say, "Mom/Dad, I want this!"  After all, the fulfillment of life's call and purpose is found in the item the child has at long last found for him or herself.  And the typical response of a parent is no.  Grandparents, you know that word is not found in our vocabulary, no matter how hard we try or act like we won't get our grandchild that which they want.  The response of the parent triggers a wail that fills the store.  "But I need this!"  And the child will begin a slow, dazed, shocked walk with the wail on, clutching or dragging the needed toy with them.

We get like that somethings and we too, sometimes confuse want with need.  Most of us have many wants, perhaps even possess a list of wants; but if we're honest with God and ourselves, we have all we need to get by.  David knew that and he knew why.  In God he had found a savior and a provider.  Thinking back to his days in the pasture, he remembered the virtues of a good shepherd, and he lists those in this psalm, attributing them to what God provides to us as our Good Shepherd. 

Dear friend, you and I have found all we need in God; and isn't it wonderful?  Nothing that we could possibly need to have joy and peace in this life has been denied us.  Yes, we might have challenges come our way, but we find in God that which blesses us, and keeps us moving ever forward and ever upward.  David says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."  And they do.  And in the shelter and protection of that grace, I have found God's house and I plan on staying in it.

So come on life, bring it on!  We're ready, we're blessed, and protected.  And best of all, we're loved!

To God be the glory!

PRAYER:  Loving Father, our Good Shepherd, thank You for all You provide.  Guide me to what I need next, be it rest, be it nourishment, be it a refreshing of my soul, or guiding me to what's next in my life, even walking the scary places of this life, Thank You for being with me.  I have enough.  Yours is the glory.  In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Lord Looks on our Heart

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The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)

There's a popular tv show on right now that judges not on appearance but on another quality.  For many of the contestants on The Voice, they love that aspect of it.  Four judges sit with their back to the singer, and the chairs they sit on are designed to not allow any peeking.  They must concentrate on the voice.  If they like what they hear, and would like the singer to be on their team, they press a button, the chair turns around, the floor in front of the judge lights up with the judge's name, and the singer knows that this judge wants him/her.  Have you ever been in a situation where you  hoped you would be judged not by looks but by character or ability?  This is the essence to today's reading.  God rejects Saul as king of Israel, the prophet Samuel mourns this for he had come to love Saul as king, but God sends him to the house of Jesse to find the new king.  Samuel goes under a false pretense to that area for fear of Saul and his anger.  He comes to Jesse of Bethlehem and asks to see his sons.  The oldest one is Eliab, tall and handsome, the prophet thinks this is he!  (Remember that Saul was among the tallest in Israel and was chosen as king).  But hear the interesting word from God:"Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  Wow!  God knows our heart and what's in our heart counts.  Remember Jesus said later, that it was not what goes into our mouth that defiles us, but what comes out of our mouths; for that reveals what is in our hearts.  

The parade of sons continued until all the older ones were seen. None of them were the one.  The prophet asks the dad if there were any other sons, and Jesse said the youngest, or as the Message version says, "the runt."  The youngest was tending sheep and had missed out on the barbecue.  But Samuel said to call for him, for they would not sit down until all were present.  Now, the writer describes David's appearance as being "ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome."  And he was the one.  The thing that counted before the Lord were not his eyes or cheeks, but David's heart.

That begs us to ask the question what is in our heart.  I would pray that in our heats would be seen the love we have for God and that we have for others.  Oh that our hearts would reflect compassion and mercy for all people.  Oh that our hearts be filled with God's grace enough to share with others.  Oh that our hearts would reveal a hunger for God and the things of God.  That is what counts before the Lord.

If we're not happy with what is in our heart, we can ask that it be changed.  The same boy whose heart was pleasing to God would later write, "create in me a clean heart, O Lord," meaning that he knew God had that power and grace to change our hearts for the better.  Cancer had weakened the heart of my dad's uncle, and as he lay dying, he told his wife, "Eva, my heart may not be working great, but it's filled with love for you, and my heart is yours."  May it be that ours as well, be filled with love for God and God's people, and may it always be known of us that our heart belonged to God.

PRAYER:  Loving Father, fill our hearts with love for You and for Yours.  Fill it with all that pleases You and serves You. May we live a life that gives us away as being Yours.  This we pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Once You Were Darkness; Now You Are Light

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For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ (Ephesians 5:8-14)

Having received Jesus as Lord and Savior has taken us from darkness to light.  Our deeds done before Christ forgave us were deeds done in darkness.  We were either ignorant of their being wrong, or we were intentional in doing them; regardless of what we say, we were in sin.  Christ came to take away our sin and bring us into the light.  Traveling a lot in this job as district superintendent means that many a night I have spent in a hotel room which like Bob Bodett says, "All look the same once the light is out," but it also means stumbling around the dark if nature calls.  The room looks much better and is easier to navigate if a light is on.  So is life.  With the light of Christ living in us we navigate our lives better; making the right choices and life-affirming decisions, becoming people who bless others.  Our light so shine so brightly that others will be attracted to it and ask what it is about us that makes us different.

The closing part of the passage also says we have lived among the dead for too long; Christ has come with life and that in abundance if we would just receive it and live it.  Why continue among the ones who no longer live?  Let the light of Christ shine on us and move from among the dead to the living.

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, may the light of Christ shine brightly and may His gift of life to the fullest be mine.  Help me shine a light that brings others to You, in Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Raise the Roof for the Rock Who Saved Us!

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Come, let's shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let's march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns! And why? Because God is the best, High King over all the gods. In one hand he holds deep caves and caverns, in the other hand grasps the high mountains. He made Ocean - he owns it! His hands sculpted Earth! So come, let us worship: bow before him, on your knees before God, who made us! Oh yes, he's our God, and we're the people he pastures, the flock he feeds. Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks: "Don't turn a deaf ear as in the Bitter Uprising, As on the day of the Wilderness Test, when your ancestors turned and put me to the test. For forty years they watched me at work among them, as over and over they tried my patience. And I was provoked - oh, was I provoked! 'Can't they keep their minds on God for five minutes? Do they simply refuse to walk down my road?' Exasperated, I exploded, 'They'll never get where they're headed, never be able to sit down and rest.'"  (Psalm 95)

Worship is the fuel that blesses our journey.  I wonder how some people can get by without worshiping God?  There is a purpose for our singing praises to God whether it be hymns or praise songs; the join the chorus of all around the world who have the desire to praise God.  And it is all because God deserves it.  God is the "Rock who saved us."  It is God who made all things, and holds all things.  It is God who feeds us, the sheep of His flock.  It is God who guides us.  And we will never get to where we're headed unless we turn to God.

It matters not the style of worship you like, it just matters that you should worship God.  The day nor the place matters.  Yes, you should regularly join other believers to praise God for the fellowship fuel that blesses our journey too, but the charge is:  Worship God!  As a young man away from home going to college, I found myself having to work on Sundays.  Thankfully, it was every other Sunday, so I could return home on occasion and be at my home church .  But I found out that First United Methodist of Jacksonville, Texas, had a night service, so I was determined that I would still worship God even if it was at night and even if it was in a new church.  I convinced a group of cafeteria workers who also worked the morning and noon of that Sunday, to join me as we trekked over to FUMC.  We must have shocked and surprised the small crowd and Dr. Gilpin, the pastor, but we were welcomed and we sang, and we heard a marvelous sermon, and we praised God.  That blessed my week and the week of the co-workers.  We continued that every other Sunday night, walking as a group from the church to the DQ for our meal (when we had money), and it was a  complete day of the Lord for us.

Make your life complete by worshiping God.  

PRAYER:  Loving God for those of Your who serve in preparing and offering worship, thank You.  For places prepared for our worship, thank You.  May we not take them for granted as we gather to worship and praise You.  In Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is God Among Us or Not?

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From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’  (Exodus 17:1-7)

Traveling with small children is a difficult task at times.  "Are we there yet?" or "When do we eat?" or "Mom, I'm thirsty!"  You kinda know where I'm headed with this; the people of Israel on their forty-year outing became like finicky children.  They had been set free from their captivity as slaves and here they were on a journey to form them as God's people and they were not happy with any of it.  They lost sight of the big picture, namely their freedom and their way to a new land they would soon possess, and it seemed a better deal to them to return back to slavery, back to the known, verses a journey into the unknown.  And here they find there is no water to drink and they begin to gripe about it.  God always provided in His time, and this time was not different, but for them they wanted it when they wanted it.  

God did provide the water and from a rock no less.  And when the water came gushing out, Moses named the place Massah and Meribah because the people kept quarreling and asking, "Is the Lord among us or not?"  The answer is of course, yes, the Lord is with us.  And the other answer is yes, the Lord always provides.  And the other answer is why do you gripe?  But this is just like us even today.  We hardly like venturing out from our comfort zones, even if we are being enslaved by our comfort and its trappings, rather than venture into the unknown, even if led by God.  We do not yet know the great things that could be ours if we would but trust the Lord and walk with the Lord forward towards full obedience.

The great blessings of tomorrow are just over the ridge of our quarreling, in the Valley of God is among us.

PRAYER:  Loving God, help me to see beyond the quarreling which shows our frustration of new things, to see that which is possible through obedience.  Guide me to faithfulness and let me be a blessing to You.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.

Eradio Valverde

Here is a video of yesterday's ConCafe off the Cuff:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

God's Love Has Been Poured into Our Hearts!

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11)

A lot happens to us when we say yes to Jesus.  Theologically, we call it Justification by Faith.  Practically, we call it being saved.  We entered into a new, right relationship with God through Jesus and the first byproduct of that is peace.  This peace comes from God and it is difficult to describe, but wonderful to enjoy.  All around us people may be freaking out or panicking, but those with peace, remain calm and sure that God is in control and that God will see us through.  The second thing we gain is grace.  Another difficult to explain, but great to enjoy as well.  Grace is God's free flow of love into our lives, though we know we don't deserve it, but God is like that, sharing unconditional love to us.  And both of these help us even boast in our suffering, that is to say, while others may whine about what they are going through, the Christian says, "This is only leading to greater things!"  Look at the flow chart that Paul provides, and this from his own personal life experiences:  Suffering leads to our having endurance.  Endurance leads to our having character.  Character gives us hope.  Hope does not disappoint because, and hear this:  God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  All this happened while we were still weak, right at that time, Christ died for the ungodly.  God proved His love for us "in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."  Justified, made acceptable before God, because of Jesus' blood poured out for us at the cross; this led to our salvation - the being led away from God's wrath into God's loving embrace.  No longer enemies of God, but now reconciled people before God.

If you have said Yes to Jesus, you have all of the above things in your life.  You stand right before God.  You can lead a life that gives glory and honor to God.  Your heart is full of love, so share it willingly.  Make you face shine, smile like never before, and look around to the needs that you can meet and meet them in the name of the Lord.  We are called to make and be a difference in the lives of those who have not yet met the Lord.  Care for others.  Help one another.  Show love to those who do not yet know the love of God.  This may bless others in ways you did not dream possible.  

If you have not yet said yes to God, this could be the right time.

PRAYER:  Loving God, thank You for this day and its blessings.  Thank You for Jesus to Whom we have said Yes, come into my heart, and be Lord and Savior.  I confess I am a sinner and ask forgiveness of my sins; remove them and cast them in the deepest part of the sea.  And let me live a life that gives You honor and glory.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Here is a video link to yesterday's Gospel message: 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Christ Knows Our Sins and Still Loves Us!

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So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he,the one who is speaking to you.’Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word.They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.’  (John 4:5-42)

This is certainly not a short passage.  Yet, it contains power and truth.  Jesus alone, unfed, thirsty, and awaiting the return of the disciples, meets a woman who has come to draw water from the well known as Jacob's well.  This was a significant historical spot for it was here that Jacob had given this plot of land to his son Joseph.  "Give me a drink," is how Jesus starts a conversation that will end with the woman knowing exactly who Jesus is, and who she is.  She, being a Samaritan, tries to get Jesus not to ask for water by reminding Him of their differences. Jesus may have confused her by saying if you knew who I was, you would have asked living water from me.  She replies that He has no bucket, the well is deep, where in the world would you get such living water?  And Jesus proceeds to tell her all about that living water and how it leads to eternal life.  She still didn't get it and thinks that maybe this is finally the running water she needs to stop making this trip to the well.  Jesus asks her to bring her husband.  The woman is honest in saying she has no husband, and Jesus concurs and says, "You're right in saying you have no husband, because you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.  What you have said is true!"  This takes the woman by surprise and wonders if Jesus is a prophet, and speaks of the place where they are located.Jesus speaks of true worship being done in spirit and truth, and she replies in saying she knows the Messiah is coming.  Jesus declares Himself to be the Messiah.  The disciples arrive, and the woman returns to her village inviting all to come and see a man "who told me everything I have ever done!  He cannot be the Messiah, can He?"  

The woman was amazed that Jesus knew everything she had ever done.  Jesus knew her sins, yet, she could tell He was not condemning her but inviting her to come into a new relationship with herself and with God.  How do we react when we find out that Jesus knows all of our sins?  "Everything (we) have ever done?"  Some might feel embarrassed, or shameful; few might feel relieved - but I hope all of us would feel thankful that in spite of our sin, we were still invited to love Jesus and receive from Jesus the forgiveness of our sins.  This encounter is a Lenten encounter.  Jesus shares with His disciples that His food was in doing the will of God.  They were hungry and believed Jesus to be, but He was content in doing what God asked of Him.  He was sharing forgiveness of sins, offering living water, and speaking truth about living water leading to eternal life.  It took a while for the woman to get it, but the villagers seemed to get it quicker because of Jesus' teachings, and they proclaimed Jesus to be the Savior of the world. 

Jesus' invitation to us still holds.  In spite of who we believe ourselves to be, the long list of sins that we have amassed, Jesus is with us, loving us and sharing with us that which blesses us with living water and eternal life.  I would pray dear friend, that you would, if you have not yet done so, accept His loving invitation to you. We're getting closer to that Friday in which Jesus died for us a painful death, becoming the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (that's you and me!).  Won't you accept Him?

PRAYER:  Awesome Father, thank You for Jesus and all He did on our behalf.  Help me to know and accept Jesus as MY Savior and Lord.  Thank You for loving us in spite of bad decisions, terrible choices that I have made.  Please give to me, living water, life in abundance, and life eternal.  Take my sins away and replace them with love and grace for all.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde