Monday, August 29, 2016

All In!

Image from angusday.org

Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. (Luke 14:25-33)

There have been several times in my life that I have had to choose decisions that if I made them, I would have to be all in.  No halfway compromise, but full-hearted, full-minded, all-body commitment.  The first was my decision to go away for college.  I chose a college about three hours away from home.  I had no car.  All my family packed into our family sedan, along with all of my earthly belongings; more important to me at that time was the Radio Shack stereo I had gotten for Christmas.  They dropped me off, saw my dorm room, kissed and hugged me and off they drove.  I had to decide that this was the right decision, the right place, and the right time to do what I needed to do.  Within a few hours an upperclassman asked if I wanted to go see a movie.  I started to say, "Let me go ask...Sure!"  No longer had to ask permission to go to the movies!

The seriousness of Christ's call involves our being able to commit in the same way.  I knew once I stayed, my job was to learn, study, work, and do all that was involved in my being a good college student.  Jesus in the same way asks for our full commitment in all areas of our lives.  Jesus matters more than family, for there will be some families that will not share the same commitment to Him and we will have to decide.  Jesus gives us a task for which we need to also commit all of ourselves to complete.  Jesus may even ask us to move far from where we are right now, and we should be ready to say yes, Lord, here am I.  No one has ever said it is easy to follow Jesus.  Discipleship costs.  It cost Jesus His life, and it costs us our lives while living, to give all and do all.

PRAYER:  Awesome God, here I am.  Ready. Willing, and with Thy help, able.  Use me.  I'm all in.  And this only because of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Never Satisfied?

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Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? 6 They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?’ 7 I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. 8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers* transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. 9Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children. 10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. 12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, 1for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:4-13)

Some people are just like that I guess. Or should I say some of us are like that? God has done wonderful and incredible things, but we're never happy nor satisfied. We woke up this morning and yet we gripe, "I don't want to get up!" Or, we complain, "I don't want to go to work!" Don't you remember a time when you were so sick you couldn't get out of bed? Or, don't you remember the excitement when you were offered your current job? You're being Old Testament, people! This passage is a prime example of God's reaction to the people whom God led out of slavery into freedom; yet they complained, yet they kept looking back, wanting to go back and keep doing the same though slaves. They forsook the Lord, and took to doing things for themselves they couldn't quite do. And we sometimes do the same.

Zig Ziglar, the late motivational speaker used to offer what he called, The checkup from the neck up. Think about it; it's about attitude and gratitude. If we would but pause from time to time, to take stock of what God has truly done for us and the countless blessings we have because of Him, we would have a better attitude; we might even have gratitude. Then, life would truly be seen with God's eyes and not ours. The big picture would blot out the imperfections and small nuisances that make us think that all is lost. It isn't.

PRAYER: Awesome God, You have done so much for me that I just want to thank You. Forgive me the times I want my way and not Yours. Help me truly have an attitude of gratitude in and towards all things. The truth is that You truly aren't through with me, and the best is yet to come. This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord! Smile more!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, August 18, 2016

In God's Guest Room

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I run for dear life to God, I'll never live to regret it. Do what you do so well: get me out of this mess and up on my feet. Put your ear to the ground and listen, give me space for salvation. Be a guest room where I can retreat; you said your door was always open! You're my salvation - my vast, granite fortress.  My God, free me from the grip of Wicked, from the clutch of Bad and Bully. You keep me going when times are tough - my bedrock, God, since my childhood. I've hung on you from the day of my birth, the day you took me from the cradle; I'll never run out of praise. (Psalm 71:1-6 The Message)

As a youth growing up in the Río Grande Conference, our retreats were usually held in big cities, not camps, and our accommodations were in people's homes not cabins.  That made for interesting character development.  And as a youth officer I sometimes went alone to different meetings where again, I would end up in someone's guest room.  And though the rooms never looked like the picture above, it was better.  I felt at home.  I felt safe.  I felt welcomed and loved.  There are people who were the adults in those homes who welcomed me as a son and made true the Lord's word on leaving home for His work and finding mothers and fathers wherever we would go.  Mrs. Gladys Sonnen was one of my moms when I stayed there with my dear friend, David.  Mr. Andrew Hernandez was my dad when I stayed there with my dears friends Andy and Bobby.  Recently, we always had a special room with Bill and Jody Henderson where we were welcomed and loved.  That is why I chose the Message Bible's version of today's psalm.  It always speaks honestly and in a tone that is very today.  There have been times I have run for dear life right to God, and I have yet to regret finding a hiding place in God.  And yes, God has gotten me out of many messes, and yes, God has given me salvation.  And yes, God has a guest room where I enjoy the things a guest room provides like I mentioned above:  a home away from home, security, safety, and love.  God's door is always open, for God is my salvation.  In God I do find escape from the grips of Wickedness and Bad and Bully; God keeps me going even when the going is rough.  May I never run out of praise!

PRAYER:  Yes, Loving God, You are my hiding place, my refuse, my rock and my secure place.  Thank You for the guest room I find through prayer, silence, reflection and the reading of Your Holy Word.  May it be a place others find when needed; for You are my Salvation.  In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Serve the Lord with the Right Words

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Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the Lord said to me,‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;for you shall go to all to whom I send you,and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’ Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,to pluck up and to pull down,to destroy and to overthrow,to build and to plant.’ (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Think of the hardest job you've ever had.  Think of the worst job you've ever had.  Sometimes those are two and the same.  But whatever job or jobs came to mind, let me ask you, "Have you ever been a prophet?"  And I don't mean being an outspoken critic in your church; I mean a biblical prophet, called by God in a different era, unusually under a kind or queen, and your job was to speak God's judgment on that kingdom.  Ouch.  It was not an easy job.  It was usually a job not sought after; it was just given to you by God.  Here is Jeremiah's call.  I've known about Jeremiah longer, because before I could read, my Mom would say to us boys if we were crying, "Who do you think you are, Jeremiah?"  I didn't know then what that meant, but I came to find out.  She knew Jeremiah through her church life that he was the weeping prophet.  Such was the power of his message and expectation that he wept a lot for his people and for himself charged with this task of using the right words to bring the message of God to a disobedient people.  One scholar has said that Jeremiah embodied the message of God and felt the anguish of God and that of the people.  Yet, he was the right man at the right time for the task.  

We notice that the call from God came to this prophet even before he was born; in the womb Jeremiah was consecrated and appointed.  Even as the boy says he is too young, God reassures him that if God calls us, he will equip up and ready us for the task.  God calls the prophet to not have fear, for God was with him, and God gave Jeremiah the words he was to speak.  Notice that God gave the prophet words "to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."  

In our daily life we too are called to serve the Lord.  We are to use the God-given words that we have heard in our churches, our devotional life, our experiences, and our memories to bless, heal, transform, and to build up.  Ours is a job of bringing hope to a people that are lost and drowning in their sins; and we can do that lovingly.  

PRAYER:  Lord God, just as You called Jeremiah, You are calling us to share Your words.  Grant us those words, the assurance that we are not alone, and that You are with us, and the strength that takes away our fear of serving You.  In Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Worship As Usual?  I Think Not!

Image from crosspoint.com

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’)But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’ This phrase ‘Yet once more’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29)

There have been times when you and I have been in worship settings where we know little to no effort was put into it.  The music dragged.  The sermon was just so-so.  The people were not welcoming.  And the congregation was small and they reflected they were bored.  And I suspect that any effort to change worship would be a matter of much discussion in a committee meeting.  The above passage shares what the writer knows to be true; when it comes to God, God is awesome.  And when it comes to worshipping an awesome God, our worship should be awesome and inspiring. Moses, as he says, experienced God and his job after that was to help the people of God become an awesome people of worship and service.  And he wanted that reverence and awe to spill over into their daily lives.  Therefore, people of a stale worship become people of stale lives.  We must not be about that.  Read the final verses of this passage again:  "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire."

Do what you must to spark up your worship life and your life outside of worship.

PRAYER:  Loving God, speak to our hearts the truth about You.  Move among us and stir us up for obedient and awesome worship, and let it spill over into our daily lives.  We serve an exciting God and we should live in ways that invite others to come to You.  In Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.

Eradio Valverde

Monday, August 15, 2016

That's a Hard Way to Live!

Image from tncchurch.org

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. (Luke 13:10-17)

Having moved from a tiny home town to a huge metropolis of over one million people was enough to make me walk if not bent over, certainly walking with head down.  My mother who would watch this 13 year old walk the two city blocks to catch the city bus once asked, "Are you looking for nickels?"  I laughed and said no, I'm just trying to avoid people...  She asked why and I told her, and she said that I was as good as anybody else, and God had made us all, and I had nothing to hide; to look people in the eye and find my way through this world.  And I did.  

Imagine living that way most of your life.  Eighteen years is a long way to live bent over or with heads bowed.  This woman regardless of her appearance found her way to worship every week; she didn't let this physical handicap limit her praising and thanking God; and it was in the synagogue on that Sabbath that she found healing at the hands of Jesus.  Jesus, remember, was teaching in the synagogue on this sabbath day and while he was teaching this woman came in.  He calls her over and says, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment."  He laid hands on her and her healing was immediate.  And so was her praising of God.  After 18 years of living life limited as she was, now she was completely free to praise and worship God.  And yet, the leader of the synagogue became angry that this healing took place on the sabbath.  The routine had been broken; Jesus brought change to the worship service, and most certainly now the offering could not be taken up because people's focus was on the healed woman.  This leader begins to lecture Jesus about work on the sabbath; "You have six days to do that kind of thing, why now and why here?"  Jesus answered them with the reality of how strict this rule of worship was kept, and then calls this woman a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had kept this way for many eighteen long years, now she is free from her bondage.  That shut the leader and his followers up.  The crowd went back to "rejoicing at all the wonderful things that He was doing."  Indeed.

You and I have been blessed by Jesus and most of us have kept those things pretty secret, but now is the time to speak up and share the wonderful things that Jesus has done for us.  The world needs to hear some good news.  We need to share with so many the answers we have gotten from the Lord and let others know that all is not lost, there is still a savior that delivers us from our captivity and shame.  Otherwise, people will continue to live looking down and not up; thinking that all is lost; when we know it is not.

PRAYER:  Speak to my heart, Loving Father, and let me share the Good News with all people.  Great and many are the wonderful things You have done for me, now let me share those with others.  In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Update:  Mrs. Ally Portwood, underwent surgery and the complications she was having were fixed.  She was moved from ICU to a private room and should be released to go home soon.  Praise God!  And thank you  all of your prayers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Get Out of Bed!  You've Slept Long Enough!

Image from hexjam.com

Listen, Shepherd, Israel's Shepherd - get all your Joseph sheep together. Throw beams of light from your dazzling throne  So Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh can see where they're going. Get out of bed - you've slept long enough! Come on the run before it's too late.Remember how you brought a young vine from Egypt, cleared out the brambles and briers and planted your very own vineyard? You prepared the good earth, you planted her roots deep; the vineyard filled the land. Your vine soared high and shaded the mountains, even dwarfing the giant cedars. Your vine ranged west to the Sea, east to the River. So why do you no longer protect your vine? Trespassers pick its grapes at will; Wild pigs crash through and crush it, and the mice nibble away at what's left. God of the angel armies, turn our way! Take a good look at what's happened and attend to this vine. Care for what you once tenderly planted - the vine you raised from a shoot. And those who dared to set it on fire - give them a look that will kill! Then take the hand of your once-favorite child, the child you raised to adulthood.  We will never turn our back on you; breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!  God, God of the angel armies, come back! Smile your blessing smile: That will be our salvation. (Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 The Message Bible)

Ah, the joys of sleep!  Some people enjoy sleep too much; some not at all.  Which are you?  For this passage sleep refers to inaction or inactivity towards what God desires from us.  So, it isn't necessarily that of staying in bed snoring; it is our willing to stay inactive, or worse, indifferent to what God calls.  The image of the vineyard returns today; the psalmist is calling upon God, and upon God's children, to awaken and to do that which pleases God, not us.  The feeling of the writer is that God has abandoned us and pleads for God to return; when in fact God never moves, it is us.  The old joke of the elderly couple stoping at a traffic light behind a young couple, tells of the wife on the passenger side saying, "Look at those two!  They're so close together they seem like a two-headed monster!"  Then reflecting on it says, looking at her husband, "Remember when we used to do that?  Why don't we do that anymore?"  The old man said, "I haven't moved."  

Here is our invitation to move closer to the Lord in our actions.  Stop sleeping and taking for granted that God will do everything for us.  We have to get up, get out, and busy in doing what we are called to do:  Share the Good News of God's love through Jesus Christ.  Every day that we take for granted is a day lost in the work needed for God's Kingdom.

PRAYER:  Awaken, O God, my heart, mind, spirit, and body, to the work You've called me to do.  There is so much to do and we cannot take another day for granted.  In Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde