Monday, October 23, 2017

Passion, Prayer, & Intelligence

Image from agnusday.org

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’  Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord,‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:34-46)

There is nothing quite like spending an hour with junior high students who want to be confirmed as members of the church.  I praise and thank God for those who are called to teach this age group as a profession.  It's an interesting age, and best I can remember, I went through it as well.  I do question, was I that way?  (Notice please that I did not use the word bad!).  I may have been, I just don't remember.  And then we have the model of Jesus as a 12 year old, sitting with the teachers and asking questions.  Now, not all the confirmands are alike.  They are all sweet in their own way, and they do want to learn about God and get closer to God, but they possess an energy that if harnessed, could power the South Texas energy grid.  But, the challenges of learning the faith and all that comes with it, would be difficult for anyone of any age.  In this passage, these men, for they were mostly men, were adolescents once.  They may have fidgeted a bit, they may have posed and postured, some may have never grown out of it, thus their position as Pharisees and Sadducees; but they, like Jesus, learned the commandments and the law as children, and youth.  The ones with the religious titles asked the first question to Jesus:  "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"  It was a Sunday school type question, meaning, if you attended SS on a regular basis, paid a little attention, and passed the quiz, you would know this.  Jesus knew it.  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  The Message version says, "Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.'"

Passion.  Prayer.  Intelligence. These explain a bit more what the above version says of heart, soul, and mind.  If you have love and passion in your heart, the love that comes out is different from just loving or saying you love someone or something.  Recently, those in this area who love the Astros know all about passion.  Friday and Saturday nights were awesome nights for the fans of baseball in this area.  Some would have added prayer to the passion for the Astros, and that is acceptable, but Jesus is talking about being strongly connected to God through prayer.  It is the fuel of your soul to love God and to stay in touch with God.  And intelligence is that which fuels your mind's activity; if you love God, you will think about God often and in ways that boost your life.  Many are the ones who simply think or say, "God's got this," as they think and reflect and pray about challenges or obstacles that come their way.  Jesus knew the commandment, but more importantly, Jesus knew God.

The final question was put to the Pharisees and Sadducees by Jesus.  "What do you think of the Messiah?  Whose son is He?"  This was a question that they first answered with the name, "David."  Yet, Jesus asks a tougher question, How can David, who for many, was the greatest king and ruler, and out of whose house the  Messiah was expected, call a son of his, "Lord?"  No one could answer that question, and you will note that from that day on, no one dared asked Jesus any more questions.  Jesus bested them at their own game.  For the one who knows God, knows the best answer to most questions. 

PRAYER:  Loving God, I want  to know you with passion, prayer, and intelligence.  I seek to know You as I go through life.  Help me to share what I know with those who seek.  Bless those in need, and help us respond with whatever we can to those.  This we pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Ask questions that may bring the Answer to those still seeking.

Eradio Valverde

Prayers for Mr. Larry Ehrig of Gonzales, in San Antonio, facing surgery today.  Prayers for Ms. Ann Keck as well.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Your Toes Everyone!  God is Holy!

Image from thorncrownjournal.com

God rules. On your toes, everybody! He rules from his angel throne - take notice! God looms majestic in Zion, He towers in splendor over all the big names.  Great and terrible your beauty: let everyone praise you! Holy. Yes, holy.  Strong King, lover of justice, You laid things out fair and square; You set down the foundations in Jacob, Foundation stones of just and right ways.  Honor God, our God; worship his rule! Holy. Yes, holy.  Moses and Aaron were his priests, Samuel among those who prayed to him. They prayed to God and he answered them; He spoke from the pillar of cloud. And they did what he said; they kept the law he gave them.  And then God, our God, answered them (But you were never soft on their sins).  Lift high God, our God; worship at his holy mountain. Holy. Yes, holy is God our God. (Psalm 99)

This October 31st, besides being Halloween, is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  It was the day that a priest by the name of Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Wittenburg Church, his 95 Theses.  It was a "God-thing," led by the Holy Spirit for this monk to be assigned to teach Bible when he himself admitted he did not know the Bible.  That led him to study scripture and to become transformed by what he read.  He compared what the Bible said to what the Church was doing, and summed up his findings in those 95 theses.  Part of what he read has led many a person to revival and that is that God calls us to be holy.  Not holier than thou, that attitude that turns people off, but a call to live a life that blesses others because of the presence of Jesus' love and compassion in us that brings about thinking in others to change their lives as well.  

This morning I listened to a 7 minute presentation on the Reformation based on King Josiah.  I will add the link at the bottom so that when you have seven minutes to spare you might listen to Dr. Sandra Richter present a wonderful talk on what could happen today in your life and in the life of the church.  It goes back to what the psalmist is saying:  On your toes, everybody!  God rules, God is majestic, towers in splendor, God is beautiful, and God is worthy of everyone's praise!  We're called to honor God and to worship Him.  Lift God high because holy, yes holy is God our God.

Maybe I'm reading too much into "on your toes" but to me it says take action, and the best action is to be like God.

PRAYER:  Loving God, bring holiness to my life.  Let me seek to be salt and light, positive influence in the lives of my family, friends, co-workers, fellow Christians, so that true reformation and revival may happen in me.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Give up that which has given up on you long ago!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

God Knows Us by Name & Goes With Us

Image from pinterest.com

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’ (Exodus 33:12-23)

There are times we don't want to be known or seen.  Nellie and I went to a megachurch in Corpus Christi some years ago and after parking in a huge lot, walking a long way, entered into a dark worship space that was like walking in late to a movie.  We slipped in and just as easily slipped out.  There was no greeting of our neighbor or passing the peace.  And, there are times we do want to be known and seen, especially when we feel we need God's blessing or help.  In a highly visible position such as Moses held, he wanted God to know him and be with him daily.  The stress and pressure of that awesome job of leading God's people away from slavery and into a new country, and a new relationship with God was at times more than he could stand.  Moses could, as can we, cry out to the Lord.  We can petition the Lord to be with us and help us with what we're facing, as did Moses.  It's clear that God cared for God had said to Moses and Moses repeats it here, "I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight."  And Moses asks that God go with them or else leave them right where they were.

In the same way, God knows us by name and by need.  We can talk with God and seek to listen to Him.  We can be honest with God and share with God our worries and troubles; God will respond and God will guide us.  As you go about your day today be honest with God and ask what it is you've been wanting to ask.  Ask to know not only God's favor, but God's glory as you seek answers to questions, and solutions to challenges. God is faithful and just.  You may just be totally amazed.

PRAYER:  Loving God, bless me with Your favor.  Bless me with signs of Your glory was I seek answers to what I need to do.  Guide me deeper into faithfulness.  This I ask in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Take the step towards trusting God more to help you today!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

God Not Only Loves You, But Has His Hand on You for Something Special!

Image from richardtcook.com

I, Paul, together here with Silas and Timothy, send greetings to the church at Thessalonica, Christians assembled by God the Father and by the Master, Jesus Christ. God's amazing grace be with you! God's robust peace!  Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father.  It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special.  When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit! - taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.  Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master's Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don't even have to say anything anymore - you're the message!  People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom. (1 Thessalonians1:1-10 The Message)

One of the images suggested for this passage says, "Your Faith is Famous!"  And who wouldn't be famous in faith if they lived and worked as these brothers and sisters of the Church in Thessalonica.  They were known for their love and patience.  (Are we?)  Because their faith was solidly in Jesus Christ and they had seen and received the message of Good News not only preached, but received through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit put "steel in your convictions," and the people lived that way too.  The change was evident by all who knew and worked with these people. And so, it was evident also, that God loved them very much and had His hand on them for something special.

If our faith is solidly, like steel, set in our convictions for the work of the Lord, we too, can claim the promise Paul says of the Christians in Thessalonica:  God loves us very much, and has His hand on us for something special.

That something special may not seem big to you, but it could change the lives of those we touch.  How many people have decided against suicide because of a kind word shared with them?  How many people have decided to live more fully in the Gospel because someone took time to sit and listen and talk with them?  And speaking of those who labor among us; have you shown your appreciation for your pastor(s)?  The month of October has been set aside as Pastor Appreciation Month and it doesn't take much to say Thank You for Being My Pastor; a note, a card, a gift card, a small (or large) token of your appreciation goes a long way to those who labor alongside us for the sake of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER:  Loving God, we thank you for those whom You have loved and on whom You have placed Your loving hands.  Put Your hands on me and guide me to faithfulness.  This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Show How God is using you to do something special.

Eradio Valverde

Monday, October 16, 2017

Render to Caesar

Image from agnusday.org

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15-22)

No one maintained a better separation of church and state than the Jews, especially when it came to the Romans.  The Romans were Gentiles, they were seen as unclean and unfit to rule holy land, and they held Israel as an occupied land.  To top matters off, the Romans demanded a strict tax.  No one opposed the payment of taxes than the religious leaders of the Jews.  They saw the tax as a form of idol worship, for Caesar was seen as a god among his people, so to pay taxes to a god other than YHWH was considered a sin.  The Pharisees led the charge against payment of taxes, and the Herodians, though loyal to Herod and the rulers, were against Jesus, so these two groups conspired to trap Jesus.  Their question, framed first as a false compliment, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.  Tell us, the, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, nor not?"  Jesus saw through their malarky and malice and asks to see a coin used in payment for the tax, and this was the denarius.  Jesus asks, "Whose head is this, and whose title?"  The answered, "The emperor's."  I love the old King James reply,"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."  This shut them up for a bit.

The question today goes deeper into our situation particularly in our country; where is our deepest loyalty?  To the USA or to God?  A lot of people see our country moving further into a nationalistic state, where our country can do no wrong, and leave God out of the equation.  Honestly, we have been this way since our country was established, and for years, sociologists and theologians talked about the civil religion of the United States, and how it fights Christianity for the place of true religion.  But let us go beyond religion to relationship; where does your loyalty lie?  I love the USA, but I love God more.  I seek to know how I can best be a good citizen while not sacrificing my stance as a good Christian.  When you and I are called to stand before God, the question will not be: Were you a good American, but where did your loyalty and demonstrated loyalty lie?  Were you Christ-like in your dealings with others, especially those downtrodden and neglected?  Remember a few chapters after this encounter, in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus spoke of the judging of nations, each individual will be asked how we lived our lives alongside those in need.  Jesus says the sheep will be allowed entrance into heaven:  “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Render therefore unto God, the things that are God's.

PRAYER:  Heavenly Father, forgive me for misplaced loyalties.  I seek to love and serve You above anything or anyone else.  Grant me wisdom to serve You and Yours.  Help me to bless those who are hungry, thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the prisoner, and the sick.  Let my life be a surrender to You in ways that glorify You.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Be prepared to render unto God that which belongs to God.

Eradio Valverde

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Confess and Refresh

Image from Blessedmag2.wordpress.com

Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise? Happy are those who observe justice,who do righteousness at all times. Remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people;help me when you deliver them; that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory in your heritage. Both we and our ancestors have sinned;we have committed iniquity,have done wickedly. They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped a cast image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Saviour,  who had done great things in Egypt,  wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. (Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23)

This is the Psalm that remembers the text from yesterday, Exodus 32:1-14.  It is a call to give thanks, to confess, and to be refreshed in the Lord.  It is a collective confession of the nation's sins, as well as personal sins; a remembrance of things that should not have been done, but still it gives thanks for God having changed His mind.

A dear friend from the Valley responded on Facebook to my post there with my ConCafe.  He remembered the calf as well, and he shared how the calf represented to him today, those things that can take the place of God.  It is quite a list, and one that does, as it should, step on our toes.  I would rather have stepped on toes than face an eternity without God.  What things take the place of God in your life?  Is it a sports team?  A diversion that you place ahead of worship?  Your family?  Anything, or anyone, that takes the place of God has become that golden calf in our lives and does not deserve to be there.  If you're honest and think and pray about it, nothing created can take the place of the Creator.  If you list all the great and awesome things that God has done in your life, anything else will pale in comparison.

Confess that God is Lord of your life.  And refresh in the knowledge that God blesses us with wonderful blessing.

PRAYER:  LOVING GOD, I confess that at time, golden calves have been on the throne of my heart.  I repent of those and ask that You take Your rightful place there.  Let me be refreshed in knowing that You have made all things new, including me.  Be glorified in this day, for it is Your day; here in my heart, in my family, and in Your church, for I ask these things in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Have a great day worshiping God.  Go to church even!

Eradio Valverde

Saturday, October 14, 2017

God Changed His Mind

Image from youtube.com

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” ’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’ But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. (Exodus 32:1-14)

As a child we would drive down to the Rio Grande Valley quite often to visit my mother's sister in Mission, Texas.  The route would take us down to Edinburg, where we would turn off onto Hwy 107 which took us by Golden Jersey Creamery.  Their symbol was a golden calf sitting above their front entrance on a ledge.  I always thought it might possibly be the calf from this story.  Now it sits in the museum near that same site.  And it's a nice museum.  But it's not the same calf as the one Moses had to put up with.  And what a sad story.  Impatient led to distrust and to abandonment of faith on the part of the people of God.  Moses took too long, according to them, and so they chose to "make gods for us, who shall go before us."  Sad.  It tells a little about us even now.  We pray and we want answers immediately.  If God takes too long in answering, would we abandon our faith in Him?  I would pray not.  We know God's time is not our time.  God knows just when to answer and when to answer with a different result than what we asked for.  But, it should never lead us to abandon our faith; it should serve to strengthen us in knowing God is at work on our behalf and the results will be beyond what we expected once we have the faith to understand it.

The actions of Israel led God to tell Moses that He was through with them and would destroy all of them, except Moses.  Moses pleads with God and asks God to change His mind about this decision, reminding God of His promise with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  Notice the last verse in this passage:  "And the Lord changed His mind about the disaster that He planned to bring on His people."  It shows the power of prayer on those who trust God and advocate on their behalf before the Lord.  It shows we should never stop praying nor asking for what we think might be best for us and others.  Who knows?  God may change His mind and show us mercy and grace (again).

PRAYER:  Loving God, thank You for the faith of Moses.  Increase our faith and our patience.  Grant us faith that helps us understand Your presence and power in our midst.  This we pray in Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.  You might have to change YOUR mind today and show grace!

Eradio Valverde