Thursday, January 11, 2018

You're Fearfully and Wonderfully Made!

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God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.  I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.  You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight.  You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence.  I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too - your reassuring presence, coming and going.  This is too much, too wonderful - I can't take it all in! Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration - what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.  Your thoughts - how rare, how beautiful! God, I'll never comprehend them!  I couldn't even begin to count them - any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! (Psalm 139:16, 13-18 The Message Version)

Our family doctor in a previous setting, was an internal doctor who specialized in cardiac medicine.  That meant our first visits with him involved stress tests while he performed a sonogram on our hearts.  The doctor's faith was strong; he had been blessed by the challenges of previous pastors who urged him to read the Bible more and to pray more, and he did.  I will never forget the first visit with him.  He had me laying down on a table while pedaling on a bicycle type stress machine.  He then began the sonogram.  He had a screen where we all could see it, and it was amazing to see my own heart in action.  The doctor teared up and asked, "How can anyone say there is no God when you see how wonderfully made we are?"  Indeed.  I was choked up just seeing my heart.  

David never saw his heart beat live on a sonogram screen, yet he knew.  You may have never seen your heart beat either, but you know. God has done an amazing thing in making you.  You can exclaim what the psalmist said that God formed us while in the womb and that we are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made. This version has it, "Body and soul, I am marvelously made!"  And that lead us to praise of the One who made us.  It should lead us also to sharing and service.  And may our thoughts be like God's.  And may we live each day in the knowledge that we are in the presence of God.

PRAYER:  Loving God, we thank You for the way You have formed us and made us.  May we be led to praise You and serve You.  May my thoughts be Your thoughts today and all days.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Let your heart be seen today by the acts of love you will do!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Requests and Updates:  Dear one, please be in prayer for the Warren family.  My brother-in-law Rev. John Warren's brother-in-law whom he has known since John was 7 died unexpectedly yesterday.  The family is, as you can imagine, in shock and taking the death very hard.  Pray for their comfort.  My apologies for the computer changing Rosannah Green's name to Johanna.  We visited Rosannah yesterday and she looks good and Lord willing, should be home tomorrow.  We thank God for the progress Martha Jo Whitt is making who expects to be home today from the Seguin Hospital.  We also visited Pal Lester and he is coming along well as well.  Thank you for your prayers!  May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Here I Am, For You Called Me

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.’ Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ He said, ‘Here I am.’ Eli said, ‘What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.’ So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’ As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. (1 Samuel 3:1-20)

The biblical texts for this week have been about God's call and the response those calls have received.  On Monday we read about Philip and Nathanael.  Yesterday it was about righteous living among the called, and today is the famous story of the call of the boy Samuel to be God's prophet.  Samuel's story is an interesting one.  His mother was believed barren yet she never stopped praying that God provide her with a child; in fact, Hannah said if God gave her a son, she would return him to God so that the boy could serve Him.  God gave her a son, and Hannah keep her promise and we find the boy ministering to the prophet Eli.  God had not spoken in some time and the prophet Eli had not been a good father or good prophet.  It may have been the behavior of his sons that kept him from spending time with God as he should.  I should say at this point, those who are called should make time often to pray and to listen to God.  Those whose children are in ministry should be in constant prayer and have the same selfless love and support of Hannah towards their children.

It was bedtime and little Samuel was in his bed in the temple.  God comes and says, "Samuel!  Samuel!"  The boy immediately says, "Here I am!" and ran to see the prophet, for he thought it was Eli who called him.  The old man said that he did not call him and for him to go back and lay down. A second time, God calls and again the boy runs to Eli, and again the prophet tells him to lay down.  Interesting to note that the Bible says that during this time of call, Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord been revealed to him.  A third time that night God calls and again the boy runs to the prophet.  Now the prophet gets it and tells Samuel to go and lie down and to say to the Lord, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."  And that's what happened.  And the word that came to the boy was not an easy one for him to share with Eli.  God basically said that Eli's days as a prophet were over, and that he, Samuel, would become the new prophet.  With a message like that the boy could not sleep the rest of the night, and in the morning shared everything with Eli.  The old man's response, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him."  

We don't know what happened to Eli from this reading, but the passage ends with "As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel..knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord."

Our call from God depends on our willingness and faithfulness to answer in the affirmative our desire to serve Him.  It requires our willingness to become, if we're not yet one, a person of much prayer.  And it requires our obedience to sharing God's word in an honest and bold way.  Those called are called not to please people and to preach popular messages, but messages that need to be heard.  Our prayer should be that whatever ministry we find ourselves should be one in which God's word through us "fall to the ground."  We are called ever to march forward and upward.

PRAYER:  Loving God, thank You for my call into service.  Remind me again and again what it is that best will serve You.  Grant me wisdom.  Grant me courage.  Help me to speak on Your behalf, not mine, that which brings honor and glory to You.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Speak a word on God's behalf today!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Requests and Updates:  Dear friend, again my thanks for being one willing to pray for others.  Rev. Mike Dobbs after having his bladder removed was discovered to have a large mass that had been undetected on his thigh muscles, which through three surgeons was removed.  We pray for a good report that this mass not be cancerous.  Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for Pal Lester, for his surgery went well and the tumor removed from his spine is benign.  Glory to God!  Prayers for Johanna Green who is in the Gonzales Hospital with a suspected blood clot.  Pray that the doctors find where it is and quickly remove it.  Prayers for the continued recovery of knee replacement surgery on Martha Jo Whitt.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit

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‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

It's the New Year and for the next two weeks or so the gyms will be full of people who resolved to do something for their bodies.  This passage seems to address that as well; but it goes deeper than looking good.  It's about righteousness and spiritual living.  The problem Paul is addressing seems like one the Church would never face, but it does and has since Paul's day; sexual immorality.  It seemed there was a problem with members of the church in Corinth who believed that the spiritual and the physical never intersected and as long as one stayed "spiritual," one could do whatever one wanted.  And in this case, their lust for prostitutes continued because they felt they were not being affected spiritually.  Wrong!  Paul says God will destroy our bodies at our death and we, who are right with God, will be raised up with God.  "The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."  Paul knows that any physical relationship we have unites us spiritual as Genesis says, "The two shall be one flesh."  The only union we should seek is that we can have with Christ.  Every sin we commit affects us spiritually.  Thus, Paul's famous statement, "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, with you have from God, and that you are not your own."  We were bought with a price and we should glorify God in our bodies.

The next time you look in the mirror say to yourself, "This body is God's dwelling place.  May all I say, think, and do, bring honor to God."  It's short and simple, but powerful, for it affects how we see ourselves and how we should live.  Any negative thoughts about appearance or images we have engraved in our minds should flee and allow the positive, loving image we have before God, because we belong to God.

PRAYER:  Loving God, thank You for loving me and for buying us with a price.  Thank You for leading us away from sin.  May I be reminded today and all days, that my body is Your temple.  Let it be a holy place and a place of worship and service to You.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  If your temple needs attention, now is the time to address it, but start with the spiritual first!

Eradio Valverde

Dear friends, thank you for your prayers yesterday for Rev. Michael Dobbs.  His surgery went well; after about 8 hours it was all over, his bladder was removed and now the healing begins and an adaptation to a new style of life begins as well.  Pray for Mike's recover.  Also, our sister Martha Jo Whitt underwent successful knee replacement and she needs prayers for her recovery.  We understand that Bill Weaver is not doing well.  He is in a hospital in San Antonio and may be coming home with hospice care.  Please pray for Bill and Christine.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Follow Me

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The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ (John 1:43-51)

Jesus has called many into His ministry, both clergy (professional) and laity (volunteers).  Many have said Yes without reservation and entered into the program or process that qualifies them.  Some have said Not Yet, and continued with their lives and careers and later in life feel another nudge from God, retire or relocate, and enter as a second-career person into ministry.  And there are some who simply say No.  Not now, not ever.  Worse are those who say Yes and do nothing.  Blessed are those who say No and then decide they will do something for Jesus.

Today's passage has Jesus calling Philip with the simple invitation of "Follow Me."  Philip was known by Jesus, and Jesus was known by Philip.  The gospels tell us that perhaps Philip went on to be like the road manager for Jesus and the other disciples, being the one questioning the amount of money they had to feed a multitude.  But something about Philip impressed Jesus enough to be the first disciple, according to John, that Jesus approaches and says, "Follow Me."  His enthusiasm for this invitation reaches his friend Nathanael to whom Philip says, "We have found Him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth."  Nate wasn't overly impressed with that and says something rather rude, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Yet, Jesus bowls over Nate with His remark as Nate approaches, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!"  Whoa!  Nate asks, "Where did you come to know me?"  Jesus says that He had seen Nate sitting under a fig tree.  Nate replies with a grand declaration:  "You are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!"  Jesus probably smiles and said, "All that because I saw you under a fig tree?  Man, will you see greater things, even Heaven opened and God's angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."  

I did not have that type of call into ministry.  And many a time as I heard others share their call I questioned the validity of my call.  But it's not about that, it's about how we respond after Jesus calls us and what we do for Him.  Whatever you have been called to, dear friend, how are you doing with that call?  Are you still waiting for a call, or do you know that Jesus can use you right now, right where you are, to better and build the Kingdom of God!  Simply make that a part of your daily prayer life in which you ask God what it is you should do.  And God will answer.

PRAYER:  Loving God, as we close this devotional time, may the adventure begin for this dear reader by showing just what You expect.  Let us all respond with "Here I am, Lord."  This we pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Practice saying Yes to God in all things!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Request:  Dear one, today at about 8 a.m., my dear friend and colleague, Rev. Michael Dobbs, undergoes a very delicate surgery to remove his bladder.  Mike has battled cancer for a while and options will be explored as to the next steps for him.  He serves as our pastor in Mathis at First UMC.  Please pray for Olga, his wife, for their children and grandchildren as well.  Pray for a victory in Jesus for Mike and the whole family.  Thank you ahead of time for your prayers!

Friday, January 05, 2018

Prayers for our Children; Prophecy  of our Lord

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Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures,and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute,may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call,the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy,and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14)

King David as he reflects on his service as king and as he sees Solomon prepare to take the throne; prays for his child that God would give him justice and righteousness; no better things for a parent to pray for his/her child(ren).  He asks for the child to live a life that blesses God and God's people.  Then the words shift to a message that prophecies the coming King whose birth we just celebrated; Jesus our Lord, and King of kings.  The vision is one of a just king who takes the side of the downtrodden and poor, again a plea for righteousness and justice to be traits lived out by the king.

What sort of things have you prayed for your children and grandchildren?  It's not too late to add them to our prayer lists, and we should move away from the common, "I just want my kids to be happy."  Our prayers should be that our children be good and righteous; that their lives serve God in seeking justice and righteousness for all people, and not be a journey of self-service and self-centeredness. And that prayer should include us as well.  The journey of the Magi was one that no selfish or self-centered person would have made; it was a long, difficult trek of sacrifice and risk; so should our lives be.

PRAYER:  Loving Father, as we pray, we pray for our children and their children, and for all the little ones around us.  May our lives be examples to them of how to best live a life guided by You, to care for one another and to do our best to share life, love, hope, and compassion.  May our eyes never be blinded to the needs around us, and may we do all we can to meet those needs; as individuals and as members of the Body of Christ, in Whose name we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Give of yourself to someone in need today.

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Requests and Updates:  We being by thanking God for Bob Cowan, who is set to return home after his surgery in San Antonio.  We ask your prayers for Pal Lester who undergoes surgery in Austin later today to remove pressure on his spine.  And we give thanks for the life and ministry of Rev. Eubaldo Ponce, retired servant of the Rio Grande Conference who died last night in Dallas.  Eubaldo was a dear friend and mentor to me as I started in ministry years ago in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  Please pray for his wife, Susie, and their children.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

God is Doing a Great Thing!

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Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;but the Lord will arise upon you,and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. (Isaiah 60:1-6)

We just finished, most of us anyway, the season of homecoming.  Christmas and Thanksgiving in our country are those days when families try to come together to celebrate the holiday and to celebrate each other.  Parents longs to see their children; grandparents long to see their grandchildren; and most siblings long to see each other.  Israel was no exception.  Their history had events that separated many from each other and from places they loved.  Some left Israel by force, carried off as prisoners; some found life easier in other countries.  I believe most longed to return.  The prophet sees the day when God's light would come and shine upon them and in turn, they would shine God's light on others, and it could come during a time of darkness; the glory of the Lord would be needed to be seen after many years of not having it.  This was the visit of the Magi as they were led by the star; the birth of the Messiah would further the light and it would call people together once again; "your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms."  And as prophesied, the Magi did "bring gold and frankincense, and " did "proclaim the praise of the Lord."

That joy continues and should be part of our motivation and drive to continue to share the Good News with those still in darkness; those separated from God - God's act in Jesus served to bring all together for one purpose.

Find the ones not yet present for this homecoming, and invite them in!

PRAYER:  Lord of the Homecoming, Lord of great Light; shine upon us and guide us to those who need to be brought home.  Bring us in if we have strayed; use us all to share the Good News of Your love; this we pray in Christ Jesus' strong name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Shine a light on your smile today on those who may be in darkness.

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Requests:  Pray for Bob Cowan as he recovers from surgery; his discomfort prevents him from receiving visitors, but does request prayers for healing.  Prayers for those having consultation with doctors today, as they seek hope for ailments that have shown up in their lives.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Begin By Crossing the Room...

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This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. (Ephesians 3:1-12)

The greatest and most effective form of evangelism, the sharing of the Good News, is person to person.  Yes, other forms work, but when one cares enough for another to share what God has done for them, people listen and usually take action for themselves.  Paul in his passage for today explains how God called him to share the Gospel with the Gentiles, the non-Jews.  Yesterday's text was about the Magi and how their appearance was a realization that Christ's birth was for all; today's passage explains how it came about.  All who believe are brothers and sisters in Christ, and members of the same body.  In this morning's Upper Room devotional, a believer in the Ukraine, shares how he and a group of believers had to travel to Russia for the 125th Anniversary of the celebration of Christian work in Eurasia during a time of great political upheaval including war and they feared the border checkpoints along the way.  Some had been turned back. This group prayed the whole way and not once were they turned back.  The final checkpoint was the most feared, but there they were not asked a thing; their passports were simply stamped.  The need is still so great to share God's love, that doors, even windows are being opened even now for the servants of God who trust God enough to follow Him everywhere to share the Good News.

And, it might begin by walking across the room.  Several years ago, a big church pastor wrote a book Just Walk Across the Room, urging his members and all who read the book, to take a bold step and share with people they did not know.  Sunday's sermon was on Matthew 25 where Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me..."  and I shared how many of us are so comfortable with those we know, we sometimes ignore the new guests among us - that's not welcoming.

We have full "access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in Him" which means that we can go anywhere, anytime, as led by God, and have an opportunity to share in a mighty way.

PRAYER:  Loving Father, grant us the courage and boldness to walk across the room and greet someone.  Then make us bolder and go into areas and places we had not thought about entering; let us share the Good News in a mighty way; in Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Walk across the room today and say Hi to someone.  And maybe more!

Eradio Valverde