Friday, October 24, 2014

Secret Sins

We all pray they stay secret...

The psalmist writes in Psalm 90: 1-8, 13-17: Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, "Turn back, you mortals." For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance. Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!

The psalmist had them. We have them. Sins. Plural. Thoughts, words, deeds, that went against what we knew hurt God, and ultimately hurt others and us; but, for some unknown, and some very well known reasons, we went ahead and did them. Missing the mark is what some call the literal word of sin, as in you see the bull's eye, but you still aim low, usually low, and zap, there goes the arrow away from the spot where we knew the arrow should have hit. And until the Lord removes them, these sins gnaw away at us. Some painful, like the hunger in our stomachs; others subtle like butterflies, make that moths, fluttering around our faces.

David wrote these words first as an affirmation of faith, then a confession of sin and life. God is everlasting. We are not. A thousand years for God are like yesterday to us; all days like the renewing of grass by morning dew. And yet, on we sin, angering God, he declares; all while knowing of Your wrath. Before You, lay all our sins, even our secret sins, brightly exposed by God's countenance. Ouch! But, we like David, say, Have mercy on us, God; remove our sins and bring back gladness to our souls. Bring prosperity to the work of our actions; bring newness of life to us.

The gospel message is that God does remove sin, and does grant to us mercy and love. On the cross Jesus took away our sinfulness and offered to us a new relationship with God through Him. May it be that which we choose for ourselves today.

PRAYER: Loving God, like David, I confess that I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. Remove from my spirit the sins that I have tried to hide from You. Make me a new creation that strives to please only You and not me. In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pastor's Appreciation

Are you easily discouraged?

From 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8: 1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

I returned home last night from a wonderful time with pastors from the Río Grande Conference at their annual Pastoral Convocation. It was a small group, but very Spirit-filled. As I drove there my prayer was that if I could be a blessing to someone, for God to please use me. And even if it were me going for the blessing, I was excited. The youngest pastor there on the second morning asked me an important question about staying encouraged in ministry. I responded honestly and said that I suffered from discouragement as easily as anyone else, and it was God who strengthened me and kept me going. I went in to some detail, but the point of Paul's words in this passage is about encouragement and pressing on. Paul is the model for pastoral ministry; he suffered and endured much, but on he went with an urgency of sharing Christ with all who would listen. Reread verse two, suffering and shameful mistreatment are mentioned as is "courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition." All with Paul's desire to please God with the honest message of getting right with God. I more fully understand the passage in verse 7, having a nurse living with us, "like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children." And he continues how he wishes to share not only the gospel but himself because they matter to him.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. A month set aside to ask churches, parishioners, and all who would, to show some appreciation to their pastors. As a superintendent I encourage that for my pastors for I have been in those churches that show no appreciation as well as those who show much appreciation and love. Yes, my calling does not depend on whether I am appreciated or not, but it sure does help when a small kindness is shown that says that my work among people is appreciated. But, like Paul, I minister to please God, and appreciation from church folks or not, my work is still ever before me. I meet with pastors at the point of giving up. I meet with pastors who are raring to minister and are doing great things. No part of ministry, when done to please God and share God's love, is ever in vain. But prayer for, respect for, and laboring with, your pastors makes the journey for all, a much better one to travel.

If you've not yet shown some love for your pastor, please do. Start by praying for him or her. Write him a line or two of appreciation on a card or a note. The results will be wonderful.

PRAYER: God of our call, call our hearts to love one another, especially those who labor among us to please You. May your protection and blessing be with all pastors, and all who minister for You. Let our appreciation for them reflect the love and appreciation we have for You. Forgive us for those times when we have not shown love. This we pray in the name of Jesus our Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Do You Think About Jesus?

My grandson, Liam, in the playground of St. Paul UMC, Corpus Christi, on Dedication Day.

Our Thinking May Be a Blessing to Others

From Matthew 22: 41-16: 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." 43 He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44 "The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet" '? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Yesterday, one of my pastors came to share about her ministry in an improvised area of our city. Her church recently was awarded a generous grant which allowed for them to place a community playground on part of their property. It immediately became the playground of choice with its attractively painted equipment. Friday night a group of four were still on the playground and she went to check on them. These were community kids that she did not know and she talked to them. One of the children, Ricky, thanked her for having such a nice playground. She told him that the church was there to bless and help them, and invited them to church. Sunday morning, the four brought two additional friends and the six sat in the Sunday school room of an excited teacher and preacher. As the pastor was introducing them, Ricky held up a $5 dollar bill. "This is for your playground, " he exclaimed. "That's nice of you, Ricky! Where did you get five dollars? she asked. "I got good grades, and I want to use the money to help the playground." The pastor went and brought Ricky an offering envelope and a pencil and asked Ricky to write his name on it. The other five stared with expressions that gave them away, "Why did he get one and we didn't?" The pastor quickly went and brought them each an envelope and a pencil, along with some change she found to share with them. They also wrote their names on the envelope and the date. The six later joined an impromptu children's choir during worship, making it one of the largest choirs this church has seen in a long time.

What Ricky thought blessed him and his friends. Six little boys that I pray will soon come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and their actions of faith will be a blessing to others. Such was the hope of Jesus in asking the question, "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" Given the date and time He asked it, the answer was a standard one, "The Messiah is the son of David." Correct, but not complete. They were on the right track, but not quite where they needed to be. Jesus then asked them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord?" Stumped! No more questions.

Lord. Last night I sang two powerful hymns en español with pastors of the Río Grande Conference of the United Methodist Church. Lord was the message of both. Lord of my life, Lord of all who submit to Him as servants and believers in the Most High. Jesus is He who provides for us in all things. This is what I think, and I pray what I live, so that others may come to know the same.

PRAYER: Loving God, thank You for Jesus, Who is my Lord and Savior. As David said, "I shall not be in want," for in Him I have found all. Let it be so for those still seeking, and let me be a part of the discovery they can make in finding the love, mercy and joy that I have found in You. This I pray in Christ Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great Commandment

Making it Personal; Not Keeping It "Out There."

From Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 22: 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 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.' 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

It was Stump Jesus Day, as chapter twenty-two of Matthew shows. Questions left and right were asked of Jesus, all in an attempt to confuse Him or expose Him. It is this question that may stump us if we are not living the answer. "Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus knew that answer, as He knew they did as well; "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." Jesus then shared the second greatest commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And from that foundation all other laws and prophetic work can be built.

I know it is easy to keep that commandment as an "out there" ideal or principle; but in knowing and loving God, we know the commandment was given to guide us to a deeper, complete love of God. Not only should we love God with our heart, we also should not compartmentalize our love for God; every aspect of our life and being should be geared to loving God. We speak of broken hearts when we lose someone or end a relationship. We tell special persons that we love them with all our heart. We even cross our hearts and hope to die if we should be telling a lie. But do we love God with our souls and our minds? Do we yearn to know God in the depths of our being? Do we think on things that reminds us of God's love for us and in turn guide ourselves to loving God in our thinking and thoughts?

We cannot live without love for God as a personal commitment; and we cannot live without sharing that commitment we've made towards God with others. God is the source of love and our hearts, souls, and minds should receive and share that love with others. That second commandment was equally important; move beyond selfish motives and desires, and start loving others in the way we should love ourselves. What a world this would be, were this true.

Thank you for your prayers and messages to me about this devotional. I truly missed writing it and thus being in contact with you. I had a blessed and restful renewal leave. I worked hard to be able to leave for that period of time, and it makes sense to come back and discover I must work hard to make up. But, please continue to pray for me and work ever before all of us.

PRAYER: Loving God; thank You for loving us. Our prayer is that we would truly make it our desire and purpose to love You in the way You have loved us. May every aspect of my very being be in love with You, and may I truly love others the way that I love myself. I pray in the Name of He who taught us this, Jesus, my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, July 14, 2014

We Have a Savior!

Jesus Explained All Things

From Matthew 13:24-30; 36-40: He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, "An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, "No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' " Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Farmers know that when wheat is fully ripe it bows with the weight of the grain. Weeds do not. Growing side by side, yet one bows and the other does not. Jesus knew that; He understood the ancient methods of farming and uses that knowledge to share His understanding of how good and evil people are present in the world even today. Using this parable to demonstrate that, Jesus spoke of the good intentions of the sower and the evil intentions of the one who came at night to plant weeds. Those working the field asked the householder if they should not go and pull out the weeds before they got any bigger. The answer was no, let them grow side by side. The householder feared the yanking of weeds might destroy some of the good crop. It would be at harvest time when the separation would come; weeds here and wheat there. The weeds would be burned and the wheat would be enjoyed for what it produced. This parable makes sense to those of us who have wondered how in a world created by God for good we find so many who do not yet know God nor seek Him. How can one make sense of those who kill, steal, and destroy? How can one see or hear news reports of so much evil in the world and wonder why God allows this? This is what Jesus is trying to explain in the parable found in this passage. Good and evil will exist side by side until the end of the world. The parable follows the parable of the sower from last week, and it again stresses that God is at work through us and others, in trying to win those who are not yet His. Yet, we know there will be those who choose not to follow God and choose to please only themselves. That does not diminish our work of trying to reach everyone we can; the urgency is still ever before us to reach just one more. Jesus says we do have an enemy, but we also know that we have a Savior.

"We have a Savior" is good news to a world that seems lost at times. We have One who provides life in the midst of death. We have a Savior to pull us out from the depths of wrong to bring us to the side of what is right. We have a Savior to lead us when everyone else seems so lost. We have a Savior who makes room for those who desire to be on the side of God. We have a Savior is light to a world trying to make its way through darkness. Here's the deal; don't let the thought of "We have a Savior" stay "out there;" make Jesus your personal savior, and then you can also say, "I have a Savior."

PRAYER: Come, Jesus Christ, into my heart again today. I need a Savior; I need You. I need You to help me from being lost, from doing what I hate, from being led down wrong paths. Help me to walk right next to You to the path that leads to life to the fullest, blessed by You. This I pray in Your name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Power of God's Word

Great Passage and a Great Song

From the Psalmist 119: 105-112: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your ordinances. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

The song now stuck in my head is a nice one. Amy Grant singing, "Thy Word." It was inspired by this passage, and David's familiarity with the Word was what inspired him to write the passage. For those walking in darkness, a great fall can come, and worse, one could lose one's way forever. It is in knowing God's word that we receive that lamp our feet need to avoid stumbling and the light that guides our path. So in love was David with God's word that he says he made a deep commitment to study it and more importantly, to follow it. And a good thing he did, and that we do, for the very next word is one of his suffering. "Afflicted" is what David shares without revealed what it was, but we know that it was something that made him think he was losing life and so he adds, "Give me life, O Lord, according to your word." He and we should know this should come from God and even in the midst of any affliction we can start our songs and words of praise.

We were at a funeral recently where one of the scripture readers approached the lectern with his phone and confessed he could not read the type and he added, that thankfully someone had printed out the text for him to read in large print. A smart phone today can link us to a Bible immediately through the internet or one can download apps that contain the Bible. But what has happened to carrying Bibles? More importantly, what has happened to studying the Bible? To find the lamp and light we must study the Bible. No one can just hear a phone ring and know what the message is from the caller. Yes, we have the ability to modify ringtones and know who is calling, but we don't always know what they are calling about. In the same way, we have our Bibles close at hand, but what is God calling us to do? We will never find out if we don't pray and reflect, read and pray, and then just listen to what God may be asking of us. Life led by a Bible is a brightly lit path; we dim the light when we choose to ignore what God has asked and we choose to do what we want. You and I have been blessed by new insights into life when we've spent time reading God's word. You and I have been blessed by messages from those who prayerfully study the word and bring us messages in worship. I have been blessed by missionaries whose lives were changed by picking up a Bible for the very first time. I will never forget a missionary from India speaking to our ministerial alliance and his saying that he had come to faith because he picked up a Bible and for the first time in his life he held what he called, "A talking book!" We've heard those who have also said, "I tried to read the Bible, but it read me!"

Feeling alone or afraid? Let God bless you. Feeling like you're walking in the dark with no direction or purpose? Let God bless you. Read the Bible. Facing a problem that seems bigger than you? Let God, who is bigger than any problem, bless you. Read the Bible. Facing challenges or discouragement? Let the Author of life, joy, peace, and comfort speak to you as you open the blessing that is the word of God for our lives.

PRAYER: Loving God, as we face the coming of today and all that it contains, ready our hearts and spirits in the knowledge that we walk not alone, nor in darkness, when we first turn to You and trust You. Help us dust off our Bibles so that You can dust off our lives and spirits. Make us be light for others through Christ living in us; this we pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

God Provides!

In All Things & In All Ways! (Isaiah 55:10-13)

From Isaiah 55: 10-13 come these words: For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

In all ways and in all things, God provides! Such was the faith of this prophet as he wrote these words in the passage above. He could see evidence of God's handiwork in nature and compared it to how God provides and brings forth harvest from His word. Rain and snow, while not very common around these parts lately, still comes from heaven, says the prophet, and in the same way they water the earth, so does God's word water those who are dry and thirsty. As the heavenly moisture provides the harvest which brings bread to those hungry, so does the word of God provide nourishment for the spirits of those who hunger for God's grace. Rainfall and snowfalls never return to God empty, neither does the sharing of God's word; there is a purpose God needs accomplished here on the earth and our willingness to share is part of that purpose. Those who accept to share, the prophet says, go out in joy and return home led in peace. As those who go forth to share God's word, nature joins in and the mountains and hills burst into song, and the trees of the field applaud the works of God. And instead of thorns, the nourishment God's word provides, will bring forth myrtle. All serving to glorify God as a memorial of His presence and power, and a sign that will never be removed. In all ways and in all things, God provides!

God awaits our response. Let us go forth to share as God has shared with us. In all ways and in all things, God provides!

PRAYER: Loving God, the emphasis this week has been on sowing seed; today's passage speaks of the way you work in the lives of those who say yes to sharing Your word. Count me in among those who have said yes and send me forth in joy and lead me back in peace. Let my ears be attuned to the praise and applause of nature, not for me, but for You and what You do. For in all things and in all ways, You do surely provide! Amen.