Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is Your Heart Glad?

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Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol,or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life.In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16)

Do you have a friend that you know that when you see them, a smile just comes across your face?  Usually, it is because that person has a glad heart.  A glad heart is one that rejoices in all things, because of the joy and presence of the Lord in that person's life.  Are you such a person?  A glad heart is one that always give thanks in all things.  The owner of a glad heart knows the true value of things, has seen the big picture and rejoices in knowing that what they have has come from the loving hands of God and they count it as a rich blessing.  Many are the stories shared by people returning from mission trips who tell of how blessed they were by seeing people in economic conditions that honestly most of us are not used to, yet saw a joy and a gladness that in our nation of abundance seems to decrease by each day.  I have stayed with families who share the richness of joy in a simple meal, usually denying themselves so that I could eat.  They are blessed with glad hearts.  When it is all said and done, a glad heart will see not only the hands, but the face of God, who has provided rich and wonderful things for us, and that joy will be eternal.

Dear friend, take stock of the blessings in your life, and be glad.  Become an owner of a glad heart so that your presence will bring smiles to the faces of your friends and to new friends that you do not yet know.  This blesses the Lord and it blesses us!

PRAYER:  Awesome God, thank You for all You always provide.  I want to become the owner of a glad heart.  May Your presence in me bless others with smiles of joy, and beams of hope.  This I pray in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!  Bless someone right now!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

God Has Shown Us Ways of Life

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But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him,“I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;  therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;moreover, my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” ‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. (Acts 2:14a, 22-32)

The world has not been the same since the life, death, ministry, teachings, heal sings, and resurrection of Jesus.  For years, the way we looked at history was divided into B. C., Before Christ, and A.D., anno domini, year of our Lord; such was the impact of Jesus.  And in this passage we see Peter addressing the crowd at Jerusalem with this important message of Who Jesus was and what He means to humanity.  Peter reminds them of Jesus' great deeds of power, the signs and wonders He worked among them, and how He was handed over to die, but, Peter says, "God raised Him up, freed from death, for death could not hold Him."  He reminds them of what their great king David had said about Him, and the key verse for me, "(God) has made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence."

That should be our theme during this Easter time.  Jesus' presence in our lives has made known to us a better way to live, and just Him being near us has made us full of gladness.  Yes, the trials and challenges may still be near, and there are things that seek to worry us and make us anxious, but put them in their proper place - all under Jesus.  Jesus has the last word in all things, and should so it be in the things that we face in our lives. We can choose to be glad even when others would naturally be sad.  We can choose to say we won, while others have clearly seen a loss -- there are no losses when Christ's presence is with us.

PRAYER:  Loving God, whatever this dear person is facing, let it be put under Jesus.  May Jesus' mere presence be a blessing to them, and a strong source of gladness.  For it is in Jesus' precious and powerful name that we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord.  Be sure to show your gladness to someone today in a way that blesses them!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Joy in the Lord Brings Living Hope & So Much More!

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

This passage, like a life lived in Jesus, has many wonderful words and experiences:  Mercy, new birth, living hope, resurrection, inheritance, protection, power of God, salvation, rejoicing, genuineness of faith, praise, glory, honor, love, belief, rejoicing (catch that that's here twice?), indescribable and glorious joy, and salvation (twice again!).   A life lived in Jesus is full of blessings and surprises; yes, some trials and times of challenge may come our way, but with Jesus at our side, we overcome and are more than conquerors in all things.  The writer of this short passage is filled with excitement for knowing and having accepted Jesus.  He found, as the list shows, every one of those experiences and blessings almost in the order through which he shares them:  Mercy, as a new believer finds quickly, that God is ready to forgive our sins.  New birth comes to the one who asks Jesus to be Lord and Savior of their life, and quickly find that to think and live spiritually is what makes faith stronger and more beautiful.  Living hope is having not just hope, but a hope that speaks, nay, sings to us as we travel life with our Lord and Savior.  A living hope is a hope not easily taken from us, for in it we see the One who is the Hope of the world, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This season shows the believers what resurrection is and how it applies to our lives.  The inheritance we have is that eternal life that will be ours as we live our lives into the transition of this life into the next.  Read the list again and again, and receive what it says to you.  But, let's focus on two words that show up in this passage:  Rejoicing and salvation.  Rejoicing is that inexplicable joy that comes to the soul from the Spirit, and bubbles up in us in marvelous ways.  Salvation of our souls is the Spirit's working in us, taking away our sins, and sealing us for Christ in the new, living relationship we should have with God through Jesus.  Any wonder the writer would list these two words twice?

May the glorious joy of the Lord be yours today in those ways and many more!

PRAYER:  Loving God, thank You for the joy of Jesus.  May the Living Hope found in Him be found in this dear reader.  May your guide and bless *|FNAME|* through whatever comes their way today.  I pray rich and wonderful blessings for *|FNAME|*, in Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day of living hope in Jesus!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jesus Can Handle Our Doubts

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When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:19-31)

Let's start with the ending verse of this passage.  How about the last ten words?  "That through believing you may have life in His name."  The point of this passage is belief, not doubt. And it's not saying that doubt is bad, just that if we stay in doubt we miss out.  And in this case, we miss out on life.  What would Thomas' life been like had he stayed away or stayed quiet about his doubt?  Tradition tells us great things about this disciple and how he served out the rest of his life in India and causing a great number of people to take his name as their surname; remember Danny Thomas and his daughter, Marlow?  During my seminary days I knew a young man from that region whose last name was Thomas and who was a firm believer in the tradition that says the Apostle Thomas made his way to that part of the world and served as evangelist and witness to Jesus and had many converts.  Not bad for a guy who to this day is calling Doubting Thomas!

Doubt is a regular visitor to most people.  I pray it doesn't stay long, but it makes appearances and sometimes it comes just to help us throw him out as stronger believers.  Life and life's fullness comes to those who have wrestled with doubt and come out as winners.  The example of Thomas should encourage us to kick out doubt and move on towards fullness of life in service to Jesus with people who do not yet believe.

PRAYER:  Loving God, the essence of resurrection is to overcome doubt and to move towards You with the surety that You will guide us to deeper service and success among those who need to know our struggles with doubt.  Lead us to the fullness of life.  In Christ Jesus we pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Friday, April 14, 2017

He died for you and me...

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Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."  Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, "The King of the Jews,' but, "This man said, I am King of the Jews.' "  Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.  But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced." After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:16-42)

This is the day.  The most gruesome atrocity of a day and we call it Good.  Good because all that Jesus suffered and experienced, He did it for us.  And as we have studied Scripture, we know the meaning and purpose behind each act and the awesome blessing that is ours because of this day.  Sins gone?  Good!  Victory over death?  Good!  Life that never ends?  Good!  Indeed, this is Good Friday!

Jesus died for you and me.

PRAYER:  Loving God, even with the pain and suffering; the passion of our Lord, we see the why, and we call it Good.  Thank You.  Thank You, Jesus.  In Your name we pray, amen.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

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When the hour came, He took His place at the table, and the apostles with Him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;  for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks He said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves;  for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then He took a loaf of bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and His hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom He is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this. (Luke 22:14-23)

The Rev. Ken Houston, our pastor in Refugio, has seen over 50 executions in the State of Texas.  He was at one time, the chaplain on Death Row.  He witnessed the last meal requests of those inmates.  If you know which meal would be your last, what would you choose?  As I write this, I think I would be too nervous and excited, to know what to ask.  I would think, "What's the point?  Let's hurry; I want to see Jesus!"  Others have made it a lavish meal to remember all the good food they had had.

Tonight we remember the last supper of Jesus our Lord.  This is the account of that meal by Luke, who was not there, but interviewed many eyewitnesses and those of the disciples still alive to gather as much information as he could to report back to the Roman official, Theophilus, of all that happened in the life of Jesus.  He records that this last supper was the Passover meal celebration of Jesus and His twelve, along with the group that slowly grew around Him and some estimates put that group at about 125.  He used the meal not only as a remembrance in Jewish history of what God had done, intervening in the life of Israel and delivering them from slavery and bondage in Egypt, but also as what God was doing in the present, and what God would do in the future through this meal.  The bread and the cup became new symbols of grace, power, and blessing.  The bread became His body which in only hours would be broken, bruised, pierced, and dead.  The body became a remembrance of what it underwent to take on our sins and there on the cross were removed.  The cup would be a cup of forgiveness; the forgiveness of sin.  Then to bring sadness to the reality of the moment, Jesus revealed that one among them would betray Him.  And this account ends with the disciples worrying more about that betrayal, asking, "Is it I?" rather than understanding and celebrating the mystery Jesus revealed of love and forgiveness.  

The truth is dear friend, many have been the times you and I have betrayed Jesus.  Some have been intentional, other times, through something we failed to do; but we are still guilty of having to say, "Yes, it was I!"  But, Jesus' love shows that even those times are forgiven, and while we have breath, we have new and wonderful opportunities to serve Jesus and those who do not yet know Him.  Let right now and tonight be those times we say again, "Thank You, Lord."

PRAYER:  Loving God, we again thank You for Jesus.  While we may not fully understand tonight's meaning and purpose, we still are in appreciation to You for Your love and mercy.  Help us to become the Gospel in ways that show others, Your love and grace.  And we pray this in Christ Jesus' precious name, amen.

The new commandment is to love one another.

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday of Holy Week: Silence

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Nothing is written in the scriptures about what Jesus did on this day, thus it is called A Day of Silence.  One cannot accept that Jesus did nothing, so some scholars believe that this was a day of preparation for tomorrow night's Last Supper.  The room was probably already secured, the meal was being prepared, and I believe Jesus was in constant prayer.  That was one thing we are sure of, that Jesus was connected to His Father through prayer.  All that He did, all that He said, was motivated by the Holy Spirit guiding Him.

Seek to spend some time today in complete silence.  Listen to what God may be trying to tell you about life, about you, about your loved ones, and about your soul.

We may just find that silence is deafening.