Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Basic Instructions for a Great Life

James 2:1-17 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, "You shall not commit adultery," also said, "You shall not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

If you're at all familiar with the Book of Face, you will know that almost every single day there is a quiz or test you can take to prove how Texan you are, or how much you know about this or that. And if you live with someone who takes some of those, you will end up taking them as well. Imagine with me then, this "quiz" from James:

Do you show favoritism towards others? Yes or No? If no, why not? If yes, do they show your personal belief in Jesus Christ?

If you serve as an usher at your church, do you show special attention to a fine dressed person over a poorly dressed, obviously poor person? Yes or No? If yes, where do you take them to sit? Or do you make them stand next to you?

How do you feel about the poor? Do you show them honor?

Do you live the saying, "Love your neighbor as yourself?" If no, why not? if yes, good for you!

Do you try to live a "good" life? Is this life based on the Ten Commandments?

Do you freely and willingly share with those in need such items as food and clothing? Or do you dismiss them with a short prayer and a "God bless you?"

Does you life show your faith?

PRAYER: Loving God, help me to live as You would have me live. Let me show love to all. Let my life be a witness of Your peace and presence in me. I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Healed!

Image from angusday.org

Mark 7:24-37 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

What would you do and what would you allow done to you, if you needed healing of a lifetime affliction? A woman with a daughter believed to be possessed by a demon would ask for and probably do anything for her daughter to be healed and delivered from this terrible affliction. A deaf man with a speech impediment, though he could not clearly say, would allow family and friends to seek a healing for him. The first encounters a reluctant Jesus, set on ministry for the Jews, who counters that "even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Such was her desire for her daughter's wholeness. It was enough to convince Jesus and her daughter was healed. The man was brought to Jesus and Jesus takes him aside in private and heals him in an unexpected way, but one that Mark shares with truthfulness. Jesus, ever the Man of touch, puts his fingers in the deaf man's ears, and he spat and put that on the man's tongue. Jesus prays a word prayer, "Ephphatha," which means "be opened," and with that spoke word, is completely healed. If you have ever seen the videos of those who have received those hearing devices placed on their heads and they hear for the first time, you've probably shared a tear or two at seeing these who have lived in silence, now hearing. The one that gets me the most is the one of the little baby who when hearing his mommy's voice get super excited. One can only imagine the reaction of this man, or that mom upon finding her daughter now resting calmly. That's the peace that comes with healing.

Jesus is still the Man of touch. His desire is to touch our lives in areas where we need to be delivered and made whole. It may not be a physical ailment, then again, it might; we have but to ask Jesus for His touch upon our lives and enjoy the results. Is our spirit calm with knowing the presence of Jesus in our lives? Are our ears open to listening to the Word of God and our lips proclaiming our faith and love for God? This may be the place for us to start...

PRAYER: Loving Man and Loving God of touch, touch our lives towards wholeness and healing. May our spirits find rest and peace in Thee, and may our ears be ever ready to listen and our tongues ready to proclaim, our words of praise and peace to those who have not yet heard. This we pray in Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Prayer Requests: For my brother-in-law, Rev. John Warren in Methodist Hospital in Houston, undergoing observation for chest pains. For Rev. Juanita Garcia, who underwent emergency gum surgery this weekend. For Rev. Dale White, who undergoes a PET scan to determine the cause of a fever that won't go away. May these and others in need, be healed in the strong name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learn to Watch & Follow The Guideposts

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!" For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today? But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children—

Growing up in my father's house I heard a lot of clich├ęs that I took to heart. You probably did too. "As long as you're living under my roof..." and "Do as I say, not as I do..." and "This is going to hurt me more than it is you..." I also heard instructions and advice on who to live my life. In my heart I sought not to disappoint my Dad. Then came the teenage years and with it the stupid wisdom that I knew everything, even more than my dad. Thankfully, deep down I knew what was right and what would get me killed; if not in an accident, but at the hands of my father. Israel, had such a Father as well; God shared with them statutes and ordinances that God meant for them to observe as they entered into the promised land. In this passage, we hear the reminder of how important these are. "You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples,who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!' For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to Him?" As I sought to live a model life, I was also bringing honor to my family; as Israel sought to live a model life among the people who did not yet know God, they were bringing honor to God, and perhaps, even bringing them nearer to God. They were told not to forget what they had seen and experienced nor to let such memories slip from their minds, and even, to teach such to their children.

As I spend time with my grandchildren I try to slip in some gems of wisdom to them in the hope that a seed is planted that instructs them in the way of righteousness. I want their lives to bring honor and glory to God. I want them to see and know the love of God and to keep those memories as precious and ever present. And one day I want them to teach those to their children and grandchildren. I want the glow on their face to be not from their smartphones or tablets, but from the glow of God's love that has come to them.

PRAYER: Loving God, bring the glow of Your love to my face so that this glow may also come to the faces of those I love. This I ask in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, August 24, 2015

Doers of the Word

James 1:17-27 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

How would you live your life if your actions were to be the basis of the only sermon someone would hear today? How awesome would a "sermon" of you reacting to something negative in an even more negative way? How awesome a sermon would your anger preach to someone who shared something with you and your misheard what the person was trying to share with you? These are the concerns that James shared with his readers in his time. James says we should live lives that bless others because we have been blessed as God's "first fruits" of this new life. What a precious and powerful sermons are those which preach a witness of patience, understanding, forgiveness and compassion; compared to those which are simply reactions of anger and wrath? Our attitude should be one of meekness and love that shows the way God has treated us. I heard one preacher ask, "God, how do you put up with me?" That's a very good question and it's a teaching one as well.

James believed that those who actually "do" live the gospel are those who bless others. The ones who merely hear the word simply are deceiving themselves; and he compares it to one who has looked in the mirror and as they go away forget immediately what they were look like. Our mirror should be the word of God. Are we reflecting the image shared in that book about how we should live? The Bible is the best mirror we have for seeing how we really are. And the more we look into that mirror, the better we look to God and to those who are seeking God.

A relationship with God speaks a positive witness to others. Trying to be religious speaks only about your habit of trying to impress others and caring nothing towards God. Those in relationship with God will care about others, especially those in need; and will do and share all they can, to make the world a better place.

Pick up the "mirror" of God and take a good look. The "wrinkles" or "freckles" or "pimples" you may see can all be permanently and eternally removed. And the best part? Those who look toward God for the right image, will never age!

PRAYER: Loving God, speak to me as I look into Your Word as my mirror today. Help me to be the person You called me to be and as I read in Your word, speak the truth about who I am to be and become. May I truly seek to bless others with my life and actions and not merely my words. This I pray in Christ Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What's Coming Out of Your Heart?

Image from angusday.org

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles. ) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder,adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Jesus and His disciples really did not have a home. They spent their days on the road, preaching, teaching, healing, amazing people with what God was doing through and for them. A life lived on a road, especially in those days, meant no ready access to the conveniences that we take for granted, and one of those is water. The poor, working Jew did not have the luxury of water readily available to them, and this applied to Jesus and the 12. They walked from town to town, and they were tired and hungry when they would finally get a chance to eat, and usually a sit down and relax meals was not something they could easily enjoy. On this particular day and meal, they were noticed by the Pharisees and scribes, who were keeping notes on Jesus and their behavior. Any little thing not done in accordance with tradition was noted and criticized. For the religious Jew, eating with unclean or defiled hands, was a no-no. And they told Jesus. Jesus replied with the truth: The prophet Isaiah was right, you honor God with your lips but your heart is far from God; holding to human precepts as doctrines - It's become more important to hold to human traditions and customs, rather than follow the commandments of God.

Jesus then addresses the crowd and teaches that it is not what goes into one's mouth that defiles us so much as what comes out. One can tell what is in the heart of a person by the words and thoughts shared from that mouth. And the list Jesus shares about covers all of the areas where we can and do go wrong: Sexual sins, taking what is not ours, killing one another, desiring what is not ours, general wickedness, lying to one another, being envious and jealous, putting people down, pride and anything else that is not from God. Jesus said, this is what defiles you.

What's in our hearts? Do our mouths give that away? If we have the presence and peace of God present in our lives, then our words will convey those thoughts that glorify God. If God is not present and we are sharing what is in our hearts that follow the list Jesus shares, we have a lot to ask from God. May today be a day when we ask God to live within us so that our hearts will give God praise and glory.

PRAYER: Loving God, let me honor you with my heart and mouth; come in and live in me. Push aside and away that which truly defiles my heart and life. This I ask in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Trust in God

Psalm 34:15-22 God keeps an eye on his friends, his ears pick up every moan and groan. God won't put up with rebels; he'll cull them from the pack. Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time. He's your bodyguard, shielding every bone; not even a finger gets broken. The wicked commit slow suicide; they waste their lives hating the good. God pays for each slave's freedom; no one who runs to him loses out.

Every time I read a psalm in this version of the Bible I wonder what David and others who wrote these originally think? I think I can see David smile and nod his head and probably say something in Hebrew that translates into "Yep." For I believe David had such a close relationship with God as he wrote most of these psalms that he could consider God as his friend. Much more, of course, but for the sake of today, let's say friend. A good friend does keep his or her eyes on their friends. A friend responds with calls or emails and even texts, "Are u alright?" Yesterday, out of the blue I get a phone call from a friend in Dallas, who awoke with me on his mind and so calls to ask if I'm okay. I shared how today will be an interesting day and I asked for his prayers. He replied, "You see? There was a reason that I called!" God does hear our "every moan and groan." God is also serious about what He'll put up with and this says, "God won't put up with rebels; he'll cull them from the pack." But for those crying for help God is listening and always ready to help and rescue us. If we're suffering from a broken heart, God is right there with us, and even if we experience something like a kick in the gut, God helps us catch our breath. What a true friend!

David also knew that disciples and their rebellious ways make up most of the words in the Bible; the New Testament, especially the epistles, dedicates a majority of its pages to helping disciples stay out of trouble; but even then, God is still with us. God is like a bodyguard who won't even let our fingers be broken. But the wicked, those who choose to be away from God, find that kind of life is a slow suicide - and what a terrible way to live, "hating the good." But if you want to be delivered from slavery to sin, God will, and has, paid for our deliverance and freedom. No one has ever run to God to lose out.

That's good news! Share it!

PRAYER: Awesome Friend, thank You. Let me live a life that gives You honor and glory in all things. And help me share the good news with someone today! This I pray in Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

As for Me and My House

Image from life everlasting.blogspot.com

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: "Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God."

Change is never easy; it is the hardest thing for many, especially among the people of God's church. But it is the necessary ingredient in many a story of challenge and opportunity in which God opens doors for God's people in many a biblical story. This is the closing chapter of the Exodus as God leads His people into the Promised Land with Joshua at the lead. Joshua had taken over for Moses and was the one to lead them into Canaan and at this solemn assembly, the challenge is to put away false gods. "Leave behind the distractions and beliefs from your old days in your old neighborhood; they serve no purpose because it was all a lie - The call is to serve the living God and do it sincerely and faithfully." Joshua goes on to say, "The choice is ours - you can still serve the gods of your ancestors," and here comes the classic line that decorates many a kitchen or entryway into many a home: But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

In a moment inspired by Joshua's example and remembrance to all God had done during their 40 year trek through the desert they all declare they will serve the Lord God, and claim Him as their only God. It becomes that which will set the tone for what still lay ahead. The people of Canaan were not about to lovingly and openly give the people of Israel their land and possessions; they were not in tune with what God had promised to them and it would be the start of a war that has lasted to this day, much like the war between those who follow God and those who serve God's enemy - that is a spiritual war that ends only when we choose to serve the living God and He alone. It is our choice and I pray we make the wise choice of faithfulness and service.

PRAYER: Loving God may it be true as Joshua declared, that as for me and my household, we will serve You. Help us to not be tempted away nor shortchange what You have and will do in our lives. Help us to be the change agents that will bring change into the lives of others. This we pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde