Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus' Authority

Image from revandy.org

From Where Does It Come? Where Does It Go?

This is Monday of Holy Week. We find in Luke 20:1-8 these words that ask and speak about Jesus' authority: One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, "Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?" He answered them, "I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" They discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, "From heaven,' he will say, "Why did you not believe him?' But if we say, "Of human origin,' all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet." So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Don't you like to be questioned about why you do the things you do? Neither do I. Those questions usually come from those who don't have a clue, or those who worry too much about you. After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His display of anger for the Temple, Jesus is questioned by those who already hated Him: "By what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?" Obviously, they did not like what Jesus had done and they certainly did not relate to the teachings they had heard Him speak that went against the order and authority of the day. Jesus answered with a question: "Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" Great question as their discussion proves: "If we say Heaven, He will ask why we did not believe him; but if we say of human origin, we will be stoned by the people, because they believed him to be a prophet." So the answered, "We don't know where it came from!" Jesus answered, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

The key question for us is, What authority does Jesus have in your/my life? If we give Jesus no authority we miss out on so much. We will question what He does or says. If we surrender to Jesus and admit our need for Him, then everything becomes clear and understandable. Those who say Jesus is Lord, understand the Lord's desire for those who are His. We will understand Jesus came to restore the right relationship God desires with us. We will understand that sin and other things not of God in our lives, like those things in the Temple, need to be overthrown and cast out; then the real work of Jesus will begin in us.

Surrender, dear friend today, to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the source of love and life, and our lives are empty without Him. Meaning and purpose will be ours if we but say, "Come into my heart Lord Jesus."

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, come in today, come in to stay; come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Make clear the things of Heaven in a mind that used to be tuned only to earth. I pray in the precious and powerful name of Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Palm Sunday's Star

Read Closely!

From the 118th Psalm, verses 19-29: Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

As David wrote the psalms, some were for his immediate needs, some were honest reflections of his heart, and some were prophetic in nature, such as this one. Though he imagined himself as entering these gates, when applied in the context of history, we see who this truly applies to; Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Yes, David loved the Lord, and he loved going to worship, but he recognizes that the gate to which he is referring is that gate in which Jesus entered triumphantly on that first Palm Sunday. Jesus entered with righteousness to a city desperately in need of that. Jesus entered the city offering salvation, which all people need. Jesus seemingly was rejected, but we know now and proclaim Him as the chief cornerstone of our faith and existence. And all of this is God's doing, and a marvelous thing to behold. Some Sunday to your church and watch the gleam in any child's eye as she or he walks down the aisles waving a palm branch. There you will the marvelousness of which David speaks.

Then the verse so many of us recite or regret as we awaken each day: (Clue: Rejoice!) This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (I would add an exclamation point!). Our needs still continue, we need saving from so many things that we are facing. We desire victory and success over that which seeks to overwhelm us; but look to the One whom David mentions: Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord (Clue: Jesus Christ!). Let us bless God by our acceptance and faith in Christ Jesus.

PRAYER: You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Let me join all who say: O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. AMEN!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Drama Unfolds...

Glimpses of Purpose in Prophecy

From Isaiah 50:4-9: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Sunday begins the drama of Christ's Passion for us. The seemingly joyous entry into Jerusalem sets the stage for the greater good that would come but with great cost and pain for Jesus. Our worship services will probably feature a parade of smiling children swatting palm branches, proud and glad parents elated that their child is part of that happy parade, and these bless our hearts; but we know the story in the Bible is one of great preparation for the event coming on that Friday. And God shared in this passage glimpses of that purpose. Much of Jesus' ministry was that of being a teacher unlike others. He taught with authority, He taught through parables and stories. He demonstrated a love from God not yet seen in the ways that Jesus used. God gave Jesus a listening ear, to hear us and our weariness. God gave Jesus that which saw Him through the painful descriptions mentioned here: Being struck by different people, having His beard pulled; facing those who insulted and spit on Him. Through this all, God sustained Him, and did not allow for Jesus to be disgraced nor to shame. Ultimately, who that came to inflict pain and shame was able to stand against He who defeated death and sin?

Jesus stands with the weary. Jesus comforts the afflicted. Jesus gives hope and life to those who seem to have lost both, and Jesus gives to us the words to join Him in listening and sharing those same things with those in a world of hurt and pain.

At the start of a meeting last night, the chairperson shared how one member not yet present, had lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly to a stroke. The chair cautioned the group against making the meeting about this woman and her situation. The woman arrived shortly thereafter and the meeting proceeded fine. I was asked to pray and as I prayed I started to hear her sobs. When the meeting ended the woman was in pain and great sorrow. I embraced her and shared from Jesus' words in the gospel of John. I pray that that word might have sustained this woman whose world changed so unexpectedly and so quickly. She is but one of so many, who need to hear from us what God shared through Jesus.

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, make real the hope and joy that comes through You in Jesus. May this season of Lent truly be a time of preparation for the greater good that comes in Resurrection. This I pray in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mind of Christ; the Heart of God

Humility and Love at the Core of Servanthood & Discipleship

From Philippians 2:5-11: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I struggle with what finds its way into my mind. I sometimes find myself thinking thoughts shaped by shows I've seen or music I've heard. And this is even sometimes in church when my mind should be focused solely on God. Paul knew that struggle as do many of you, so he writes, as much for himself as for you and me: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Can you imagine? Better yet, can you possess that same mind? A mind that sought God first in all things and in all decisions and actions? A mind that loved all people, who saw needs and beyond needs to the heart of true need; the need to feel and be loved by God, so much so that He, as Paul continues, "emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness."?

This is humility with empathy, servanthood with obedience and compassion to all of God's creatures. It is what is seriously lacking in so many of us. A mind that puts others and their needs first; leaving behind thoughts of wealth and fortune, glamour and fame. A mind that says, Here I am, Lord, use me. Those who say such a thing humble themselves before the One who can exalt and lift up.

I love the closing of this passage as a clarion call to all believers, "so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend (bow), in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Much yet to be done to get every tongue confessing that instead of what's driving other things to come out. I want to be counted among that number who now confess and pray that Jesus is Lord. It takes the mind of Christ to say that.

PRAYER: Loving God, grant to me the mind of Christ. Help me cleanse myself of thoughts impure and unsure; strengthen my mind to holiness and humility. Grant to my heart new founts of love to love everyone as You have loved me. This I pray in the strong name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, March 23, 2015

Palm Sunday!

Image from http://www.progressiveinvolvement.com

Where in the Crowd Would You Be?

From Mark 11:1-11: When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, "Why are you doing this?' just say this, "The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.' " They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Everything falls into place when God's involved. Such was the case with this special entry into Jerusalem. The village ahead of Jesus and His disciples had the colt and people ready for Jesus to use it. Once they had it, they placed their cloaks on it and Jesus sat on it and off they went into the city of Jerusalem. I used to think the "parade" started at the city gates of this mighty city, but it started with the disciples and those who followed Jesus. Steadily this group had grown from 12 to about 125 people who loved and went with Jesus. They were the ones who started the chant, "Hosanna!" which is a Hebrew expression of praise; "Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" They were proclaiming several things at once. One was the fact some considered Jesus anointed and One who did all things in the name of the Lord God. Some were those who believed at long last, the political kingdom of David would be restored in this political Messiah. All seemed to proclaim this event as heavenly.

The shouting and acclaim followed Jesus all the way to the temple. This gospel has Jesus receiving this welcome and then going to rest in Bethany. The entry had been done, and the stage was set for what comes during the rest of the week. This event is special in our lives because it does proclaim Jesus as Messiah. We know now He was not the political savior that some people wanted, and some still expect; He was a spiritual Messiah, the Messiah; He who would die to take away our sins and restore our right relationship with God. What follows during Holy Week blesses and strengthens us and prepares us for the suffering, agony, and death of Jesus, but it also helps us realize in a deeper way, the joy and victory of Resurrection.

I have often wondered where I would have been in the crowd. Would I have been among the 125 who already worshiped Jesus and His teachings? Would I have been among the 125 who sought more amazement and wonder at His miracles and unexplainable healings? Would I have been inside Jerusalem, minding my own business and then followed the crowd as it swelled and started its shouting and praises? The honest answer is that I'm where I am right now, awed by it all, hoping to still be a part of that crowd that grows the crowd of those who truly believe this is the One we have been waiting for; Blessed is He who has come in the name of the Lord!

PRAYER: Loving God, blessed are You and blessed is Your Son, Jesus; but blessed am I for believing in Him. Help me to bless others in bringing them to faith. This I ask in His precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The New Covenant

Image from surprisingjoy.com

The Day is Here! Know God!

From Jeremiah 31:31-34: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

We couldn't wait! It was what we talked about for days and though we knew it was coming, it couldn't get here soon enough! Apply that to your life and you may know exactly what day I'm talking about. For some, it was your graduation day. For others, it was the coming of Christmas. For some others, it was your wedding day; the birth of your first, third, or fourth child. For the prophet, it was the coming of a day when God would "make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah." It was unlike other covenants, including the one that led to their freedom from slavery, which the people broke. This covenant speaks of a living law written upon the hearts of God's people; where we would truly be God's people and God would be our God.

That day was the coming of Jesus, Who came, taught, healed, suffered, died, and rose again. Jesus spoke the truth of the love and grace of God and still writes in those hearts open to Him: You are mine, and I am yours. The day is soon coming when all people shall know the Lord and not need instruction about Him and His teachings; that day brings with it what Jesus offers to all who would receive: Forgiveness of our sins and the forgetting of those same sins.

Not all aspects of that day have been put into place. Our job remains to bring others into that knowledge of God's saving grace; but what better invitation than "God saves us from ourselves, our sins can be removed and forgotten if we but just turn them over to Him?"

PRAYER: Lord, let me be a part of those who share those good news. Write upon my heart the words of life and love, and let me be bold in sharing them. In Christ Jesus I pray, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Obedience of Christ to God

A Model for Our Lives

From Hebrews 5:5-10: So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; as he says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek." In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Disobedience is all about me; it is saying to oneself: I know more, and I can make and should make decisions that please only me. Original sin is being born with disobedience. Obedience goes against some natural instincts, but it is a calling to a higher and better life. Obedience defeats pride and ego driven decisions. Obedience seeks to please the One to Whom we ultimately report. Obedience seeks no status other than that that says I obey. Obedience seeks only the title of servant. In this passage, Jesus' life is the model for true obedience. The writer of Hebrews says Christ did not seek any glory or title for Himself. The role and duty of high priest was bestowed upon Him by His Father. And the higher title was that given to Jesus by God, Son. Jesus' life showed that love and obedience to God the Father in serving others, praying for others, even giving Himself up to death to save others. All Jesus did was in obedience to God, and serves as the model for us. Jesus was made perfect and the source of salvation for we who should obey Him.

This passage is all about Jesus and His place in history and in Heaven. There are those who come to believe in the greatness and role of Melchizedek, but the mention of that name serves only in messianic terms. It is a reference to the person and purpose of Jesus; nothing else. The passage is a call for you and me to be more like Jesus, obedient in love towards God in our service to God and those who are God's.

PRAYER: Loving God, speak to my heart, soul, mind, and spirit; I seek to be obedient to You. Help me be like Jesus in my service and in my life. I pray in that precious name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde