Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Do I Love Thee?

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God deserves our praise and thanks

From Psalm 111: Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

The miles between our daughters and us are many; and the miles between where we are right now and the births of our grandchildren are many as well. Yet, last night through the wonders of technology and phone and tablet apps we took a trip down Memory Lane, all caused by a baby walker that has been used, quite reluctantly in most cases, by all four of our grandchildren. The kindling was our youngest grandchild, Eliana, sensing something is up, now wants to do all baby things, and state loudly,which she has many times, that she is the baby. Come April 29th, Lord willing, she will have a baby sister. But the photo of Eliana in the walker,and I wonder if that is the correct name for it, is the device with many wheels, a table of sorts, the chair for the baby, gadgets to entertain the baby and the ability to help the baby learn how to walk, made all of us share the photos of all our grand babies, and even some of our daughters with each other. Each photo made me say, Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord is a statement of praise and thanksgiving. Like David, you and I have much to be thankful for, for the things the Lord God has done have blessed our hearts; and it should lead us to church where joining with others, we can together say, Praise the Lord! And if you take time to study those works, you will be amazed and delighted. Look for the sun rise soon, and see what all is brought to light as that sun rises in the sky; join David as he says, "Full of honor and majesty is His work, and God's righteousness endures forever." And add to the list that David begins by listing God's graciousness, God's mercy, God's provision for all who ask, God's faithfulness in having shared and kept His covenant with all people. God shows His grace and power in all places, knowing no borders. Just like His works, God's teachings, God's Word, is faithful,just, and trustworthy. God has redeemed the believer. God's name is holy and awesome. And, as an awesome way to conclude this praise statement, the psalmist adds, "The fear (worship and respect) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" meaning just when we think we have seen and listed it all, God shares yet another blessing, and the list goes on and on.

Whatever challenge that may be before us, we stop and say, Praise the Lord! And we continue forward as God continues to bless us. Let us bless God!

PRAYER: Loving God, Thank You! May we live lives that always say, Praise the Lord! Let us have eyes to see and count, and lips and voices to say, Thank You! Praise the Lord!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Listening to God

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Hearing and Obeying what the Lord says

From Deuteronomy 18:15-20: The LORD your God will raise up a prophet like me from your community, from your fellow Israelites. He's the one you must listen to. That's exactly what you requested from the LORD your God at Horeb, on the day of the assembly, when you said, "I can't listen to the LORD my God's voice anymore or look at this great fire any longer. I don't want to die!" The LORD said to me: What they've said is right. I'll raise up a prophet for them from among their fellow Israelites—one just like you. I'll put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I myself will hold accountable anyone who doesn't listen to my words, which that prophet will speak in my name. However, any prophet who arrogantly speaks a word in my name that I haven't commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods—that prophet must die.

Many years ago, your family got their first phone. After being the last family in our block to get one, we gathered around it to see what it would do. I remember my Dad making the first call and I remember our running to it when it would ring. Sometimes we would just pick it up because in those days in our town, many of us shared a line with others, called a party line and we would try to listen to someone else's conversation; woe to the ones caught doing that. I don't remember the first call for me; phones seems to be a grownup thing. My friend Alex, and I, had a special shrill yell, actually our attempt to imitate the whistle we could not quite do, which would have the other running to the house of the other. We never talked on the phone as there was no need. Years later I remember walking in a department store and seeing one of our neighbors with a huge bag with a phone in it! It seemed like something from a war movie, a large shoulder bag with a phone with a cord, and she was calling one of her daughters to get their sizes for a dress. By then I had had many calls for me, and I had made a number of calls as well. The most important one, my call into ministry came not through a phone, but from God's way of speaking to me, and calling me to do what I do. It was a quiet but effective way that let me know that my life's fulfillment would come in being obedient to Him and His call into ministry.

God continues to speak even today. Not many hear Him because of so many distractions that have come our way. And the text for today comes in the time of the formation of Israel as God's chosen people. The voice of God was heard from God's mouthpiece, which is literally what the word prophet means. During this time in their formation history it was Moses who heard from and spoke for God. And here in this passage, God is speaking prophetically about the prophet who was to come later from among the Israelites. It would be an answered prayer, for God would raise up the one who would speak for Him, and the people had to listen. This new prophet would be one who would speak words of accountability towards God, and words that had to be heard, received, and obeyed. And this spokesperson for God would be one who loved God in a genuine way, not arrogant in either speech or life, and speak only for the one true God.

We should not let the distractions of today quiet the voice of God. For most of us that voice brings encouragement and hope, but it also brings words of reproach and instruction; all good, and necessary for our wellbeing. Those who make time to talk to, and listen to, God, hear exactly what the Lord may be saying to us.

PRAYER: Loving God, I pray that these times we make to read your word and speak to You through our prayers would be just one of the many times during the day in which I can truly hear Your voice for my life. Help me to hear, listen, and obey all that You share. And after I say Amen, it will be Your turn to talk. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Friday, January 23, 2015

Power, Rock, and Soul

The Wherewithal to Live

From Psalm 62:5-12: For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Selah) Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. For you repay to all according to their work.

There are moments, like this one, when all one can do is wait in silence. And there is only One, in Whom we can wait, and that is God. For it is in God from where we get all our hope. I write this in a dorm room in a nice setting, miles from where I want to be; with my granddaughter, my daughter, son-in-law, and wife as they awaken and prepare for Eliana's surgical procedure. I wonder what David was confronting as he wrote this psalm. But it speaks to me. "He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken." Beautiful, but powerful words. David knew all these aspects of God, for he himself was delivered from many challenges. He stood upon that rock, and knew the salvation from many foes, especially sin. For one who knew battle, he knew the strength and protection of a fortress. And in all those things he was not shaken.

In God is our deliverance, for God continues to be our rock and refuge; in God we truly do trust. God is open to hearing us pour out our hearts before Him, and God acts on our behalf.

All power belongs to God.

PRAYER: For those here and anywhere who are facing difficulty, be with us. I especially pray for Eliana, that she be safe and that that which is being done on her, and for her, be a victory. For calm and peace, we rely on You; share that with Nellie and Jorge. Share it with Nellie and me and all who need it right now. All power belongs to You, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, January 22, 2015

God Changes His Mind

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It helps that Jonah changed his mind first!

From Jonah 3:15, 10: The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Good morning, dear friends. Yesterday found me in a place with no wifi, and this morning's wifi is very limited and slow! God bless you all with a great day!

This is a beloved story of many, perhaps because of the intrigue of the whale (or big fish) that for many, is the star of this story. But the real star of course, is God and God's love for the people of this great city Nineveh. God saw this great city had fallen into sin and called Jonah to go and preach to them. Jonah decided it was not in his best interest to move to this great city and tried hiding from God. He ended up in the belly of this great fish and from the depths of the ocean and despair, cried out to God, God heard his voice and delivered him. Jonah then does preach and it is a simple yet difficult message to preach: Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" The people heard that and "believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth." The people not only heard the word of God, they believed it, and acted on it. The sackcloth was a sign of their faith in God to take away their sin. The response was so pleasing to God, God changed His mind about what He planned to do, and "He did not do it."

Of the human characters in the story, we can either be Jonah, called by God to do something, and we can be that person ready to preach. We could also be the person called by God to do something and we're still looking for a place to hide. And if this is the case, imagine four and five year olds in a small house trying to find a place to hide where God will not find you. Or, we could be the ones who have heard the message calling us to change our ways and become believers and doers of God's word. Whichever one you are, in the way the story says God changed His mind, we can change our mind and become obedient to God.

PRAYER: Lord, whichever role I am trying to play today, preacher, hider, receiver, let me do it to accomplish Your will and plan for my life. This I ask in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Funny How Time Slips Away

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The Urgency of Paul at Work

From 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31: I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Two nights ago I received a retouched (improved) photo taken of my grandfather, Carlos Valverde, Jr., and me at age of a few months. The photo is almost sixty-two years old, but it seems like only yesterday I was a child, enjoying my grandpa's company, hearing his long, loud prayers before bed, and then crying at his funeral. I am so thankful to God for that man, and for all who have been in my life but now are gone. The title of this devotional borrows from Willie Nelson's old hit, redone several times, and it's about broken love. The devotional deals with the urgency of Paul and his quest to get as many people to believe in Jesus as he possibly could. And that passage from his first letter to the church in Corinth shares that urgency; "the appointed time has grown short;" and the image for today shows what most of our alarm clocks do, LATE! Paul is saying that we have work to do and cannot be encumbered with more pressures. To do the work effectively, he writes, those who are married should carry on their appointed tasks with more focus on the task than on the aspects of relationships that could hinder that work. The same he said to those in mourning, carry on your tasks for God's work, as though you were not mourning; and for those who are extremely happy, do your work as though you were not distracted by the joy in your life. The short of it could be summed up as Christ is coming soon, and we have yet to reach all that we should. And many of us will read that, look at our watch or clock and remember that we have somewhere to go.

No one knows the time or hour, but we cannot live as though we would never die when it comes to sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ to as many as we can. This past Sunday in talking with a tiny congregation about their future, they recalled, like most dying churches, a bygone era, "when the church was full and there were kids and youth all over the place!" I asked if there were any churches like that in that town. Yes, they replied, the Jehovah Witnesses have a group of 75. Hmm. I shared with them what JWs usually on their free days. They knock on doors. They feel a sense of urgency and they have a doctrine and theology that is not necessarily sound when it comes to our Christ-centeredness. In fact, their whole outlook can be found in John 1:1, where their Bible says, "and the Word was a god." Look up what our Bible says. Who should be the most urgent?

Time is precious and yes, it slips away, but make the most with the time you have. Make time to pray. Make time to listen after you pray. And do what you hear after your prayers. Talk to that person, write that letter, send that email, make that call. Do what God has placed in your heart to do that will bless the work that He has entrusted to us. And yes, enjoy your time with loved ones, but do not lose focus on the task at hand.

PRAYER: Loving God, the time you have shared with us is so precious. Make us know that we have yet to do all that was asked of us. May we be better stewards of Your time and may we share the Good News as we should. This we pray in Christ Jesus' precious and powerful name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Main Thing

Our Adventure with Jesus Christ

From Mark 1:14-20: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Mark shares a crucial part of Jesus' ministry in this passage. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, is under arrest and Jesus knows that His job continues on. He takes the simple, but powerful sermon of John and uses it, for it is indeed good news. The message has four powerful point; 1) It is the fullness of time. 2) The Kingdom of God has arrived. 3) Repentance is vital. 4) Belief is key. The people hearing that knew about the fullness of time as the time when God would act; Jesus is saying the time is now. People had an understanding about kingdoms, if not about God's kingdom, but if God's kingdom was near, this would be the time to enter into it. Repent may have been a new message to them, but it was a needed one for we recognize and know when we have sinned. Repentance offers God's way out from that sin. This was the good news Jesus was bringing, the "main thing" as it were. Belief is the only response for hearing good news. With that message, Jesus begins to call those who would join Him as disciples. At the Sea of Galilee He sees Simon (Peter) and Andrew, two brothers who were casting news into the sea. Jesus invites them to join Him on this incredible adventure: "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." Their response was immediate. The three journey a ways and they see James and John, another pair of brothers, also fishermen, who are meaning their nets. They too are invited and they leave with Jesus, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired hands.

The lives of these four men would never be the same. We who have said yes to Jesus have had our lives changed and they would never be the same. In many of our cases we have said yes and left home and family to see where this adventure takes us. For some it leads right back home, for others to places never dreamed of, and people who have blessed us on this adventure. For others our life's perspective changed and the same people around us have been transformed as we journey with Christ. The call of Jesus begins our adventure and the instant we say yes, new and incredible things happen, and honestly, never a dull moment. To venture with Jesus knowing our sins are forgiven and forgotten is a destination in itself, but not so with Jesus; for there are those who have yet to hear about the good news of a savior, and so we journey on in this adventure.

Ours is an adventure that should keep the main thing the main thing. Sin claims too many lives, and too many die in their sins. Ours is a message of freedom, hope, and joy; for the God of love has spoken to us and we need to share with others that which has set us free.

PRAYER: Loving God, speak again the word forgiven to my ears and heart. And let me join in sharing that word with others. Let me keep the main thing the main thing in my life. I pray this in the name of He who set me free, Jesus my Lord, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord! Happy Martin Luther King day!

Eradio Valverde

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made!

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Yep. You're Awesome!

From Psalm 139:1-6; 13-18: O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end —I am still with you.

There are certain times of the day that you look into the mirror. Admit it. It may be early in the morning. It may be right after lunch. But whenever it is you tend to make an evaluation of yourself. You judge yourself as either be wonderful, or something less than wonderful. This devotional will be made to glorify God not to make you conceited or arrogant. But, as you read or reread this psalm, you got the impression David had reached a point where he knew he mattered to God. It was not because he was chosen by God to be king of his people, though that wouldn't hurt you, would it? And it was not because he had killed the giant, but that would look good on your resume, wouldn't it? And it was not because he had killed several bears and lions while still a boy, but that would boost your ego, too, right? It was because David knew God. God cares and loves all of creation, people included. David knew that God knew everything about us. I had to laugh at one of the things I read online to the effect: Does Facebook know more about your than your mother? And sadly, that is a yes for those who are devoted to posting and reading Facebook. But guess what? God knows you better than Facebook and better than either one of your parents.

The knowledge that God knows and cares for us should help us reach the understanding that David reached. David said, "For it was You who formed my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Ahh! I've shared with you before about a wonderful doctor that Nellie and I had for a very brief time in our lives. He was a fairly new convert and would weep as he would view a sonogram of the human heart; "How can anybody say there is no God when you look at the marvelous working of this body??" For he had once said there was no God and then God's Word spoke to his heart and he began to see things with a different perspective. So should you. We should join David's song, "Wonderful are your works."

PRAYER: Thank You, awesome God, for the joy and peace of David and his/Your words for us this day. May I truly look beyond my human eyes and see myself for who You made me to be; a masterpiece of Your works. May my life affirm and help others affirm, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Amen!

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

Eradio Valverde