The University of The Way: 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

Good day, dear friends.
Consider the passage from Micah 5:2 "You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old." It is a reference to a small, insignificant town in Judah. Who could possibly come from that town that would be "important" in the eyes of the world?
Most of the world knew Joseph Barbera, the artist partner of Hanna-Barbera, the production company that gave us Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, etc. If you look for a bio looking for more history on him, you will note that he was born in Brooklyn, New York. But I'm troubled that next door to my church in Mission, Texas, in front of this now abandoned theatre, the Rio, there is a state historical plaque that says that the artistic partner of Hanna-Barbera was born in Mission, Texas. I called the owners of the theatre, whose parents bought the theatre from Senor Babera, a man originally from Spain who opened the theatre first called Concordia, but later sold it to the Flores family. For many years I was intrigued by what the young Barbera did and imagined while playing there in South Mission, only to grow and become this man who blessed the world with characters of endless entertainment. It's a mystery that perhaps Texas Monthly magazine could explore.
The real question is where are you going? Where you're from is important, it has helped to shape who you are today, but it should not limit nor dictate what you will ultimately become. I'm from Kingsville, and I never knew that Jim Morrison of The Doors fame, lived there and attended my elementary school (some years prior to my being there!) while his dad was stationed at the Kingsville Naval Base. Did some of the Kingsville area influence his music? Again, Texas Monthly, step on in.
Where are you going? What will you allow God to make of your life? Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the "house of bread," "city of David," and became who he became, guided and used by God. You can be no different in your service to God and others, if you will surrender your life to God. You won't be a messiah; we already have one, but you can be a servant of He who was born to bring us victory over sin and death.
PRAYER: Lord, let me discover where I am going. Use where I am from to shape me into being your person. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!
e.v.

WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

Good day, dear friends.
Consider the passage from Micah 5:2 "You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old." It is a reference to a small, insignificant town in Judah. Who could possibly come from that town that would be "important" in the eyes of the world?
Most of the world knew Joseph Barbera, the artist partner of Hanna-Barbera, the production company that gave us Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, etc. If you look for a bio looking for more history on him, you will note that he was born in Brooklyn, New York. But I'm troubled that next door to my church in Mission, Texas, in front of this now abandoned theatre, the Rio, there is a state historical plaque that says that the artistic partner of Hanna-Barbera was born in Mission, Texas. I called the owners of the theatre, whose parents bought the theatre from Senor Babera, a man originally from Spain who opened the theatre first called Concordia, but later sold it to the Flores family. For many years I was intrigued by what the young Barbera did and imagined while playing there in South Mission, only to grow and become this man who blessed the world with characters of endless entertainment. It's a mystery that perhaps Texas Monthly magazine could explore.
The real question is where are you going? Where you're from is important, it has helped to shape who you are today, but it should not limit nor dictate what you will ultimately become. I'm from Kingsville, and I never knew that Jim Morrison of The Doors fame, lived there and attended my elementary school (some years prior to my being there!) while his dad was stationed at the Kingsville Naval Base. Did some of the Kingsville area influence his music? Again, Texas Monthly, step on in.
Where are you going? What will you allow God to make of your life? Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the "house of bread," "city of David," and became who he became, guided and used by God. You can be no different in your service to God and others, if you will surrender your life to God. You won't be a messiah; we already have one, but you can be a servant of He who was born to bring us victory over sin and death.
PRAYER: Lord, let me discover where I am going. Use where I am from to shape me into being your person. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!
e.v.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

STAYING CONNECTED


Good day dear friends.
We had a special time together during our "Grief and the Holidays" luncheon yesterday. I shared the first part of 1 Corinthians and I reminded them of the probable sadness in Heaven before that first Christmas. God had the plan for salvation and God asked Jesus to come to the earth, so there had to be a goodbye time between God and His Son. The Bible does not mention this and I could be way off, but bear with me! God surely said, "I will always be with you," to Jesus; and Jesus must have said, "We will be together again soon." Both knew they would stay connected through prayer.
Human connectedness is trying to get better every day. We have the technology to reach every corner of the world. One good example of how connected we are happened this Friday night when we pulled into our daughter's driveway and unpacked our things. We couldn't find one important bag that had my meds and Nellie's makeup. Both are sure fire disasters-in-the-making! My first thought was simply, I'll do the wedding and leave immediately home because I can't be without my meds. My daughters all said, no, call HEB and they'll know what to do. Next morning I called the pharmacy at little HEB and asked if they sent medicines or could call the local HEB and the girl said, just go by the local pharmacy and they'll know what you need electronically. Great. And long story short, they found my records, sold me another month's supply of two of the three meds ($5 for 30 pills versus $7 for 2) and I was able to stay until Sunday.
Of course, human connectedness is not what it should be nor can it compare to prayer. Christmas is all about being connected to God. We can't forget that. The hustle and bustle of this season can take our thoughts and priorities elsewhere, but God still awaits our call.
PRAYER: Loving God, help me stay connected to you today and all days. In Jesus' name, amen.
Have a great and blessed day!
e.v.

Monday, December 18, 2006

UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS


Good day dear friends.
Please don't forget for those in the SM area, that today at 12 noon we're hosting a luncheon entitled, Grief and The Holidays. We'll have a short devotional service, then share a meal. It's our way of helping those who have lost loved ones during the past few years better cope and know they are loved. Please keep this event in your prayers.
Last week was a marathon meeting week as usually happens in most churches facing the end of the year and a coming charge conference. By Wednesday at my second night meeting I had forgotten when a particular discussion had taken place about some items and when I looked at my calendar it had just been on Monday. By Thursday, I was trying to arrange for someone to lead the wedding rehearsal in Mission, TX for my niece's wedding, while trying to finalize the funeral that was keeping me here on Friday. A dear friend accepted to rehearse the couple and the families, and the arrangements for the funeral went smoothly. On top of all this Thursday was the day Caty was to return home on her first solo flight on American Airlines from Dallas. After two doctor appointments for Nellie and Sarai, they and Carli and myself went to breakfast at a local place. A dear Emmaus brother came in and we spoke briefly about the day and upcoming Walks and he met our daughters. As we got up to leave, the waitress came and said, "Sir, there's a mistake on your bill I have to correct it." Normal thinking says, she didn't charge enough and now I'm going to have to deal with that. Then she returns and says, "I'm sorry about that sir, but your bill's already paid for!" She smiled and we smiled for I knew what had happened. First, unexpected blessing. Thank you, Lord.
As the hour approached for Caty's flight, we started praying for her, as we had pretty much been doing all day, but our cell phone rang and it was Caty crying. She had been dropped off at the wrong airport. She should have been at Love Field, but they left her at DFW. This discovery came after she tried checking in at the kiosk there at DFW. I told her to find an agent to try to help her check in, then this call comes in. The call ends due to the great service we have with our carrier and then next thing we hear is that the agent there when he saw Caty crying said, "Don't worry baby, we'll get you home!" and placed her on the next flight out of DFW coming to Austin. Caty didn't notice his name but gave us a description so that we could write a thank you letter to the airlines for their doing this for her. Caty arrived safely home about an hour after she should have, but we were thankful.
God is good. And this season of preparation should teach us that. God is so good and so loving that He sent Jesus for us. All that we have in the Gospels and the New Testament center on the awesomeness of God's love through Jesus Christ. What can we do about it? Be good ourselves! It's so easy during this time of year to get angry at traffic, crowds, long lines, cashiers, etc. And that's what the world expects. But what the world didn't expect was for God to act in the way of Christ. And the world doesn't expect us to act like good people. But let's show them. Let's be more Christ-like in the way we interact with one another.
Let that be the best Christmas present we give today.
Have a great and blessed day!
e.v.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

ALL I ASK


Good day dear friends. As many have already heard, a dear Rotary brother and neighbor of ours, Mr. Carl Anderson, died yesterday. He had been battling cancer for a short time. Carl was a past local president and District Governor in Rotary. His funeral will be at our church on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. Visitation is Thursday evening at Pennington's. Please keep Lu and her family in our prayers.
We continue to affirm that God is in control and has a wonderful life available to us if we so pray and here is our study guide for today:
Tuesday: In 1 Kings 19:9-18 we find a passage of someone who asks of God something very important. Read this passage and discover what was being asked of God and how God responded to the need.
Here is that passage from 1 Kings 19:9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10 He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 11 He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14 He answered, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away." 15 Then the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
How sad it is to hear a servant of the Lord declare, "I alone am left." Elijah says that twice in this passage. And come to think of it, his appointment to First Israel had not gone like he nor God would have liked. The chairperson of the Church Council and the Pastor Parish Relations committee had not only abandoned ship, they did all they could to sink the thing! They didnt' believe word one of what Elijah tried to preach; the Commandments were viewed with disgust, they destroyed church property, and they even killed those who sought to serve God. I too would be praying, "I alone am left," as would you.
Elijah had a very rough, dangerous time being God's prophet to Israel during his ministry. It became so bad that he sought to flee from church work, as do so many. Dr. Terry Teykl said on Sunday that he has many colleagues in ministry who "lust for Home Depot," meaning for a job there instead of behind the pulpit. Thank God most of us are not being threatened with our lives, though our livelihoods is bad enough, but God sends Elijah on a retreat. He is sent to a mountain retreat where he stands to await God to pass by him. You know the story. A great wind passes by, destroying almost everything in its path. Then comes an earthquake, then a fire, but in none of these was the Lord God. There came sheer silence, where Elijah was able to hear God's voice. God answered Elijah's prayer; named new officers for the church, and promised to bless those who had remained faithful to Him.
Doesn't it sometimes seem that everything and everyone around us, seem to be on the path of destruction? This lesson teaches that even in those times when we take that approach or view of our lives, God is still in control. Though God has the power of great wind, earthquakes, and fire, God comes to us when we pause, seek to be alone with Him, and allow God to speak to us. When was the last time you prayed in a way that you only asked for God?
PRAYER: Loving Father, I confess that too often when I pray, I do all the talking and all the asking. Today I ask for You to come and be with me. That's all I ask. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Have a great and blessed day!
e.v.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I AM


Good day dear friends. We celebrated an Advent message on Luke 21:25ff called, "God's Wonderful Life for You." This was a message about hope and faith even in the midst of suffering and uncertainty.
Here is today's study guide: Monday: The Bible is filled with passages of those who “want to know.” Either more about God or what God is planning to do. Please find and read Exodus 3:13-15. This is a passage about what God promised to one of the first servants to go and ask something of someone else before a great thing God was going to do.
Here is that passage from Exodus 3:13 But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, "The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, "What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I am who I am." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "I am has sent me to you.' " 15 God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.
You can unlock many closed doors by knowing someone's name. To send a letter to the CEO of a certain company, will probably take you to a huge bin where those letters are seldom if ever read. If you know the CEO's name and address it to him/her, s/he may not personally read it, but someone close to him/her will and you will get results. Moses didn't know about CEOs but he did know about the power of knowing someone's name, so he asks the living God, "Who shall I say sent me if they happen to ask?" Moses is told, "Tell them that I am has sent you." The God of all life has as His name, I am, a statement of being more than of a name.
What does that mean to us today? That God still is and always will be. The God of long ago is still the God of today. The God who was the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the rest, is your God. Think about what can come after God's name: I am with you. I am stronger than what you face. I am able to overcome the obstacles and struggles in your life. I am never going to forsake you. I am going to take you with me for all eternity, etc.
PRAYER: Thank you I am, for being with me and for being my God. Let me live my life in a way that shares that faith with others. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Have a great and blessed day!
e.v.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ADVENT AND THE SEARS CATALOG


Good day dear friends.
Here is an Advent message based on 1 Thess. 3:9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Somehow, we for many years were on the Sears catalog mailing list. I don't know if everyone with an address, much like spam on email today, received a catalog or not, but we were sure thankful for the annual what-we-considered "big" Christmas Catalog. We expected it. Each day in that time of year we knew it would not be long before we would get that huge catalog loaded with color pictures of the world's greatest toys! We knew Santa wouldn't bring us the ones we wanted, for some odd reason, we chalked that to being on the Naughty List most of the year anyway; but it didn't stop my brothers and I from laying on the cold floor and going through the book page by page playing the "I claim this!" game. Whichever toy caught your eye if you could place your finger on it first, that toy would be yours.
Had that game been true I would have a warehouse filled with toys or at the very least the landfill in Kingsville, Texas, would be brimming full of broken, discarded toys. Advent is that time of year when we as believers know that the celebration of the birth of our Lord is coming, but it should also be a time when we know that our Lord is coming again. Nellie and I went to see the new movie "The Nativity" and we both highly recommend it. It is the story of the year before Christmas Eve and portrays with much honesty the scenes that might have happened outside the biblical story. The story shows the expectancy of the people for the need of a Messiah to come. In a scene prior to the birth, Mary and Joseph stop outside Bethlehem and visit with a shepherd. Joseph explains that most shepherds lived alone for most of their lives prior to sitting at the insistence of the shepherd for the night was cold and Mary was shivering. The man shares his fire with the couple and relates how his father told him that everyone has a gift to share, and that Mary's gift was that which was inside of her. Mary asks what his gift was and the shepherd replies, the gift of not giving up hope for that which is to come.
Advent is like the text above, we wait by being in prayer for each other, looking forward to face-to-face fellowship, helping one another in those areas of weakness of faith, knowing that one day our faith will be complete.
Advent is our saying in our prayers, "Come, Lord Jesus, come."
PRAYER: Come, Lord Jesus come. May the words of our childhood Sunday school song be real today: Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in to stay, come in today; Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!
e.v.

Monday, December 04, 2006

ARE WE A PRESENCE BASED CHURCH?

Good day dear friends.

We were so blessed by the visit of Rev. Dr. Terry Teykl, a man of God with a wonderful testimony and witness. He spoke at our three worship services and in the afternoon shared a mini-seminar on The Presence-Based Church.

His text for the traditional services was from Exodus 33: Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped at the entrances to their tents. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

His key verse, as to why the Lord inspired him to write this book was verse 11: "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." This is the way to have a presence-based relationship with God. Dr. Teykl correctly mentioned we too often seek the hand of God to move something in our favor. We rarely seek to know God and to experience God as one would experience a friend. Instead of being like Moses, we're like the frightened and confused people that didn't know what to make of God talking to Moses. Sadly, as Terry mentioned, we say to our pastors, "You take care of the spiritual stuff - that's what we pay you for!"

The Presence Based Church is one who, as individuals and corporately, seeks the face of God to guide it and strengthen it to do the ministries with which it was entrusted.

Are you truly seeking the face of God or are you comfortable just sitting back, listening, and leaving? Are you taking the prayer list home and faithfully praying for one another as Jesus asked? I see so many just throw their prayer lists in the recycle bin. I don't know what the thought is behind it, but I know if my name was on the prayer list I would want everyone from my church praying for me. Come to think of it, my name or the fact I fall in that category called "Pastors," Leslie's name and mine, stand in need of your prayers. And what about those magnets with our children's names on them? I thankful so many of those names went home and are on refrigerators being prayed for; I pray that those neglected and left on the table are not being preyed on. We're not yet a Presence based church...

PRAYER: Loving God of Presence and Power, visit each person who read this and who was in worship yesterday. Make the words planted yesterday and today through this devotional come to life and let it bear great fruit for You! I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

e.v.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

THE HEART OF DAVID THE BOY


Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone! Remember to take stock of what the Lord has shared with us on this special day! Do not be overwhelmed by the size of today's newspapers, they contain ads for Christmas! Today is a day of giving thanks!
Here is our study guide for today: Thursday: Please find and read the story of David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16:1-7. In that passage we get a glimpse of how God sees. Do you possess the vision of God in all things? Or do you, like so many, suffer from limited vision? Are you seeing only what you want, without trusting God and God’s vision for your life?
Here is the passage from 1 Samuel 16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." 2 Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" 5 He said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord." 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
The key verse is verse 7 where the Lord tells Samuel, you got it all wrong; I'm not impressed with handsomeness, stature, physcial abilities! I look at a person's heart. On that day, God knew David's heart. It was a heart filled with love and trust in Him. It was a heart full of the joy of knowing the strength of God and the ability of God to lead and guide and protect.
May this day serve as the day in which we begin to see in God the things we had not yet seen and to trust like we had never before trusted. May God grant to us that which we need.
PRAYER: Loving Father, forgive me for not seeing as You; I have failed many times to have the heart of David the boy. Fill my heart with joy, love, and trust. Let me see You at work all around me. Let me begin to see You more in others. Let me see beyond myself. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!
e.v.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DOUBLE ISSUE!


Good day dear friends! I trust this finds most of you ready to receive or go to, family and friends for this holiday weekend. I pray that each of you enjoy a special time of love, fellowship, and joy. May the real reason of this day be on our lips, hearts, and minds. Give thanks!
Here is our Tuesday and Wednesday study and prayer guides:
Tuesday: In Matthew 9:27-31. Read this special healing story. See how the Lord shared new vision with these men who needed it. Could not the same thing happen in terms of our spiritual blindness? Don’t we want the eyes of God to better see and understand the needs of the world? Those who know and walk with the Lord know His power and grace!
Here is the passage from Matthew 9:27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." 29 Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you." 30 And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, "See that no one knows of this." 31 But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.
This story of healing involves two men who were blind. They had heard of Jesus' power to heal and thus they went with him to ask for their healing. Jesus' only question to them was about their faith in Him. "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" Their faith was strong and they replied, "Yes, Lord." Jesus touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you." And they received vision! And in a probably unexpected manner, Jesus told the men not to tell anyone about this. Verse 31 says they did exactly what you and I would have done. If you and I had been blind for any significant period of time, no, if you and I had been blind for one day and we were healed by Jesus, we're telling everyone! To overcome such a thing as blindness by faith in Jesus is worth telling everyone.
Jesus continues to heal today. You and I may not have physical limitations on our vision, but spiritually speaking many of us do. Jesus comes to deliver us even from that today. Jesus comes to open our eyes of faith to see the things of God all around us. It may be that Jesus once upon a time allowed your blindness to your sin to be removed and you asked for the sin to be removed. Who did you tell? It may be that Jesus opened your eye to an opportunity that blessed you beyond your wildest dreams, who did you tell?
The most powerful technology being invented and yet to come will never, never, replace the power of one person telling another person what Jesus can do for them. You don't know how much power of influence you have on the lives of others by simply talking to them and telling them about Jesus and what He can still do. What's holding you back?
PRAYER: God of power and might, remind me of what it means to see with eyes of faith Your hand at work all around me. Let me see and let me tell of Your great wonder and work. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.
WEDNESDAY:
For our day of prayer and purpose, take a sheet of paper and make two columns. On one side write down “What I used to know,” and on the other side, “What I know Now.” On the first column write down some spiritual things that you thought you fully understood. On the second column share there the new revelations that have come to you since you have known and walked with the Lord. At the bottom share your thoughts on the difference it has made in your life to have known and walked with the Lord thus far. If you haven’t yet come to Him, this is the exact thing for which you should pray. Ask the Lord to bring blessings of understanding to your life.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!
e.v.

Monday, November 20, 2006

WHO'S YOUR VISION?

Good day dear friends. In our prayer time, please remember theBaker family. Just a little over a week ago, Jayne Baker's momdied, and on Saturday night her father died as well. This is a mostdifficult time for them so please pray God's comfort be with them.Also Geoffrey Burton has had a difficult time of recover from atonsillectomy. He was operated Thursday and was rushed to thehospital on Saturday with dehydration. Doctors believe he may havebeen coming down with a stomach bug as he was being operated.Please pray for his recovery and healing.Yesterday we started a new sermon series called "The Life That GodBlesses," with "Be Thou My Vision" as the title of the firstsermon. The title comes not only from the hymn but also fromProverbs 29:18 "Where there is no revelation, people cast offrestraint; but blessed are those who heed wisdom's instruction."The biblical character for a good lesson on this was from Luke 19and the story of Zacchaeus. We know him to be, from the Sundayschool song, a "wee little man," but we tend to forget he was awicked and wealthy wee man. Not until he had his encounter withJesus did he understand the constraint of moral living and the post-sycamore tree Z was a better person as a result.Here is our study guide for today: Monday: Jesus spoke of a newlife lived in God in Matthew 25:35-40. In that passage we find areference to a life that cares beyond daily cares of our own tothose of others. Could it be said this is a life guided by thevision of God in the life of those who know and love the Lord?Here is that passage from Matthew 25:35 for I was hungry and yougave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, Iwas a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave meclothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison andyou visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, whenwas it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gaveyou something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you astranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 Andwhen was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did itto one of the least of these who are members of my family, you didit to me.'A new life lived in Christ puts more of a focus on others thanoneself. This passage called the Judgment of the Nations, centerson the very basics of life: food, water, hospitality or acceptance,clothing, comfort and care, and visitation. Jesus says that thosewho care for others, care for Him. It seems so basic for some, butfor others it take a radical transformation to shift their focusfrom inward to outward. Yet, this is the basis of being aChristian, caring for one another. And it becomes an easy shift ifwe shift our guidance from selfish drives to the visionary power ofthe Lord.PRAYER: Loving God, come to my heart and shift my vision towardsYou. Let me care for You by caring for others. In Jesus' name.Amen.Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!e.v.P.S. Those of you in the San Marcos area, please remember thattonight at 7 in our church we're having our Community ThanksgivingService. Come and represent our church!Also, the Puebla Medical Mission trip has set the date for July 8-14, 2007 with an estimated cost of $700 (mas o menos) per person.We need medical person, with a special need for pathologists.

Friday, November 17, 2006

OUR DAY OF PRAYER

Good day dear friends. What an awesome prayer service we had last night! My thanks to those who took time to pray as a body. I know God's Holy Spirit is moving even now.
Here is our prayer guide for today:Friday: For our day of prayer let us pray for all churches in the world that profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Pray that God would continue to raise up faithful churches in all things. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you today and in all days.
Last night we prayed for all the churches in San Marcos. I reminded the church that we are not in competition with other churches, we are still only in competition with Satan, things that kill, steal, and destroy. Our prayer today should be to ask God to bring faithfulness in every pulpit, righteousness in every Sunday school classroom, obedience in those who serve the church as leaders and officers, and a saving grace knowledge to all who gather to worship. Pray for the professions and walks of life of those who make up the many churches of our community that God might bring them blessings.
Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!
e.v.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

GOD'S SPECIAL GIFT

Good day dear friends. We continue to study the Corinth church and Paul's urge to share financial assistance to the less fortunate. This came to life last night as we hear our missionaries from Laos share what is going on in that poor country. I was proud of the efforts of our church in starting two important projects, the goat and mushroom project. I also like that the participants of the program are obligated to tithe to the local church in gratitude for what God has shared through our efforts.

Here is our study guide for today: Thursday: In 1 Peter 4:10-11, we find some references to giving and generosity. Please look up that passage and read in it that which would speak to your heart. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you about your life and your heart.

Here is that passage from 1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. 11 If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

God has first given to us. God has given to each of us a special gift. And each of these gifts should be received as a gift to give beyond ourselves. We are entrusted by God to share in various ways that gift that we have received. For example, Paul says, if our gift is speaking, we should speak "the very words of God" (v. 11) and if our gift is a gift of service, we should do so with the knowledge that God is with us and providing to us the strength needed to make such service possible. Whatever it is that we have as our gift, as we use it, we should use it in such a way that God would be praised through Jesus Christ.

What's your gift? How are you using it? Are you blessing and praising God with it?

PRAYER: Loving Father, thank you for the gift you have shared with me. Let me use it to serve others in such a way that You receive all honor and praise. I pray in Christ Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

IT IS BETTER TO GIVE, SO GIVE!

Good day dear friends. We continue to talk about assisting the poor and how this was a challenge for Paul to share with the people in Corinth. It is believed the people of Corinth, because of the strong economy, were "new rich." They didn't have status like "old money" but they could support their ministry and beyond.

Here is our study guide for today:

Tuesday: Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus’ saying on giving. It calls to mind an old, old television commercial, and something someone will more than likely share with you as you compile your Christmas list. Please read the verse and ponder in your heart why it was that Jesus said what He said.

Here is that passage from Acts 20:35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " (I recommend you read the whole chapter).

Yes, that old commercial, a Fritos (remember them, they're still around!) that had the cartoon character running around trying to get Fritos, saying, "It is better to give than receive, so give!" Glad to know Jesus inspired it. Jesus knew how special it is for those hearts who learn how to share and to give. In some cases it has even saved people's lives. To hoard and keep and be stingy brings about a bitterness that is not good for our body; it is in giving that one receives a liberating and life-giving blessing. In the case of one of America's first millionaires, this man became so wealthy, he didn't know what to do with his money. As a result that worried him and bothered him to the point of illness. He was resigned to die. Yet, a close friend and advisor spoke to him about the truth. He said to his dying friend, "If you will learn to give, you might learn to live." And so it was. He gave and he lived. I believe that had he not learned to give, he would have died a bitter, empty man. And his wealth? Well, it wouldn't have been in a trailer behind the hearse.

How do you feel about giving? Have you stopped to realize how blessed you are? Has God shown you yet the plight of the "weak" in our midst and throughout the world? Wouldn't Jesus' message be relevant to your life?

PRAYER: Loving God of giving, speak to my heart today. Let me know how blessed and wonderful it is to have an attitude of gratitude, and a living for giving. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a blessed and great day in the Lord!

e.v.

Friday, November 10, 2006

OUR DAY OF PRAYER

Good day dear friends. Here is our prayer guide for today: Friday: For our day of prayer let us pray again for our relationship with God and God’s church. Pray for those things mentioned during the entire week. Pray about what you will pledge this coming year!

Here is a sample prayer based on the Psalm:

Loving God, what a special relationship You have with me. You can search every part of me unlike any other, even myself and you truly know me. You know even when I sit down and when I get up from sitting. You can even read my mind. You know when I go out and just when I lay down; you know all about me! Even before I can form a word in my mouth you already know it, O God. You cover me with Your protection on all sides; Your loving hand is upon me so I can feel that I am not alone. This is just too wonderful for me, even at times, beyond my limited comprehension.

Is there somewhere I could go to hide from Your Spirit? Where could I possibly run that I would not be in Your presence? If there was a way I could fly up to the heavesn, you would be there; if I could lay down in the deepest part of the ocean, you would be there too.
If I could rise up on the wings of the dawn, or if I could settle on the far side of the sea, even there your loving hand would still guide me, your right hand would hold me tight, like a loving parent before crossing a busy and dangerous street. Even if I would say "I can hide in the dark, the night will hide me, you can see in the dark; in fact, it's like seeing the brightness of noonday sun for you. It was you, loving God, who created me, even the inner most parts I cannot see. I am the wonderful product of a finely crafted work, as if my grandmother had knitted me, even in the womb of my mother, your creative hand was there. So what can I do? I can praise you because I am made through a cautious and loving, expert hand. I know all your works to be wonderful and I know that fully well. Even my bone structure was known to you when I was being made. When I was being put together in an unexplainable way, you could see the end result of this my body. You knew what lay ahead for me, what choices I would make.

How wonderful it is to me to know your thoughts through your written word, O God! How awesome it is to read them! If I could even begin to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand on the ocean. When I am awake, I am with you. Protect me even when I dream about those who seek to harm or hurt me. Drive them away from my thoughts, dreams, and actions! Even those who do not know you or who do know and dislike you, keep them from the negative feelings of my heart. Search me, loving God, and examine my heart; try me and know what makes me anxious. If there is evil intent in my heart, lead me away from that which can kill, steal, and destroy, and lead me to life everlasting. I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A FULL FAITHFUL LIFE

Good day dear friends.

We continue to affirm that we cannot outgive God! Here is our study guide: Thursday: In Mark 12:41-44 we find a familiar story of one poor soul and her worship of God in a setting that would have humiliated most of us. Read that story and let it speak to you of what this soul felt as she worshiped God on that day. Why are you different from this woman? What holds you back from giving unto the Lord as you know you should? Is it fear about tomorrow? What you will leave to your children? What arrangements have you made to leave a spiritual legacy to not only your family, but your church family as well?

Here is that passage from Mark 12:41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

We may have heard some in some churches say, "When we give today, be sure not to make too much noise!" meaning that the speaker wanted folks to place bills of all denominatinos in the plate rather than coins. In Jesus' day, the treasury outside the Temple was a receptacle made of brass that allowed for the money of the day, coins only, to make loud noise. The greater the offering the louder the noise. Jesus is watching a crowd including some rich people put in some large sums. What a noise they must have made! But here comes a widow, a woman whose husband had died, and in those days more than likely the only source of income for her, and she places in two small copper coins, which together are worth about a penny. In our daily use, the penny is usually that brown coin in a cup or holder next to the cash register in most stores, that is used only when the amount being charged needs a cent or so. The talk had been recently that we as a nation spend more money on minting pennies than the one cent that it's worth, so why even mint pennies any longer? The value of a penny has greatly diminished in our society.

But in Jesus' day, this gift represented all the poor woman had. This was her whole life. It is like the story of the widow visited by the prophet Elijah, who was gathering wood for what she believed to be her last meal. Such was the plight of the widow in biblical times. So, this offering was blessed for its act of faith in God. The woman loved God so much that she placed her life in God's hands. I know in my heart that this woman did not suffer as a result of her faith. Great is her place in the kingdom of God!

Yet, we who are in spiritual doubt or in a spiritual fight with God, find that we cannot bring ourselves to trust God enough to give as we should. God cannot be in first place in our lives because our faith and trust in God is not sufficient yet to put our whole lives in God's hands. This morning a dear brother shared a story about a pastor who told a church member who came for prayer about giving, to give the tithe and to bring those bills left over at the end of the 90% and that he, the pastor would pay them. The member did. The pastor asked, "How can you trust God for the salvation of your soul and yet you don't trust God with financial matters?"

How do you live your life? Trusting God with every aspect of your life, or just in some areas? Don't you feel God calling you to faithfulness in full?

PRAYER: Come, loving God into all areas of my life. I trust You with my soul, and I've trusted You to bring me all that I have, let me give as I should. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

OUR DAY OF PRAYER AND PURPOSE

Good day dear friends. Today is our day of prayer and purpose.

Here is our prayer guide for today:

Wednesday: For our day of prayer and purpose, be in very reflective prayer about your life thus far. What have you done, accomplished, given? Let this be a time of renewal for you, asking God to bless you richly in the things of righteousness. Ask God to use you in ways that bring Him glory as you enjoy each day as a precious gift from God!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

GOD AND MONEY

Good day dear friends.

We continue to talk about a spiritual matter that unsettles so many: God and money. We spoke on You Can't Outgive God, and here is the study guide for today:

Tuesday: If you haven’t yet taken Disciple 1 Bible study, you are missing out on a great study on the entire Old and New Testaments. One of the sections of that marvelous study deals with the Exodus and how God formed a people out of the ones who left Egypt. Read Leviticus 27:30 and you’ll get a sense of how this group supported the work of God. Read also Numbers 18:26, Deut. 14:24, and 2 Chronicles 31:5. These all have to do with the tithe. Read and discover what a spiritual blessing is ours when we joyfully return to God the tithe.

Jesus spoke more about money and possessions than He did about prayer. Why do you suppose that is? Did Jesus' Bible speak about money? Well, if you look up the above mentioned scriptures, you will see the answer. Let us look first at Lev. 27:30 "All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord's; they are holy to the Lord." Gifts to God are holy? Anything given with love to the Lord is holy. Being obedient to God is holy. Giving the tithe, the ten percent of what we make, is holy. Let's look at Numbers 18:26 "You shall speak to the Levites, saying: When you receive from the Israelites the tithe that I have given you from them for your portion, you shall set apart an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe." Another mention of the tithe, this as instruction to the priests. And we find more references to the tithe in Deut. and 2 Chronicles. The reality is that if we hoard our money or withhold our money, the possessions are possessing us. Instead of God being in control, our money or physical possessions is in control of us. Someone said last night, "the ones who complain about mentions of money are the ones who are in spiritual weakness." And that is true.

Ours is a spiritual life that can be lived in the fullness of God if we understand the things of God. Ours will be a sad life if we measure and try to understand things from a human perspective. God and money is a spiritual matter. Our spirit is affected by how we perceive and control our money. As the minister once said to the man who said you continue to preach on tithing, when are you going to stop; when everyone starts tithing is the day to stop preaching on it.

Where are you in your relationship with God?

PRAYER: Loving God who owns the ten thousand cattle on the hills as well as the hills, give us the mind of Christ to understand all things, especially that which pertains to the spiritual matter of money. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Monday, November 06, 2006

GOD LOVES US!

Good day dear friends.

We continued our study of the Corinth church as this first century church faced twenty-first century problems. Yesterday, we studied a passage on generosity and giving to God. The sermon was entitled, "You Can't Outgive God!" and you can hear it on www.fumcsm.org. Here is our study guide for today:

Monday: How would you close the book on the first half of your life’s story? If you had had a tremendous life thus far and you knew that great, new things were coming, what would you say? Read Malachi 3:6-10 and then chapter 4:1-6. This closes out the Old Testament (The Hebrew Bible). It ends with a tremendous spiritual challenge to God’s people in the 3rd chapter, and then in the 4th promises some great things for the coming years. What are your thoughts on this?

That first question makes one really think. As we prepared to go into worship, Katrina Allison, our Children's Ministry Coordinator, she pointed to the study guide and said, "I really like that question." I said I didn't want to scare anyone, but that does make you think. I wonder if God is going to let me live to be 108?

But what you have done during the days that you've had thus far? In the life of The Bible, the Old Testament was a tremendous history of God's love and the struggle of God's people to stay in that love. The OT closes with Malachi. Here is that passage from Malachi 3:6 For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, "How shall we return?" 8 Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, "How are we robbing you?" In your tithes and offerings! 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."

It's an interesting way to close out the first half of the Bible. Can you imagine a love story closing with charges of theft? The real theft has been the love due God stolen by people keeping it to themselves. Malachi's report of God's words are that the people are robbing God and the affection due God in worship by keeping the tithes and offerings for themselves. The danger is to face the wrath of God for holding back. Should the people return to God what is due Him, God says, "put me to the test...see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."

Chapter 4:1 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. 4 Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. This passage shares the promise of God for the return of the teachings of Moses and the return of the prophet Elijah. This is accomplished in the coming of Jesus and at His Transfiguration. God never leaving us alone or withouf fulfilling His promises to us.(See Mt. 17:1-6)

What more can we say? God is with us. Are we with God? God is loving us. Are we loving God back?

PRAYER: Thank you, God of love, for your gifts of mercy. Let me this day learn to give back to You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day.

e.v.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

THE GREATEST REWARD

Good day dear friends.

As we being our morning of prayer, please lift up Bill Nicolas in prayer as he undergoes surgery this morning at 8:30 at CTMC. Also, dear friends of the Nicolas, suffered a loss in the death of Bill Kurtz. Please hold the Kurtz family in prayer as the Lord comforts them.

Here is our study guide:

Thursday: In the Book of Revelation, please find chapter 7, verses 9-17. In that passage see how accountability will pay off for those who hold true to the teachings and love of God. Note what verses 15 through 17 stress. In this image of Heaven, we are made to see how we will be the ones who will be worshiping God and glorifying Him!

Here is that passage from Rev. 7:9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" 14 I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

The greatest blessing that comes from our faithfulness to God in being accountable to God, is that of being eternally in the presence of God. John the writer of Revelation, had the opportunity to visit realms never before known. On the Sunday morning, God's Holy Spirit took John to Heaven to see and experience that which is yet to come for us. The vision of these verses is worship and praise to God that never ends and the great fulfillment that comes to those who are there in God's presence. After suffering long and hard the trials of this earth, they've been taken to the presence of God, their robes have been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Their every need from earth have not carried over. No more hunger, no more thirst, no striking from the heat of the sun; a presence before the throne where the Lord sits as our shepherd, who is guiding all to the "springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Our main job is to be faithful to God for God is faithful tous. Ours is the blessings that come from God and the least we can do is to try our best to seek to bless the Lord with our lives. In other wrods to live right, to seek to do what God would have us do. Paul's concern for the Corinth church was that they sought only to do their own will and to please thesmselves. They had no regard for God in their thinking that because Jesus had made them right once with God, they no longer had to worry about anything. And that's just not so. We must seek to serve God with complete love and devotion, knowing our eternity depends on it. But we do it not just for eternity's sake, but because it best serve God and others.

PRAYER: Loving God, make me a person of love and service to other. Let me seek to be Your person in all things. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

e.v.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NO, NOT ME, DEAR LORD, GET SOMEONE ELSE!

Good day dear friends.

We continue to study Accountability in our relationship with God and what is involved in that.

Here is our study guide for today:

Tuesday: In Exodus 4:10-17 we find the classic “I don’t want to do this” encounter between God and Moses. Please read that passage and figure out where you would have stood had God called you to do something that didn’t seem that appealing or inviting. Or perhaps God has and you haven’t yet said yes. Why or Why not?

Here is that passage from Exodus 4:10 But Moses said to the Lord, "O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." 11 Then the Lord said to him, "Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak." 13 But he said, "O my Lord, please send someone else." 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, "What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17 Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs."

Moses is another name for you and me. Why? Because you and I have been blessed by God, we've seen the greatness and power of God, and yet when God asks something of us, we are so more ready to say no than we are yes. Moses' excuse was that he had "never been eloquent." He said, "I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." Do you think Moses was saying, "God, this is your fault!"? No, not necessarily, but Moses was ready with the excuse for not doing what God was asking but God is quick to remind Moses that it is God who gives speech to the mortals and that God would be with him as he would go about doing the work of God. Yet, Moses says a second time, "O my Lord, please send someone else." Talk about pushing your luck! God, though, lovingly says, okay, we'll do this using your brother Aaron. God found a suitable way to make this work.

What has God called you to do? Why have you said no, if that's the case? God has all power to help us accomplish God's purposes for our lives and God's will. Why do we resist? How can we, in our relationship with God, not be accountable or reliable to the Lord as He may need us? Let today be the day of finally deciding, I will do God's will. I will go and do what God has asked of me, for I go not alone, but with the power and backing of God for my life.

PRAYER: Come, Lord God and make me obedient to You. Let me say Yes! to You and what You have asked of me. Let me seek ways to please You and bring others to know You. I ask this in Christ Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Friday, October 27, 2006

IN MY DADDY'S HOUSE

Good day dear friends.

Here is our prayer guide for today: Friday: This is our day of prayer. Let us join our hearts and minds and spirits in prayer for all Christian worship to be centered on Christ. Let us realize and know that worship is not about us, but about God and God’s amazing love as shown through Jesus Christ. Pick up the phone book and find in the yellow pages the church section and pray for churches by name! You’ll never know the wonderful blessings that will come to those for whom you pray!

I also offer this prayer based on Psalm 23 based on an incident yesterday in our office. A young man, though weathered by years of hard drinking, was at the end of his rope. His name will appear in our prayer list this Sunday and I ask we pray that he find the road to his Dad's house where he feels he is always welcome. He left for Tampa, Florida, in hopes his father would receive him and house him for a week or so while he investigates possible detox programs. So, when you see David Wells, you'll know a bit of his story and his need. Pray that God would indeed bless him with a new life as he and I prayed. Ask that God would help him leave behind the destructive life that he had lived for so long and that a new life in Christ, as we also pray he receive, might be real for him now and forever.

AT MY DADDY'S HOUSE I'M ALWAYS WELCOME.

Heaven Father, I thank You for always receiving me with open arms. In Your house you give me rest and all that I need so that I can be restored. I find newness and refreshing in you. I thank you because part of that refreshing comes in knowing you guide me. In Your house I know that I am never alone and no matter what I may face in this life I am never alone, You are with me! And not only are You with me, You possess all that I need to overcome what I face. Great feasting will be mine in Your house even in the face of those who have come against me. I thank you for not only embracing me but dressing me with Your goodness and love to go with me all the days of my life. And when this life is over, I will dwell in Your house forever. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

PROPER DRESS FOR WORSHIP

Good day dear friends.

We continue to affirm different styles of worship and the centrality of God in worship. If it were not for God, we would not have worship; we are but those who put on worship for God's glory. We can be and should be blessed by being active participants in it.

Here is our study guide for today: Thursday: Please find Galatians 6:11-16 and read there another difference in worship between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. How does this difference speak to you about your worship life? Does your worship of God depend on what others think of you and how you worship? If so, what has to change to keep this from being the case?

Here is the passage from Galatians 6:11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

The earliest disagreement between Christians was about the holding to Jewish requirements before coming a Christian. In other words, should Christians become Jews first, then Christians? Or can one become a Christian without becoming a Jew? For us the answer is the latter, but for those being converted by Paul and others, who were Gentiles, they were being pressured by Jewish Christians to receive the sign of the covenant, which was circumcision. You know Paul's response for in verse 15 "For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!" This follows what I said Sunday about the days when men and women wore hats to church and it was almost an unspoken requirement for admission into the church. Once hats were no longer an issue, the wearing of suits was. Men and boys were "expected" to wear a suit to church or they were not dressed properly and were considered poor or ill informed about "proper dress" for worship. An old email story made its way to my mailbox yesterday about a church wanting to start a ministry to university students but did not know how and it just so happened that a young man recently converted to Christianity wanted to worship there but did not know about "proper dress" and walked in with torn jeans, t-shirt, tennis shoes. He sought a place to sit and could not find one and just wandered up to the altar area and sat on the carpet. One of the older ushers and well-respected members of the church who walked with a cane, saw this and started making his way up the aisle with the tip tap of his cane marking his every step. Some folks just knew what he was going to do and sadly most agreed that this was necessary. To everyone's surprise, the old man reached the young man, and with all the effort it took him, made himself sit on the carpet next to the young man, hugged a welcome to him and sat with him so that the young man would not be alone. This was the message for the morning and one that all there would not soon forget.

How do you suppose you would react to something like this "out of the ordinary" in your "custom" of worship? Do you and your church welcome the ones not in "proper dress?" Do you yourself welcome these with outward expressions?

PRAYER: Loving God, we thank You for those who seek You even if they do not come in proper dress or know the established rituals of worship. Help me to welcome and love them, in the way You welcomed and loved me when I first came to You. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

OUR DAY OF PRAYER AND PURPOSE

Good day dear friends.

Today is our day of prayer.

Here is our prayer guide for today: Wednesday: For our day of prayer and purpose, let us be in prayer for our worship lives. May our prayers today reflect true worship of God as we pray with all our heart, soul, and mind. May we lift up to the Lord true obedience and love. Your purpose today is to simply listen to God as God seeks to share with you that which you need as you worship Him.

Here is a Psalm of worship, Psalm 150, the last Psalm:

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Dear God, keep me mindful of the true purpose of worship. It's about You and my praising You. I should praise You in church, in all the earth! I should praise You for Your mighty works, for Your work is unmeasurable as is Your greatness. Worship is about using all instruments that sound a song of praise, brass instruments, stringed instruments, tambourines and even dance! Worship is reverent in our hearts but on the outside it should be a loud noise of praise! I praise YOU! Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

DOUBLE ISSUE: MONDAY AND TUESDAY!

Good day dear friends.

We ask for prayers for the Miller and Gomez families. Mr. Jim Miller, longtime member of Trinity UMC died on Saturday and will be buried Thursday at Ft. Sam Houston. His funeral is at 12:30 at Trinity in SA. Mrs. Rosario Gomez, widow of The Rev. Luis Gomez, died this week as well and she will be buried on Wednesday. Her funeral is at 11 a.m. at La Trinidad UMC in San Antonio.

We looked at Different Styles of Worship on Sunday based on 1 Cor. 11:2-34. (You can hear the 11 a.m. sermon online at www.fumcsm.org. Downloading the sermon takes a few minutes).

Here is out study guide for Monday: Monday: Different styles of worship occur throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, we find a story about how the first two sons offered up their sacrifices to the Lord. Please find that story in Gen. 4:1-5. If both sons were taught to worship God in the same way, why did one son offer up “an offering” and the other brought “fat portions from the firstborn of his flocks?” How does this apply to your worship life?

Here is that passage: Genesis 4:1 Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have produced a man with the help of the Lord." 2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

People worship in different ways. Even if they're taught the same thing, over the course of time, they will decide which way of worshiping God is best for them. The central thing is to keep in mind that it is always and everywhere, all about God and not ourselves. Worship is praising and thanking God, remembering Who God is and what God has done for us. Worship is putting God first in our lives all the time. Worship is made up of many components, all geared to give praise and thanks to God. Not one part of worship is more significant than the other nor should we do or give less in certain parts of worship just because we don't care for that part. In other words, you don't refrain from singing if you don't think singing is important nor do you keep from giving God's tithe if you don't think the Offering time is an important part of worship! Nor do you keep from listening to the sermon just because you came only to pray!

The difference in the passage show two brothers, raised the same, taught the same, with one giving the first and fattest, the other giving an afterthought offering. It is clear which brother was putting God first in his life. And in the same way God knows which of us is doing the same.

Start today putting God first!

Tuesday's Study Guide: Tuesday: In Exodus 32, there is an element of worship that we don’t discuss much and that is obedience. A large part of obedience is patience. In this story we read how some folks reacted, with little patience and even less obedience, to the coming of Moses to fulfill his worship obligations. What are your thoughts on this for your life? Do you seek God obediently and patiently?

The passage is a bit long and I'll leave it to use you to dust off your Bible and read that passage. It is the story of Moses going up to receive the Law from God and it took him longer than usual and the people down below got very impatient with him and decided to create a new god made of gold. I've often wondered who is the bigger, the Dallas Cowboys playing at 12 noon on a Sunday or God? You may laugh, but for some, the clock-watchers in our congregations, we know who is number one in their lives by the way they will either leave early or not even come to worship so they can watch the game. For those folks obedience to God isn't as important as obedience to televised football. They don't need a golden calf to worship, they've chosen one made of pigskin. Okay, I'm being a bit harsh (and no, I could care less that the game last night didn't go to Texas but to New York) I do want us to ask ourselves, how important is obedience and patience in our worship?

This past week the Austin District Men put on a gala of appreciation for clergy (and Oct is Clergy Appreciation Month) and the speaker from Nacogdoches, Mr. Gilbert Hanke, did a wonderful job of sharing personal stories of his appreciation for clergy and urged the laity present to show their appreciation as well. He even quoted Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of his conference, whose church draws 12,000 to worship each Sunday, once was told by a church member, "I enjoyed worship only one thing I hated and that was that you did not sing my favorite hymn!" Rev. Caldwell replied, "I love you, but worship is not about your favorite hymn. And worship isn't even about you, it's about God!" How important it is to keep that in mind. Every Sunday that we are in worship, it's about God not us.

PRAYER: Come, loving God and be glorified in my heart and life today. Teach me obedience and patience, and let me do all I can to worship you in all ways and in all places. In Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Praying the Psalm

Good day dear friends.

Today is our day of prayer. For our prayer, let us pray Psalm 121: 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Let's pray it this way: Dear God, as I begin this day I can sense things that I don't want to face or even think about. I see these as an enemy camped around me on the hillside. It is during these thoughts that I know where to answer my own question: Where will my help come from? From You! You who made heaven and earth! You are so vigilant you will not let my feet be tripped up, and You will neither slumber nor sleep. You, dear God, are my keeper. You are like the shade I need during the hottest point of the day or the coolest part of the night. You, dear God, keep me from evil and even protect my life. Stay with me Lord as I go out and come in, now and always. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

THE COMFORT OF A PSALM

Good day dear friends. Yes, there has been no ConCafes for this week. This week was a most difficult one for me and dear friends. I have travelled much, on Monday to San Antonio for a meeting, then to Atlanta on Tuesday. Wednesday found me too drained in more ways that one, to drive to Kerrville as I had planned, and so I have not had time to write a ConCafe.

This past Sunday we were blessed by the children of the church in their presentation of the message and worship. May God bless our children!

For today, let us be blessed by the words of this beautiful Psalm.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

In the midst of the challenges of life I find that in the Lord I have all that I need. The Lord is gracious and understanding towards me; in Him I can catch my breath and be restored. And do I need restoration! Lord, restore my soul: fill it to the brim with faith and hope, joy and peace. If I get dazed and confused, lead me on the right way. I walk to walk in the fullness of life in this life. And when those times come that I feel overwhelmed and weak, let me not be afraid; for it is during those times that I am aware of You being right beside me, strong and powerful as ever. Whatever or whoever would seek to overcome me will be saddened to see me feasting at the table of the Lord where I will be anointed as Yours, and the fullness of Your love will be with me. May the good and merciful of this life be with me every day. Let me seek to live in Your love today and all days, even to the end of the age. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

DIFFERENT FAMILIES

Good day dear friends.

---------------------------PRAYER REQUESTS------------------------

As we being our day in prayer, please remember Sgt. Kevin Downs at Brooke Army Hospital as he is to have more surgery on Wednesday. He is in a lot of pain. Several church members have shared gifts, cards, and prayers for him and that is deeply appreciated.

Millie Nicholas is undergoing surgery today. Please hold her in prayer. This will be at CTMC.

Doris Connally underwent wrist and hip surgery yesterday at CTMC. I prayed with her early morning and I understand all went well.

From Kay Morton of Illinois we get this request: Please pray for the Northern Illinois Emmaus women's Walk #107 starting this Thursday, at which I'll be a musician. We started with only 2 pilgrims a few short weeks ago, and that number has grown to 28. Many last-minute changes have been made, 3 of them clergy. The other 2 musicians have health problems (1 of them MS), so we need all the prayers we can get.

For Keely Rowe and decisions she has to make; that God would guide her and bless her.

----------------------DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT----------------------------
For today's message, please read this passage from Ephesians 4:2 "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

One of the questions a lot of Christians ask, "If we're supposed to be all about love, why are there so many different churches?" That question came up during our Walk this weekend and I shared the joke that tells of the man rescued from a deserted island. The man had lived alone for the entire time on that island and when the rescuers came to the little island, they discovered three huts. "What are these huts?" they asked. He replied that the first was where he lived. "The second one was where I first went to church, then I got mad, and then I started going to this second church."

Even within families we have the answer. Not everyone within a family will completely believe the same. And even within the Twelve Disciples there was never complete agreement, in fact after we answered or attempted to answer the question, one of the musicians said, "Different churches started when the two former blind men met each other. One said, 'Weren't you once blind?' 'Yes, I was,' replied the other. 'Did Jesus heal you?' 'Yes, how did he do it?' 'He spit on the ground, made some mud, applied it to my eyes and I was healed!' 'No! That's not the way I was healed! The right way is to just touch someone and they're healed in that way!' And so the two started different churches based on the way that they were healed.

The truth is there are different Christian churches with different doctrines and beliefs, but the underlying unity is the belief in Jesus Christ as the example of God's awesome love for us. We seek to serve Him and realize that different denominations are not in competition with each other, for the real enemy remains evil and anything that would seek to keep us from the fullness of life. We should pray for each other and seek to ask God to bless each other in the work to which we've been called.

In the same way, in our own churches, we've all been touched by God, perhaps not in the same way, but that does not keep us from being sisters and brothers to each other. Seek to find that which unites us and keeps us moving forward for the good of God's kingdom.

PRAYER: Loving God of one big family, we celebrate Your presence in our lives. Keep us focused on your love. Unite us in that same love. Bless our efforts to serve You. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

PS Tonight at 6:30 pm at Dripping Springs UMC, we're having our Welcome Back for the Fourth Day Pilgrims of Walk 1325. Everyone is invited!

Friday, October 06, 2006

A WEDDING WITH JESUS

Good day dear friends. I thank those of you who receive prayer requests for your prayers for Caitlin, Nellie, and I. Late Wednesday we got a call from our daughter up here in Denton, that she was having chest pains and had an elevated heart rate. She was taken to ER, mom and dad took off from home, arriving here at 2:50 am and thank God it was only a chest strain from her dancing. Caitlin is a dance major and most of her classes and nights are spent in rehearsals. There is nothing wrong with her heart or lungs and so we're praising God!

We've been talking about the state of marriage in the Corinth church and anytime we discuss marriage, John 2 comes up. There is not much known as that wedding, we don't know the couples' names, nor do we need them, but we do know that "Jesus graced a wedding at Cana of Galilee" as we say in our marriage ritual, and that at that wedding Jesus performed his first miracle that of turning water into wine.

What we can also say is that it was a wedding with Jesus present as I personally believe all weddings should. The presence of One who loves and showed sacrificial love for all should be an inspiration and model for those who marry and even for those who just attend a wedding ceremony. The clever church signs have showed, "You Invited Me to the Wedding, Now Invite Me to the Marriage - Jesus." It says a lot. The Upper Room reading for today also said a lot (www.upperroom.org/devotional). The recommended passage was also a Pauline epistle in Ephesians 5. The church at Ephesus also seemed to have a marriage "problem" this one having to do with lack of or falling out of love in their marriages. Paul has to tell the husband to "love your wives." With Jesus in your marriage, love should never be an issue. Love like Jesus loved you and amazing things will happen!

PRAYER: God of love and grace, shower me with that love. I invite you to my life and to my marriage. Help me seek and serve You in all things. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

OUR DAY OF PRAYER AND PURPOSE

Good day dear friends.

Let us be in prayer for married couples. Let us also lift up in prayer those considering marriage. May the Lord bless each matrimony with love, peace, joy, and compassion. May God bless those who are troubled in their marriage. Pray for the single and pray for those who have recently or still hurt from a divorce. For our purpose, call or write the couple that inspired you in your marriage. Let them know how their positive influence in their marriage helped you be where you are today.

Blessings,

e.v.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

OF ORIGINAL MARRIAGE

Good day dear friends.

Let's go back to the beginning in Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Notice that it is loneliness that is addressed by God to God's Heavenly court as God says, "It is not good that the man should be alone." The garden was filled with beautiful plants and trees but nothing that came to close to being a living being such as the man, so God begins to form every animal and bird and brings them to the man to see what the man would name them. The man names the cattle, the birds; every animal of the field received a name, but out of all of those he found nothing to be the cure for loneliness. Did the man have a discussion with God? Did it go something like, "Thanks, Lord, for these animals. I really appreciate most of them, some scare me. I really like the dog and the dog seems to really like me, and that monkey seems so human, too bad it can't talk! But did you notice, Lord, that out of all of those there was not one of them that could be a companion for me?" "Yes, I did, let's see what I can do?" The Bible says that a deep sleep came over the man as induced by God and out of the man's own body brings out a rib and from the rib forms the creature called woman. And it is interesting to see that the man instantly knows who and what the woman is, for he become a poet proclaiming, "At last! Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh!" And the man names her, "This one shall be woman for out of my flesh she was created!"

Then a ceremony of sorts takes place or at least blame on a ceremony is now related to that, for in that moment, the man who knew no father other than God, learns that a man shall leave his father and cleave to his wife and the two become one flesh. This ceremony we now call marriage and in it are to be found what God addressed in the creation of the fairer sex. Companionship, partnership, love, fellowship, a journey-partner, one to share in bone and flesh, together to continue the species. In its ideal state marriage fulfills what God intended for that first man. As Paul would address later, after Moses and Jesus, that not all marriages last. Not all marriages are those that bring fulfillment to either the man or the woman, and sadly sometimes those marriages end in divorce. I say sadly, for the initial intent of most marriages begins with love and an idealism for the future and something happens along the way, and what started at an altar with the best of intentions, ends in a courtroom with the signing of legal documents. Paul understood that sometimes due to violence or abuse, marriages should end. No one should stay in a relationship where there is harm or potential harm to the other. No one should endure a relationship where the fullness of each partner is not appreciated or valued. If, after prayerful counsel and exploration of other recourses nothing can repair the marriage, then the marriage ends.

It doesn't hurt most couples to revisit this first marriage. One can only begin to imagine the innocence and joy of the first two whom God married. It would also be good to visit John 2 and the couple who married at a wedding where Jesus and His disciples visited and Jesus performed his first miracle. Choose not to stay at an unhappy place; work to make the place happier and more like what you first intended when you married.

PRAYER: God of love, come and visit all marriages today. Bring to those where there is anger or resentment, that which heals and makes whole. Visit those marriages where violence is present and deliver the one who causes it and protect the one who receives it. Bless the marriage where there is sorrow and sadness over things not realized. Make us all like Your Son, Jesus. In Whose name we pray. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.

Monday, October 02, 2006

OF MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE

Good day dear friends.

Yesterday Pastor Leslie spoke on Marriage and Divorce from 1 Cor. 7:2-16. Here is that passage in the version known as The Message:

1 Cor. 7:First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? 2 Certainly - but only within a certain context. It's good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. 3 The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality - the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. 4 Marriage is not a place to "stand up for your rights." Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. 5 Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it's for the purposes of prayer and fasting - but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. 6 I'm not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence - only providing my best counsel if you should choose them. 7 Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me - a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. 8 I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me. 9 But if they can't manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married. The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single. 10 And if you are married, stay married. This is the Master's command, not mine. 11 If a wife should leave her husband, she must either remain single or else come back and make things right with him. And a husband has no right to get rid of his wife. 12 For the rest of you who are in mixed marriages - Christian married to nonChristian - we have no explicit command from the Master. So this is what you must do. If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. 13 If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. 14 The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God. 15 On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse walks out, you've got to let him or her go. You don't have to hold on desperately. God has called us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can. 16 You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.

Remember the sermon series is entitled, "First Century Christians with Twenty-First Century Problems," and does this text speak of the same thing we face today. The Corinth church was no different from any other church of today. There were married and unmarried people in the church. There were happily married people and there were married people. There were divorced people and there were people about to divorce. And the question was about sexual relations. Apparently, as it says in verse one, Paul received a letter from this church asking that question. The reason the question was being asked was certainly that people were having sexual relations both inside and outside the marriage covenant, and the church leaders said, "We've got to ask Paul about this!" and they did. Paul answers back by basically saying that sex, like money, and possessions and every other thing, is a spiritual matter. If done within the context of marriage it is a beautiful gift from God and it can be a spiritually rewarding blessing to the married couple. Done in any other context and it remains a physical act initiated and completed by physical urges, not spiritual ones. Paul sees having sexual relations within marriage as that which God ordained for all marriages.

The other part of the question may have asked, "Is it right for couples to abstain from sex for any reason?" This may have been asked by one of the marriage partners about their own relationship. For some reason one or the other of the spouses was not fulfilling his or her conjugal duty and may have given a spiritual reason for it. Paul knew that perhaps the real reason was not a spiritual one and so he instructs that if done for a spiritual reason such as fasting and prayer, that was okay, but only for a time. In verse five he says, "then come back together."

The other part of the letter containing questions for Paul may have asked about divorce. Since Moses' time, the issue of divorce was a touchy subject. Can anyone spiritually justify a divorce? And if so, when are those allowed and for what reasons? In the case of Corinth, it may have been that one of the two in a marriage became a believer and thus the reason for the question. It may have been a wife who becomes a follower of Jesus Christ and cannot convince her husband to become one as well. She attends worship alone and feels bad because her husband does not know the saving love of her Lord. She then begins to wonder if she should begin divorce proceedings against him and if doing so because of their spiritual differences would be allowed. In these cases Pauls says stay together. His thinking is that one never knows that perhaps in this relationship salvation might come both to the marriage and to the soul.

Is it any different today? Do married men and women attend worship alone? Do they feel bad about their spouses? You know the answer as well as I. But we leave it to God about what God can do in all cases. The real question is how are you dealing with your situation? If you're married, how is your marriage? If sex still a wonderful blessing or is an area for prayer and/or counseling? Don't be afraid to seek assistance if needed. Is it a medical issue? Seek a doctor's advice. If you're single, how are you handling singleness? Is sex "tormenting" you? Again, through prayer, spiritual guidance and any other assistance that you can seek, might be what saves your soul.

PRAYER: Come, wonderful God of good gifts and visit me today. Bring me wisdom, courage and counsel to what I face and need. Help me in my situation to be Your child, an example to others. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

e.v.

Friday, September 29, 2006

OUR DAY OF PRAYER

Good day dear friends.

Friday: This is our day of prayer.. Pray again for the things we mentioned for Wednesday.

Wednesday: For our day of prayer and purpose, we will be praying for the spiritually mature. Ask that God would keep them strong, that their prayers might remain faithful to God and to God’s church. Also, please be in prayer for those who are spiritually immature. Ask that God might touch their hearts and make them more mature. Pray that God would bring more to God’s church that would begin their journey of spiritual maturity.

Have a great and blessed day in the Lord!

e.v.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A MATURE WALK WITH GOD

Good day dear friends.

Here is our study guide for today: Thursday: Luke 8:4-21 shares one of Jesus’ greatest parables. Read that parable and note the reference to maturity. What causes maturity? How can you grow to be more mature in your faith? Reread the passage and note where you find yourself and where you know God wants you to be.

Here is the passage from Luke 8:4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 "A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold." As he said this, he called out, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" 9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that "looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.' 11 "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. 16 "No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. 18 Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away." 19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." 21 But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

To mature in faith means to trust God more. The parable tells the story of those who hear the word of God and different things occur: temptation that leads us astray to nonbelief; joyful reception of God's word at first then life's trials come and they fall away; the lure of earthly riches and pleasures keeps faith from maturing. It also tells of those who hear, hold to it "fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance." Hear that again: If we hold fast or tight to God's word with an honest and good heart we will mature and we will bear fruit with patient endurance.

PRAYER: We thank you loving God for Your word. My prayer is that I would be open to hearing it and receiving it for my good and the good of Your people. I pray for maturity in my walk with You. Help me to help others. Let my life be an example to others. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Have a great and blessed day!

e.v.