A Year of Grace

365 Days of Grace From God's Word

World Changers

Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (NIV)

Have you ever heard the old expression, “Children should be seen and not heard?”  To paraphrase that saying, the passage above tells us that Christians should be seen and heard!  Let’s consider salt and light as Jesus’ followers would have understood.

In the days of Jesus, salt was not just added to food in order to add flavor, but more importantly, it was added to preserve the food.  If perishable foods had no salt added, then they soon became unfit to eat.  Without salt, the food would become rotten.  In light of how they thought of salt, Jesus is essentially telling us that without Christ-followers, the world would soon become a rotten place.  This should cause us to think long and hard when we are tempted to complain about the state of the morals and ethics of society, for we are the very ones called to change the world.  Also, it would have been clearly evident if one came across food that had not been preserved with salt.  One could clearly see the difference.  Likewise, people should be able to clearly see the difference in a Christians’ life.

The people to whom Jesus spoke could not have been able to imagine how our homes are lit up as bright as day during the night.  Indeed, much of our world is lit up as bright as day during the night.  Their homes were dimly lit.  The light for a small family home may have come from a single small oil lamp.  It would have been senseless to put a bowl over the only source of light.  Likewise, it’s senseless to follow Jesus and not let others see the light of God which is within us.

We are not called to simply accept Jesus as our Savior and then go about our lives.  We are called by our Savior to be noticed by the world.  We are called to be world changers.  Today, let’s do what we can to be world changers in our world.  If we can bring light into one dark life, we can help preserve a soul for all eternity!  That’s Good Stuff!

Posted by Ramón Torres

No Condemnation

John 8:1 – Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)

Our passage for today has been the subject of debate for several reasons.  You may note a footnote in your Bible concerning this passage.  Basically, the debate stems over whether or not this passage is found in the oldest documents, and that it was in centuries past found in different places in the New Testament.  Regardless, we have the text, and we need to learn from it.

Some people use this passage, and others, to state that Christians have no business judging anyone.  To say this is to misread this passage – and the New Testament.  Jesus does judge her actions, but he does not condemn her for her actions.  We find this in verse eleven:  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  By telling her to leave her life of sin, Jesus was making a judgment call.

We, too, face times when we must judge the actions of others (as well as our own).  Some may say, “Jesus told us not to judge in Matthew 7”. If we read that passage carefully, what we discover is that Jesus is telling us that we will be judged with the same severity by which we judge others, so caution is called for.  Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul tells the members of the church to make a judgment against a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife.  Life is full of judgments, but we must be careful in how we judge.  What we must never do, however, is condemn.

Condemnation is not ours to give.  Indeed, each of us, without Jesus, stands before God deserving condemnation. It is only through Jesus that we escape condemnation.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:1 –“ there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

There will be times this day, and every day, when we must judge right from wrong, but let us refrain from condemning others.  Instead, let’s celebrate the one who bore our sins and removed our condemnation! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Regard The Lord

Psalm 28:1 – To you, Lord, I call;
you are my Rock,
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back on them what they deserve.

Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever. (NIV) 

Who do you trust? When it comes to advice, who do you trust?  We live in age when those who would give advice have instant access to spread their advice around the world via the internet, television, and radio.  Some people have made a great living dispensing advice to the masses.  Some, to be fair, give great advice.  Others, however, offer questionable advice, at best. 

In verse one of this Psalm, the psalmist makes it clear that the Lord was his Rock.  For the ancient Jews, the rocks were a place of refuge.  Amongst the rocks they found shelter from the storm, and they found a safe haven as they hid from their enemies.  The rocks were a place of safety.  When we make the Lord our rock, we find refuge and safety.  The Lord should be our Rock.  The Lord’s counsel should be the counsel we trust above all others. 

In verse three the psalmist states that the wicked speak cordially of others in their presence, but harbor malice in their hearts.  Have you ever known such people?  They speak nice words to someone when they see them, but speak evil of them when they are away.  Verse five tells us that such people ‘have no regard for the deeds of the Lord’.  When we have no regard for the Lord, we fall into all types of ‘wicked’ behaviors.  Trusting the Lord is to have regard for the Lord.  Regard means not only to look upon something, but to have respect for something. 

Let us be people who have Regard for the Lord.  Let us respect the Lord, and put our trust in the Lord.  Trusting in the Lord does not mean to just hope for eternal life.  Trusting in the Lord means that we regard the teachings of the Lord to be true, and we live by them day by day. 

Today, let us have regard for the Lord.  Let us trust the Lord and live as the righteous, not the wicked. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Lessons From Apollos

Acts 18:18 – Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. (NIV)

In today’s reading from the Book of Acts, we encounter a man named Apollos.  Who was Apollos?  In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul includes Apollos as an Apostle, so he must have been a very important person in the early Church. We know from today’s reading that he was an Egyptian from Alexandria, and we know that he was a bold preacher.  Jerome (347-420 AD) recorded that Apollos eventually became the Bishop of the Christian Church in Corinth.  There are many scholars who believe that Apollos wrote the book of the Bible that we know as ‘Hebrews’, though we do not know for certain.

What I find most interesting about Apollos from our reading today, is that he loved God so much that he humbled himself before others and was teachable.  Have you ever met a Christian who would not listen to sound teaching?  Oh, there are more than a few out there!  Apollos knew the Scriptures well (our Old Testament), and so when others explained Christian doctrine to him, he was able to understand and accept their teachings.  Therefore it is important for us to make Bible study a regular part of our lives.  When someone teaches us something, and we have a basic knowledge of the Scriptures, we can better know if what they are teaching is of sound doctrine.

Apollos presents to us a great lesson for today.  Read and study God’s Word, and be open to what others would teach you, while always returning to God’s Word for affirmation!

Posted by Ramón Torres

When We Are Afraid

Psalm 56:1 – Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me? (NIV)

We all face fears in life. What do you fear?  We may fear the loss of health, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one.  We may fear for family and friends who are facing hardships.  We may fear economic hardships.  Whatever it is, we all have fears in life.  The Bible is filled with stories of men and women who feared, but it is also filled with stories of men and women who trusted in the Lord to see them through those times.  Psalm 56 was written by David during a difficult time in his life. We should note that David had many warriors who were loyal to him, and who would have laid down their lives for David.  When David faced difficulty, the very first place to which he turned was to God.  He wrote in verse three: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Where do we turn first when we are afraid?  Where do we seek security?  Many people, when they are fearful of the days ahead, turn to destructive behaviors, chemicals, and addictive behaviors.  They claim that they find comfort in such things.  None of those things last and are of no benefit.  When we are afraid, we should turn to God.  In verse four, David said that he would turn to the Word of God, which he would praise.

Today, when we face fearful moments, let us turn to God’s Word.  Let us praise the one who knows us better than we know ourselves.  Let us trust God and no longer be afraid, for what can anyone do to us when God is for us?

Posted by Ramón Torres

Resisting Temptation

Luke 4:1 – Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (NIV)

Today’s reading is the familiar story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.  We must resist our own temptation of reading too casually the familiar stories of the Bible.  There are, indeed, many lessons to learn from this short passage, but let’s focus on two.

First, we cannot escape temptation.  We can pray to God, praise and worship God, read God’s Word, and be at church every time the doors are opened, but we will still face temptation.  If God in the flesh faced it, there is no escaping it for us.  It’s a given – we will be tempted.

This leads us to our second point for today. What should we do when we face temptation?  We should do the same thing that Jesus did – we should turn to God’s Word.  When Jesus was hungry and tempted to turn a stone into bread, he turned to Deuteronomy 8:3.  When he was tempted to use his power for worldly fame, he turned to Deuteronomy 6:13.  Even when the devil used Scripture to tempt Jesus (he quoted from Psalm 91:11-12), Jesus responded with Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16).

Perhaps, I am preaching to the choir, since those of you reading this are studying Scripture, but today’s reading teaches us that we must be grounded in God’s Word.  We don’t have to be able to quote chapter and verse, but we should be familiar enough with Scripture so that when we need it, we can recall what we need.

Today I thank you for your faithful reading and studying of God’s Word, and I encourage you to persevere even when the Scriptures are difficult to understand. 

Posted by Ramón Torres 

A Faith Of Our Own

Acts 19:11 –  God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (NIV)

Some of the stories from the Bible seem so strange, and so far removed from us, that we often overlook them.  When we do this, we are in danger of failing to apply biblical truths into our own lives. Today’s reading may have some seemingly strange happenings, but there is a great truth to be learned.

In this reading we encounter some individuals who were trying to call upon the name of Jesus, but they had no real relationship with Jesus.  They had seen other’s who had a relationship with Jesus do mighty works, but they were unable to do anything in Jesus’ name.  The name of Jesus is not magic!  We need to have a relationship with Jesus in order to receive from Jesus what Jesus supplies: certainly salvation, but also strength for daily living.  I have known some people, who when facing difficult times in life, pray fervently.  However, they often had not prayed, nor had they read God’s Word, since the last time they faced difficulties in life.  This type of behavior simply will be of no benefit to us.  Our difficulties may simply remain, as if they were to say to us: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”

Any relationship needs to be nurtured, and it is no different in our relationship with Jesus.  The Good News for us today is that the Bible is filled with wonderful stories of people who were able to overcome difficulties in their lives because they nurtured their relationship with God.  Today, let us do what we can to grow in our relationship with God through Christ, so that our own faith – not the faith of someone else – will see us through life’s difficulties.

Posted by Ramón Torres

It is Through Grace!

Acts 15:1 – Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

In today’s reading we find that there have been disagreements within Christianity since the beginning.  The first major debate within the Church was over the question,  “What must we do to be saved?”  In the early years, there were some Christians who had previously been Jewish, and they claimed that one must be circumcised to be saved.  While the debate on circumcision has long since passed by, Christians have found plenty of other things to put in its place.  There are Christians who maintain that one must speak in tongues; Christians who maintain that one must be baptized, and by a certain method; Christians who claim that one must belong to a certain church; and the list could go on and on. 

Christians from every era tend to forget that Jesus came to proclaim Good News.  In Luke 4:18, while quoting from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus proclaims:  “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”  What we must realize is that Jesus was referring to the people who were held in religious bondage, who could not see the truth, and who were under a heavy burden.  Speaking to such people, Jesus said:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Friends, today let us remember these words of Jesus, and the words of Paul who wrote: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).  What we need is to have faith in the grace of a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus the Christ!  Let us stand firm today, knowing that we do not need to adhere to a set of rules, but rather we need to have a relationship with Jesus.

That was Good Stuff two thousand years ago, and it still is today! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

True and Proper Worship

John 4:19 – “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (NIV)

Today’s reading comes from the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman that he met at a well in Sychar. It’s a great story, with much truth to be found, however, we will focus on just one small part.  The verse I would like to focus on is verse twenty-three: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Did you ever think of God as seeking worshipers? Does God really need us to worship God, will God benefit from our worship?  I don’t believe that God benefits from our worship, but I still believe God seeks worshipers, and in particular, worshipers who worship in Spirit and truth.  If not for God’s own benefit, then why does God seek worshipers?  God seeks worshipers because God loves us, and worship benefits the one worshiping.

How does worship benefit us?  Worshiping God strengthens our minds and puts a right spirit/attitude within us.  Worshiping God drives away fear and allows faith to grow in its place.  Worshiping God reminds us of what our true and proper priorities should be.  Worshiping God allows us to feel God’s presence and strengthens us for life. 

Therefore, we should worship continually.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 tells us: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” 

Let us not quench the Spirit!  Worship God today!  Worship in Spirit and truth, and may you be blessed as you feel the presence of God!

Posted by Ramón Torres

God Alone Can Sustain

Isaiah 46:1 – Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.
They stoop and bow down together;
unable to rescue the burden,
they themselves go off into captivity.

“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

“With whom will you compare me or count me equal?
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?
Some pour out gold from their bags
and weigh out silver on the scales;
they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god,
and they bow down and worship it.
They lift it to their shoulders and carry it;
they set it up in its place, and there it stands.
From that spot it cannot move.
Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer;
it cannot save them from their troubles. (NIV)

In today’s reading we find God speaking to the Jews who were in exile in Babylon.  In verse one, we are told that Bel and Nebo stoop low.  Bel is Baal, one of the chief gods of Babylon.  Nebo was also a chief god, and was known by several names, including Nebuchadnezzar.  We are told that these idols were being carried away.  This would refer to King Cyrus’ army.  The idols would have been made of gold and would have been valuable to the new government.  In verses three and four, God reminds them that God alone is their maker and sustainer throughout their entire lives.  Unlike an idol that could be carried away, God would never abandon them.

We are told in verse six that some poured out gold and silver to make an idol.  This was referring to the Jews, not the Babylonians.  Many of the Jews adopted the worship of the Babylonian and freely participated in their religious practices.  I believe that this speaks to us in our modern world, as well.  What idols do we create?  What do we worship more than God?  Do we adopt the practices of unbelievers with whom we live in our own land? 

These are questions that we can only answer for ourselves, but they are questions we must address.  We should continually examine our lives so that we don’t drift from the One who has cared for us ‘since we were born’ (verse 3).  Only God can save us from our troubles (verse 7).

As we pray this day, let us examine our lives.  Let us put God before everything else, and trust God for God’s continuous care and guidance. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

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