A Year of Grace

365 Days of Grace From God's Word


Acts 17:10 – That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him. (NLT)

In this passage of Scripture we encounter Paul experiencing some evangelistic success.  However, if we were to read from the beginning of Acts 17, we would know that Paul had just come from a very difficult and dangerous situation.  Paul came to Berea from Thessalonica, and while some there did come to believe, many rejected Paul and were even violent towards his message.  Indeed, in Acts 17: 5 we are told that a riot took place!  

This passage teaches us something of Paul’s persistence.  He did not let rejection discourage him in his efforts to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He did not even let danger to himself deter his efforts!  This makes me wonder – what do we let discourage us in our efforts to share the message of Jesus?

Also, in this passage we can learn something from the Bereans.  When they heard Paul & Silas preach they neither rejected or accepted their message.  What they did do, however, was to search the Scriptures daily to see if they were telling the truth.  There is a lesson here for us, especially when we listen to a preacher or Bible teacher with whom we are not familiar.  We must be familiar enough with the Scriptures that we, too, can search the Bible to see if what a preacher or teacher is telling us is the truth.  If we study the Scriptures daily, we can come to new insights, as well.  We thank God we already know and trust Jesus, but there is much insight in the Bible for us to yet glean!

Today, let us search the Scriptures, ready to receive what God would reveal to us! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

The River of God

Psalm 65:8 – Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
you inspire shouts of joy.

9 You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.
10 You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy! (NLT)

At first glance, this passage simply appears to be a nice psalm of thanksgiving for the blessings of God that come through nature: the rains, the harvest; the healthy livestock.  This psalm does, indeed, give thanks to God for these blessings, but I believe that we should take a deeper look and make a spiritual application. 

Verse nine affirms that God takes care of the earth.  When we give thanks for God’s care over the earth, let us remember the words of Jesus: “Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” (Matthew 6:28-30 NLT) God does take care of the earth, and God will certainly take care of us!  God provides for the earth, and God’s provisions (both physical and spiritual) are offered for all.

Consider something else we find in verse nine: “The river of God has plenty of water”.  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus often uses this imagery of water.  Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John: “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:14).  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35).

The River of God has plenty of water! No one needs to be left thirsting.  Today, let us drink deeply from God’s River.  Let us also share with others the joy of this life giving gift. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Give Thanks AND Proclaim

Psalm 105:1 – Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
2 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
3 Exult in his holy name;
rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
4 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
5 Remember the wonders he has performed,
his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
6 you children of his servant Abraham,
you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

7 He is the Lord our God.
His justice is seen throughout the land.
8 He always stands by his covenant—
the commitment he made to a thousand generations.
9 This is the covenant he made with Abraham
and the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:
11 “I will give you the land of Canaan
as your special possession.” (NLT)

Every year, towards the latter part of November, churches all across America plan for a ‘Thanksgiving’ Service.  I find this rather interesting.  I’m not debating whether or not we should plan something special for a national holiday, I just find it interesting that Christians don’t look at every worship service as a service of thanksgiving.  We should not attend worship services to get something out of the service.  If we ‘get’ something from the service, that’s a blessings from God!  However, we should be going to worship services to give thanks and praise to God for what God has already done for us. 

This passage of Scripture gives us a good picture of worship – and of life for a Christian.  This psalm begins by telling us to give thanks and proclaim.  This is a picture of a life lived worshiping God.  Verse two tells us to sing and to tell.  Worshipping God and telling others of God go hand in hand.  In fact, telling others of the greatness of God is worship! 

Where do we find the strength to live a life of worship?  We find the answer in verses four and five: “Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.  Remember the wonders he has performed.”  How often is God on our minds?  To live a life of worship, we should continually seek after God.  Seeking after God includes remembering what God has already done for us.  In verses eight through eleven, the psalmist remembers the things that God had done for him and his people.  The psalmist knew nothing of Jesus, but we know God’s full story!  We should remember daily what God has done for us through Jesus. 

When we remember what God has done for us, it brings us around full circle – we are ready to worship and tell others!  This is why Psalm 105 ends the way it does: Praise the Lord! (Verse 45). 

Today, let us praise the Lord, remembering what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  Let us be ready to give thanks and proclaim.

Posted by Ramón Torres

Christ is Risen – Even in …

Matthew 16:1 – One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

2 He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; 3 red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! 4 Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away. (NLT)

In today’s passage the Pharisees and Sadducees come to Jesus asking for a miraculous sign.  Let’s take a moment to consider who these people were, for these two groups were often at odds with one another.

In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees were a dominant group among the Jews.  A careful reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus included many Pharisees among his friends.  Like Jesus, the Pharisees believed in a life after death.  Unlike Jesus, many of the Pharisees had lost a spiritual connection with God.  The Pharisees kept the outward regulations of the Jewish rituals, but many had forgotten the spiritual application of those rituals.   

The Sadducees, while perhaps fewer in number, represented the more well connected and ruling class of Jews in that time.  Like Jesus, the Sadducees believed that we should serve God out of love and reverence.  Unlike Jesus, they did not believe in a life after death, and they believed that any reward from God came in this life (which, by the way, was easier for the rich Sadducees to believe in than it was for the multitude of poor and starving Jews).  

What makes this passage interesting is that both groups come to Jesus, and ultimately members from both groups sought to rid Judaism of Jesus.  Why would these two groups, who were often at odds with one another, come together to confront Jesus?  Both groups wanted a miraculous sign.  They wanted such a sign for the proof of Jesus’ authority. I believe that we often look for a sign from God in an effort to – at least on some level of our consciousness – assert God’s authority in our own lives.

I do believe in signs!  I believe that God gives us signs often, if not daily.  However, I believe that ultimately we must base our faith in the authority of Jesus on the sign that he promised to the Pharisees and Sadducees – the sign of Jonah.  We all know that Jonah spent three days in the belly of the ‘great fish’.  Essentially, Jonah was dead to the world for three days.  Likewise, Jesus was dead to the world for three days, and then rose from the dead.  

There are many reasons why I believe Jesus is who Jesus says he is, but ultimately I believe in the most miraculous sign ever given – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  When we worship Jesus, and when we celebrate what Jesus has done for us (paying for our sins, and preparing a place for us in heaven), we need to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  Yes, even as we prepare for Thanksgiving, we must celebrate Easter!

Today, let us praise God, and perhaps even sing a Great Easter Hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.  Christ is Risen this day, and every day! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Walk the Walk

Psalm 101:1 – I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.
I will praise you with songs.
2 I will be careful to live a blameless life—
when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
in my own home.
3 I will refuse to look at
anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
I will have nothing to do with them.
4 I will reject perverse ideas
and stay away from every evil.
5 I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
I will not endure conceit and pride.

6 I will search for faithful people
to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
will be allowed to serve me.
7 I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
and liars will not stay in my presence.
8 My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
and free the city of the Lord from their grip. (NLT) 

Praising and worshiping God is a central theme in many of the Psalms – and it is certainly the theme of this Psalm.  Psalm 101 begins with the psalmist’s claim that he will sing and praise God, then he launches into a list of behaviors, things he will do and things he will not do.  Now, some people would claim that this isn’t really about worship, but I disagree!

Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 – I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (NLT) The Word of God tells us that the way to truly worship God is by the way that we live!  The psalmist knew this many centuries before Paul. 

Speaking through the prophet Amos, God spoke these words to the people of God during a very low point of their history: Amos 5:21 – “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (NIV) What God desired from the people was a life that reflected the character of God.  God desires the same from us today.

Today, let us live out our worship.  Let us praise God in word and in action.

The Secret

Philippians 4:10 – How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. (NLT)

When I read this passage, I decided to do a little test.  I typed ‘Secret of Success’ into Google search.  Two things about that search were very interesting. First, it gave me 15,100,000 results.  Second, by page five of the results I had yet to come across anything Christian in nature, although I did see plenty of websites wanting people to send in their money in order to find out the secret of success!

Did you know that Christian have the secret to success?  Could it be so secret that even many Christians don’t know it?  Paul states in verse 12: “I have learned the secret of living in every situation.” Every situation? Really? Could Paul mean that he knows the secret of living through a broken marriage?  Could he mean the secret of living through the loss of a loved one? Does this really mean the secret of living through days in which it would appear that no one really cares for you?  Yes, for these situations and every other, Paul has the secret!

Paul’s secret is there in verse thirteen: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  What does it really mean to do things through Christ?  Does it mean that we can do anything?  Can we run a three minute mile?  After all, Paul does say everything!  To understand what Paul means by ‘everything’ we must understand it within the context of this letter.

Let us remember the most important context of this letter – Paul was imprisoned.  The ‘everything’ of verse thirteen is being content no matter what one’s circumstance.  Paul learned the secret of being content even in prison.  I’m not sure how you would define success, but I believe that being happy is successful, and I believe that God does want us to experience happiness.  Paul learned the secret to contentment, and it was through his relationship with God through Jesus.   

If we back up just a few verses in this letter, Paul writes about how one can experience God’s peace, which brings contentment.  He wrote: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Today, let’s not worry, but instead pray.  Let’s tell God what we need, not what we want.  Let’s live today thanking God for all God has done for us, and we, like Paul, will learn to be content no matter what this day brings.  

Posted by Ramón Torres

All In!

Ephesians 6:10 – A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (NLT)

All or nothing – that’s just how many things work in life!  For example, if two people want to be married, they will have to be totally committed to one another for the rest of their lives.  Anything less will be harmful to the marriage.  In essence, it will have to be all or nothing.  Giving all will ensure a stable marriage, while anything less will ensure a rocky road.

If we want to live the abundant life that Jesus has promised us (John 10:10), it’s all or nothing, as well.  That’s what this passage of scripture says to me.  This is a familiar passage, and many Christians are well versed with God’s Amor.  However, many Christians are not aware that when it comes to the protection of God’s armor, one must put on every single piece – or one might as well not wear any of it at all. 

Consider verse thirteen: “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil”. We must put on every piece of God’s armor!  We can’t pick and choose what part we will wear.  There are Christians who go to worship on Sunday to ‘fill up’ for the week, but by Wednesday (or Monday) they find themselves losing the battle with evil once again.  We must put on every piece of the armor, and we must put it on every day!

Notice something else about verse thirteen: “Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”  The armor of God does not prevent spiritual battles.  Spiritual battles are coming!  To be able to stand after the battle, we have to be all in before the battle.

Today, let us be all in!  Let us seek every weapon that God provides so that when the battle does come, we will make it through victoriously. 

Posed by Ramón Torres

Prove It!

James 3:13 – If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (NLT)

I still remember the very first sermon I ever preached.  The title of that sermon: Is Your Faith Practical?  Faith is not meant to be cherished as we might a family heirloom.  Faith is not something we put in a showcase to admire from a distance, or put away in a box in the attic.  Faith is meant to be lived out moment by moment throughout our lives.  James was a man who believed in a practical faith!

Do you understand God’s way?  Then prove it, James writes!  Christianity is not merely knowing about God. Christianity is not even about merely believing in God.  Consider what James says in 2:19 – “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  Christianity is about having a relationship with God through Jesus that is evidenced in the way that we live. 

Likewise, true wisdom is not quoting the famous philosophers.  It is, however, knowing how God desires us to live, and then living it!  If our life is characterized by disorder, then we really only know about God, and have not proven that we seek God in our hearts.  True wisdom, for a Christian, is loving peace, being gentle in speech and action, and even yielding to others!  True wisdom, for a Christian, is evidenced by our good deeds. 

When we find ourselves failing in these areas, it’s time to ‘go back to school’ and seek wisdom from the one and true source of all wisdom.  The wise thing for each of us to do would be to go to that source daily!

Today let us endeavor to live peacefully, showing others the wisdom of God by being a humble servant.

Posted by Ramón Torres

God’s Loving Presence

Romans 8:26 – And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT) 

This week we have a lengthy passage.  For the sake of study, we could divide it into two passages, but I believe that it is important to read this passage as one section.  If we were dividing this passage, the first part would be about the Holy Spirit.  The second part would be Paul’s beautiful words about how nothing can separate us from God’s love. 

Sometimes, during the hectic moments of our daily lives, we may feel that certain circumstances have come between us and God’s loving presence.  The first part of this passage, however, gives us the remedy for this feeling.  That remedy is the Holy Spirit, which is the spiritual presence of God.  We’re told in verse twenty-six that God’s Spirit is there to help us when we are weak. The Holy Spirit prays for us, and seeks to keep us in line with God’s will (verse 27).   

When Paul asks the question – what can we say about this – his answer is fully given in verse thirty-eight: “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.”  The Holy Spirit is the reason why nothing can separate us from the Love of God.  We may find ourselves filled with fears for today and worries about tomorrow (verse 38), but God’s loving presence is still there.  We may even feel as if the very powers of hell are descending upon us (verse 38), but even then, God’s loving presence abides with us.

This week, no matter what troubles life may bring our way, let us live confidently knowing that we are never separated from God’s loving presence.  That really is good stuff! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

True Worship

Matthew 12:38 – One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”

39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. 42 The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.” (NLT)

What kind of Jesus would you like to have? That’s the question that comes to my mind when I read this passage.  By the time that the teachers and Pharisees came to Jesus asking for a sign, he had already performed many healings and miracles, but they came asking for yet another.  Jesus did heal and perform miracles when he had the opportunity, but his purpose for coming to earth was to live out the greatest of miracles. That greatest of miracles was to die for our sins, and then raise up from the grave for the purpose of securing our place with God for all eternity.

Yet, I still think many people would like Jesus to perform even more signs and wonders.  Jesus asked the religious leaders then, and he asks us today, what more could he do to make us change anything about ourselves?  Many people did not believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be when he walked the earth.  We know that many still do not believe, but again, I am left wondering how many truly believe even now?  If one were to truly believe Jesus at his word, then one would seek to change what they can change about themselves.  This is what Jesus is speaking about when he says: “Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.”

Repenting is not merely saying that you are sorry, repenting is turning around – it is changing things about ourselves. I pray that each of us will seek to change what we can change.  We must love all people.  We must let go of prejudices.  We must forgive.  We must care for the needy, and we must seek peace in all things.  The best way that we can worship God is to change our very lives.  In the Old Testament, the Jews would offer up a sacrifice for their worship.  In the New Testament the Apostle Paul says: “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1)

Today, let us truly worship God! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

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