A Year of Grace

365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Letting The World Know

Acts 2:1 – On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.  7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”  (NLT)

In the Christian year, yesterday was Pentecost.  Pentecost is a day that many call the birthday of the church.  Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit first came down upon the disciples, and changed their lives, and the world, forever.  

Some people read passages of Scripture like the one for today and are filled with questions.  Is this what the gift of tongues is all about?  Were they speaking in other languages, or did the people just hear them in their language?  What was really going on?  When I read the Bible, I have many questions, as well.  However, what I try to do is take what I can from the reading and apply to life here and now.  How can we apply this passage to our daily lives?  

I think one of the best ways is to simply look at the big picture.  The disciples were all together.  That’s great, but then they went out and did what the Spirit led them to do.  Gathering as a church community is great, important, vital to our survival – but so is going out and doing what the Spirit leads us to do!  It is interesting to note that the nations listed in this passage were the known nations of that day.  In other words, the people of the church were making God’s presence known to all of the world.  We, too, are called to make God’s presence known to all of the world.  Let’s start today by making God’s presence known in our own little corner of the world! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

False Prophets

1 John 4:1-6 – Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5 Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception. (NLT)

In this passage, the Apostle John gives us a warning concerning false prophets.  Interestingly, the word translated here as prophet literally means inspired speaker.  There are many inspired speakers in the world who draw people to their messages.  I wonder, however, just where it is that some of them are receiving their inspiration!  It would be easier for us to discern who the false prophets were if they would just be so strange that they would be easily recognized.  Sadly, this is not always the case.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:15 that many false prophets will be disguised as harmless sheep, but are really vicious wolves. 

Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:13 – “These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness”.

So, how do we discern who is and who is not a false prophet?  First, prove to yourself what you hear.  Preachers of the Word of God will not be offended if you question them about what they say.  Speaking for myself, I encourage it!  Ask questions.  God wants us to ask questions.  God’s Word is not complicated.  False prophets have made it complicated, but it is called Good News because it is so radically simple!  If a preacher cannot readily answer you in plain language, ask a trusted and mature Christian friend.  If you are still unsure, then perhaps that preacher is not the one to whom you should be listening.

Secondly, beware of miracles.  I believe in miracles, and I believe that miracles happen every day.  However, the Book of Revelation warns us about false prophets who perform miracles. 

Revelation 13:13 – “He did astounding miracles, even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching. 14 And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world.”

I am not saying that God cannot work miracles through someone, but be cautious of miracles.  If someone is living a lavish lifestyle because of their ‘miracles’, beware!  This leads me to my next point …

Remember that prophet does not mean profit!  Of course, preachers need to make a living just like anyone else, but the accumulation of great wealth in this business is questionable, at best.  Lastly, and above all else, know your Bible!  Learn and study under a trusted pastor, or a trusted church.  For sound biblical resources, ask your pastor for advice.  Knowing God’s Word will prevent you from being deceived by a false prophet, and will empower you for abundant living!

Posted by Ramón Torres

Forgiveness

Luke 17:1 – One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. 3 So watch yourselves!

“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. 4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (NLT)

While we may have times when we find it difficult to understanding the Bible, this is not one of them!  Jesus is clear – when one asks for our forgiveness, forgiveness must be given.  We should, however, look at this passage carefully.  Jesus does not tell us to simply walk away when someone has done us wrong, and pretend that it never happened.  Verse three tells us to rebuke that person. Jesus gives us further direction about this in Matthew 18:15 – “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.”

Forgiveness, even forgiving over and over again, does not mean we roll over and let people walk over us.  However, I’ve found that even when the offender admits their mistake and asks for forgiveness, offering forgiveness can be difficult!  Difficult or not, the words of Jesus are clear on this subject – when asked for forgiveness, we must forgive!  I look for the strength to forgive by remembering what Jesus has done so that I may be forgiven.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this Ephesians 4:32 – “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”.

Forgiveness should be a defining characteristic of a Christian.  God is love, and God forgives those who ask for forgiveness.  The Word of God tells us to imitate God!  Ephesians 5:1 – “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children”.  

Today, and every day, let us not hold back our forgiveness to anyone who seeks it from us. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

How Long?

Psalm 13:1 (NLT) – O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me. 

How blessed we are to have Psalms such as Psalm 13!  I believe that everyone can connect with this passage from time to time.  Even though biblical scholars may give us some background as to what David was experiencing, I believe that we have all found ourselves in circumstances of life where we have asked, “Have you forgotten me, God?”  We have all been in situations where we cry out to God, “How long?”

We should note, however, that even a prayer asking God how long we must wait is a prayer!  Prayer is communicating with God.  Far worse than asking God how long we must wait is not praying to God at all.  God answers prayer.  Yet, God does not always answer on the timetable we desire, or with the answer we seek, but God answers prayer.

Verses five and six show us that because David prayed, he was able to come to the realization that he would trust God, even if the answer he sought wasn’t felt that day.  David even found it within himself to sing to God.  This reminds me of the story of Paul and Silas in prison.  As bleak as their situation seemed, they prayed and sang hymns to God.  It was during their time of praising God that God answered their prayers (Acts 16).

When we find ourselves asking God how long we must suffer, we need to find the strength to praise God.  Like Paul & Silas, we might experience something of God while we praise God!

Today, let’s praise God, even during the difficult times. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

The Only Thing That Counts!

Galatians 5:2 (NLT)  Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 

There are a number of passages in the Bible that people just seem to ignore, or gloss over.  This doesn’t happen because they don’t understand the passage, but because they don’t think it applies to them.  Today’s reading is one such example.  At first glance this passage seems to be all about circumcision.  Not at all!  In this passage Paul is writing to a church that was putting an emphasis on circumcision, and other Jewish laws, as well.  They were doing this in an effort to earn God’s favor.  The spiritual application, however, is very pertinent to our lives. 

Basically, this passage boils down to the question: Are we trying to earn God’s grace?  The Galatians believed that they could make God happy by adhering to the Jewish law.  Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the one who makes us right with God, and nothing else!  We can certainly apply this to our own lives.  Do we seek to make God happy by going to church, by helping out at church, by going on a mission trip?  These things, and anything else, are not what makes us right with God.  It’s only Jesus.

Then why do those things?  Paul tells us in verse six – The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  We worship because we love God.  We serve others because we love God.  Our faith in Jesus is expressed through loving action.  Paul and James really aren’t so different!  James says: “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” (James 2:26).  Paul says that faith should express itself in love.  I do not see how either contradicts the other.  Faith produces an action.  Each of us may express our faith in different ways, but faith should be expressed! 

Let’s express our faith in Jesus Christ today in loving ways! 

Posted by Ramón Torres 

Power for Daily Living! 

John 14:25 (NLT) – “I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

The Bible has many reminders about the presence of God’s Spirit with us.  Considering the vast amount of Biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit, it is a shame that many Christians live life without knowledge of, or a desire for, the Holy Spirit.  In this short passage Jesus tells us why the Holy Spirit is given – to teach and remind us.

I was speaking with a friend recently, and she told me that before she reads her Bible she prays to the Holy Spirit for understanding.  How wonderful!  That is a function of God’s Spirit, to teach us, and to give us understanding.  Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Colossians: “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

Not only will the Holy Spirit give us an understanding of God’s Word, the Spirit will remind us when we are in need of being reminded.  If we stay in God’s Word, and if we seek God’s Spirit, we will recall what we need of God’s Word at the right time.  Think how this could benefit us in our daily lives!  Consider how this would benefit our relationships.

God’s Spirit empowers us for daily living!  Today, let’s seek understanding and guidance from the Holy Spirit. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

God Is With Us

Job 38:1 – Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
3 Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
5 Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
6 What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
7 as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

8 “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
as it burst from the womb,
9 and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
10 For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
11 I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
Here your proud waves must stop!’ (NLT)

Have you ever questioned God?  I suppose we all have at some point in our lives.  If any of us found ourselves in Job’s shoes, we would probably have some serious questions for God!  While the content of the book of Job could provide weeks of study, this passage can speak to us in our times of questions. 

In this passage God asks us, “Who are we compared to God”, “What are we compared to God?”  Those might seem like harsh questions coming from God, but I prefer to turn those questions around – “Who is God? What is God?”  While we may fall short with the full answer, I believe that this passage tells us that God is infinitely greater than we can think or imagine.  God has ordered all we see of the natural universe, and I’m sure that God has provided order for our lives, as well. 

In our times of questions for God, let us trust that the God who laid the foundations of the earth (verse 4) is aware of us in whatever situation we find ourselves.  God, who has provided for life, provides for us.  Perhaps we find it difficult to see God through our trying times, but God is there. 

Today, let’s note the presence of God amongst us, no matter what life confronts us with. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Right Here and Right Now!

Acts 1:6 – Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (NIV).

Who remembers Harold Camping? He was a radio host who gained notoriety back in 2011 for his incorrect prediction that the rapture would happen on May 21 of that year.  (Spoiler alert – it didn’t!). It seems that whatever a date is predicted, end times teaching always attracts attention! In light of this fact of life, this is a particularly interesting passage.  Perhaps the apostles were not asking about the end of time, but they were asking about future events.  Jesus makes it clear in verse seven that future dates are not for anyone to know.  What I find interesting is the very next verse.  Jesus immediately tells his followers to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then to get to work!  It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Hey, that forget that future stuff, go be a witness right now!” 

Basing a ministry on seeking the dates for something in the future is clearly not being a witness! People will often ask me what I think of certain preachers who focus on ‘the end.’  I honestly can’t give an answer because I don’t listen to any such preachers!  It’s not what Jesus was about and should not be what we are about. 

What are we to be about, then?  Just as Jesus charged his first followers, we are charged to seek the Holy Spirit.  Why? So that we, like them, will get to work!  Being a witness of what we have experienced of Jesus is our work. 

Our spiritual eyes may be fixed upon heaven, but we should not stand around and debate and focus on Jesus’ return, or any future events.  Instead, let us focus on being filled with the Holy Spirit this day, and on being a witness in our communities (Jerusalem), in our nation, (Judea), and throughout the ends of the earth! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Slaves to … ?

Romans 6:12 – Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)

Have you ever felt as if you were a slave to work?  Maybe you feel that you are a slave to a certain activity, a habit.  The Bible teaches us that we are all slaves!  Each of us is a slave – to something!  Romans 6:16 tells us that we are a slave to whatever we choose to obey.  I would suggest that each of us obeys something, even if it’s our own desires.  So, each of us are a slave.

Being a slave to something is simply part of the human condition.  However, we have the opportunity to choose what it is that enslaves us.  In this passage, Paul tells us in verse 16 that we can choose to be a slave to sin, or God.  Some people do not like this imagery. They feel as if this talk of being a slave is oppressive.  Some translations translate the word in question as servant, hoping to make it less offensive.  The word that Paul uses is δουλόω, which usually referred to someone who had sold themselves into slavery.  Sometimes such people were called bondservants.  Paul often called himself a bondservant to Jesus.  As to offering ourselves into slavery, Paul is correct – we do allow ourselves to be enslaved.  If that is the case, and we will allow ourselves to be enslaved to something, then why not choose God?  

Let’s note two things about this passage.  Verse 22 tells us that being slave of God is being free from the power of sin.  Giving the choice between sin and God, I choose being a slave to God! The second thing to note, choosing to be a slave of God does not earn our salvation, for salvation is a free gift (verse 23).  So, why do we choose to be a slave to God?  We do so because we are human, and we will choose to be a slave to something.  Why not choose that which can empower our lives, strengthen our relationships, and bring us eternal joy!

Posted by Ramón Torres

Our High Priest

Hebrews 6:13 – For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:

14 “I will certainly bless you,
and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”

15 Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. (NLT)

This passage speaks of God’s promises which are assured to us through Jesus, our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.  In order to properly understand this passage, we need to understand Melchizedek.

Much speculation has been given as to the exact identity of Melchizedek.  In Genesis 14, Abraham encounters Melchizedek, who serves Abraham bread and wine.  What we do know of Melchizedek is that he was the king of Salem (which means peace), and God’s high priest.  In the Old Testament, the high priest would intercede between the people and God.  The order of Melchizedek (also mentioned in Psalm 110) refers to the Messiah who would become the ultimate intercessor between humanity and God.  Keeping this in mind, let’s consider the rest of this passage.  

The writer of the Book of Hebrews was encouraging the people not to give up the hope that they had found in Jesus.  We should note that this was the hope to come beyond this life.  Consider verses 18 & 19:  “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” The writer speaks of going through a curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  In the ancient Jewish Temple, only the high priest would be able to pass through the curtain into the presence of God.  While we know that spiritually God is present with us, we can trust in Jesus that one day we will be in the very presence of the fullness of God – into the inner sanctuary.

Verse twenty states that Jesus has already gone through this curtain and entered into the inner sanctuary.  Consider the words of Jesus in John 14:2 – “I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (NIV) Writing for a Jewish/Christian audience, the writer of Hebrews shares a similar message – Jesus has passed through the curtain into the presence of God, and he will lead us through, as well.

Jesus, our High Priest, has prepared a place for us in the presence of God!  That’s Good Stuff!  Today, let’s rejoice for our High Priest!   

Posted by Ramón Torres

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