A Year of Grace

365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Called Into Action

Romans 8:14 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (NLT) 

There is so much packed into these four verses, we could probably stay with this passage for a week!  So, just a couple of things I would like to share, you may have others.  First, in verse fifteen we are told that we have received God’s Spirit.  Really?  God’s?  God’s Spirit joins with ours?  I find this empowering and frightening all at the same time!  It’s empowering in that we should look to God’s Spirit for the strength to be who and what God calls us to be.  I find it potentially frightening for the very same reason. So my prayer is often that I would not be a fearful slave, but rather one with a bold spirit from my Abba, Father.

The second thing I take away from this passage is that we are heirs of God’s glory along with Jesus!  What an awesome thought, but then Paul goes on to say that we must also share in Jesus’ suffering.  Too often I would like to settle for the glory and forget the suffering.  Fortunately for most of us today, our suffering doesn’t compare to Jesus’.  However, we are called to action, and we are called to put the needs of others before our own. 

It doesn’t come close to Jesus’ suffering, but today let’s answer the call to be Christ-like to someone we would rather stay away from.  In our own small way, let us share in Jesus’ suffering and Jesus’ glory!  

Posted by Ramón Torres

Above All, Love!

1 Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 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 anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they 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. (NLT)

In this reading we are confronted with a text that would make us ask, “How near is the end?”  In the grand scheme of things, the end is near for each of us!  Psalm 103 reminds us: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone.”  Most of us don’t live our daily lives thinking about the brevity of this earthly life, but it is a reality.  My sister told me shortly before she passed away from ovarian cancer, “We’re all terminal, I’m just more aware of it than most.”

This Scripture passages is a reminder that this life is fleeting.  So, what shall we do about it?  Verse eight says that above all else, we should love others deeply.  Above all else!  What will be the most important thing that you do this day?  I do not want to belittle anything that any of us may have planned, but the Word of God tells us what is most important.  Above all else love each other deeply.  This is the most important thing that any of can do during this day, or any day.

With life so fleeting, who knows if we have tomorrow to show our love for others?  We, or they, could be gone like a flower of the field.  So, make the most of this day, and above all else, love each other! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Let Justice Roll!

Amos 5:18 – Woe to you who long
    for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
    That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
    only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
    and rested his hand on the wall
    only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
    pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

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!

 Today, across our nation, many will gather to remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.  They will gather to remember not only the life of a man, but the life of a movement. This great movement, which for this country found its voice in Martin Luther King, did not begin with Martin Luther King.  This movement did not begin in this country.  From our reading from an ancient prophet, we hear that this movement was alive some twenty-eight centuries ago. 

 “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  These words were spoken by a simple herdsmen named Amos who could not understand how a people who claimed to worship a God of justice could then turn around and use their system of human justice as an instrument of their own greed.  Indeed, in the days of Amos the name of God was used to oppress the poor, and Amos, a simple herdsmen by trade, could not stand idly by and watch as the children of God were ruthlessly burdened in the name of justice.  So, the prophet cried out, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

 Amos was not blind to the fact that the government of the land, which by all rights should have stood up for those who could not stand for themselves, was corrupt and unjust. The courts were easily swayed by money. Not only were the poor oppressed, but the opportunity for a fair trial was non-existent. Perhaps worst of all, Amos recognized that the religious institutions of the day, while busy with its various religious activities, was totally oblivious to the living conditions of the common people.  To be sure, there were sacrifices and prayers of every kind, but what did all this religion amount to except to nurture a false hope?

Likewise, Martin Luther King could clearly see things that many people refused to see.  He had the power to speak out against injustice.  Most of all, he realized that if religion was to be true to its nature it must be concerned not just with religious rituals and prayers, but that it must be concerned with all of life.  While still a young man Martin Luther King had the courage to face those who hated him and boldly proclaim that: “Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion.”

 It was a dry as dust religion that Amos sought to change.  Through Amos, God spoke to the people. God told them that it was not sacrifices that satisfied the heart of God.  It was not feasts; it was not elaborate shows of fanciful assemblies.  The songs that God’s children offered up in praise of God were nothing more than noise.  Indeed, God refused to even listen to their music!  What made Amos a visionary is the same quality that made Martin Luther King a visionary.  Like Amos, Martin Luther King challenged the entire religious system.  He did not challenge a few.  He did not challenge the black church. He did not challenge the white church. He challenged the Church – all of Christianity. He challenged the whole system, from smallest congregation in the backwaters of Mississippi to the largest and fanciest churches in New York City.  Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged the church to understand the true nature of God.

The issue for Amos came down to the understanding of the very nature of God.  That was the issue for Martin Luther King, Jr., as well.  This must be our issue today.  Our actions, our behavior, must be modeled after our beliefs and concepts of God Almighty.  This is true for our congregations, and this is true for us as individual Christians.  Because of our understanding of the nature of God, each of us must seek to relate to one another as God would, not as we would like. 

Amos, though he lived thousands of years ago, was ahead of his time when it came to spiritual insight.  Martin Luther King, Jr., knew those same insights.  And we, three millennia after Amos, nearly six decades after Martin Luther King, Jr., must continue to strive to achieve what they could see so well – injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Whatever we do to the least of the children of God, we do to God. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Even on a Monday, Jesus is King!

Psalm 99:1 – The Lord is king!
Let the nations tremble!
He sits on his throne between the cherubim.
Let the whole earth quake!
 2 The Lord sits in majesty in Jerusalem,
exalted above all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name.
Your name is holy!
4 Mighty King, lover of justice,
you have established fairness.
You have acted with justice
and righteousness throughout Israel.
5 Exalt the Lord our God!
Bow low before his feet, for he is holy!

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests;
Samuel also called on his name.
They cried to the Lord for help,
and he answered them.
7 He spoke to Israel from the pillar of cloud,
and they followed the laws and decrees he gave them.
8 O Lord our God, you answered them.
You were a forgiving God to them,
but you punished them when they went wrong.

9 Exalt the Lord our God,
and worship at his holy mountain in Jerusalem,
for the Lord our God is holy! (NLT)

Well, Sunday is behind us and now it’s Monday again. Our worship from yesterday is over and it’s back to the grind.  Wait, the Lord is still king on Monday!  Verse one reminds us daily, regardless of what this world confronts us with, the Lord is king! 

Verse two tells us that the Lord sits in majesty in Jerusalem.  Other translations say ‘the Lord is great in Zion’.  In other words, among those who follow God, God has made God’s presence known.  That’s you and me!  God has made God’s presence known to us.  God didn’t make this presence known to us so we could just feel good about ‘our’ God on Sunday when we worship, but so that we would share with others what it is we find so good about God.  This sharing is a daily thing, because the Lord is king!  This Psalm reminds us that God reigns today, and we ought to let it be known.

Verse eight tells us that God is forgiving, yet punishes.  Unlike the ancient people who recited (and sang) this Psalm, we have the full story.  Thanks be to God!  Yes, God has punished sin.  He punished our sin on the cross through Jesus.  So this day, let us exalt our God, and worship the Lord our King, even on a Monday! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Who is Jesus?

John 8:21 – Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”  23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.  “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him. (NIV)

I find the Gospel of John to be, perhaps, my favorite Gospel.  However, some passages can be a difficult read.  This is one of those passages!   Theologically, there is much to unpack here, but essentially it boils down to whom do you say that Jesus is?  This is an important question as we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus – Who is Jesus to you?   

Jesus tells us in verse 24 (and again in verse 58) that, “I am he.”  Many believe that Jesus was referring back to the name that God gave Moses to use when confronting Pharaoh.  There are also a number of times in the Book of Isaiah where God uses this name.  Regardless of what came before, each of us must decide for ourselves who Jesus is to us this very day. 

The Gospel message is that Jesus is God in the flesh: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God., The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:1, 14).  Then we are told that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of all: “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27).

As basic as this seems to our faith, we must reaffirm to ourselves daily what we believe about Jesus.  If Jesus is who he says he is, will that make a difference in your life this day?   

Let the difference Jesus makes in your life be seen by those around you!  

Posted by Ramón Torres

Grace – It’s Good Stuff!

Ephesians 2:1 – As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV) 

What a wonderful portrait of God – rich in mercy and grace!  Even while we were dead in our sin, God’s grace broke through!  Personally, this is a passage I return to often.  When I fall short, more often than I care to admit, I find comfort in knowing that even in my sin the grace of God is freely given to me – again and again!

Verses eight and nine tell us that even if we were to somehow achieve perfection, that wouldn’t earn God’s grace.  That’s Good News, since none of us are will ever achieve perfection.

Note that we are God’s handiwork! How wonderful!  I love the splendor of the outdoors:  the majesty of the mountains; the peacefulness of a mountain stream; the beauty of a meadow.  I love them because I am so mindful that they are all God’s handiwork, but so are we!  Like the beautiful things in nature that point to how great God is, you and I are something beautiful, too!  When we live as a disciple, doing good works as a response of love and gratitude towards God, how much more beautiful we become!  

Today, let us give thanks to God for what God is making of us!


Posted by Ramón Torres

Spiritual Wisdom

Ephesians 1:15 – Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. (NLT)

As I have shared before, God has given me a burden for those who call themselves Christian.  I have this burden because I see so many Christians struggling in their daily lives. They struggle with personal relationships, with finances, with addictions.  The list of struggles could go on and on.  However, Jesus came to set us free from these struggles!  In fact, Jesus said in John 10:10 – The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

I am burdened because so many Christians allow the thief to steal and destroy.  How much of life here and now are we allowing to be stolen from us? In this passage, the Word tells us that we have access to spiritual wisdom and insight.  This wisdom and insight enables us to live a rich and satisfying life right here and now!  This passage also tells us that we have access to the incredible power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  That’s an awesome power!

As we grow in our knowledge of God, which comes through knowing God’s Word, we gain power over the thief, and life becomes more satisfying.  This does not happen in a day, or even a week, but is a process.  John Wesley said that we should be moving on towards perfection.  Spiritual wisdom allows us to make this move!

Today, let us move on towards the fullness of life that God has promised to us! Let us seek spiritual wisdom through God’s Word.  

Posted by Ramón Torres

No Fear!

Deuteronomy 31:7 – Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. 8Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

9 So Moses wrote this entire body of instruction in a book and gave it to the priests, who carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, and to the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses gave them this command: “At the end of every seventh year, the Year of Release, during the Festival of Shelters, 11 you must read this Book of Instruction to all the people of Israel when they assemble before the Lord your God at the place he chooses. 12 Call them all together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living in your towns—so they may hear this Book of Instruction and learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully obey all the terms of these instructions. 13 Do this so that your children who have not known these instructions will hear them and will learn to fear the Lord your God. Do this as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.” (NLT)

In this passage, Moses is handing over the reins of leadership to Joshua.  These people had never had any other leader than Moses. How could they come to trust another leader? They trusted God, and so they trusted God to provide leadership.  This should be a lesson for us. If the people of God are seeking God in truth and in spirit, God will provide godly leadership. Moses makes this clear in the verse which comes before our reading: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Because of our ‘modern sensibilities’ we might question how the Israelites dealt with the  people of the promised land. However, for us in our day and time, we, too, must deal with people – daily!  Because we have the whole story of God, we deal with people differently, but certainly we must trust God so that we can deal with all people as God desires.

Notice in verse 8, Moses charges Joshua not to be afraid or discouraged.  These two go hand in hand.  Discouragement always follows fear, for fear holds us back from being all that God desires.  When we live life being less than God desires, discouragement soon sets in.  Fear of facing today causes our discouragement of tomorrow.  Let us trust God for today and not be fearful! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Being Rich in Good Deeds

1 Timothy 6:17 – Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (NIV)

The story is told of two friends who happened to meet by chance while walking through their city.  One man was visibly shaken, so the other man asked him what was wrong.  He replied: “Three weeks ago I received notice from the bank that there was an error in my savings, and they credited me $10,000.  Then, two weeks ago my uncle died and left me $250,000.  Last week I won a million dollars in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.” His friend asked him, “That’s unbelievable!  So, why are you so downcast today?”  He answered, “Because this week – nothing!” 

Isn’t that how we are sometimes?  Perhaps not with those amounts, but sometimes we do get spoiled by the relative ease in which we live. 

In the scripture reading for today, the Apostle Paul was telling young Timothy to tell the rich people in his church not to live in such a way that their hope was tied to their wealth, but instead put their hope in God.  As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is good for us to reflect upon this passage.  Yes, we are very fortunate to be rich in this present world, but how much better to be rich in good deeds! 

Don’t mistake being generous with somehow earning one’s salvation. The point Paul is making is that our generosity is a response to our salvation, and it models the love of God. 

Because we have lived our lives in this culture of wealth, we more often than not do not realize just how wealthy we are.  Below is a link to an interesting website.  It compares your wealth to the rest of the world.  Give it a try, you may be surprised! 

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, give thanks to God for the hope of eternal life, and then be generous! 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org/how-rich-am-i?income=14000&countryCode=USA&household%5Badults%5D=1&household%5Bchildren%5D=0

Posted by Ramón Torres

If I Could Change The World

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.” (NLT)

Mark Twain once wrote: “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” To that, I say Amen!  This passage from 1 Peter is certainly one of those passages that I understand!  Perhaps, that is why passages such as this one are so challenging.

If we were to use these simple rules for our daily lives, how different would our days be?  How differently might others think of us?  What if we truly sympathized with others, loved others as a brother or sister, were tenderhearted and humble?  What if we made it our aim to go around doing good for those who did evil to us?  If Christians made this one passage their aim, how quickly would the world change?

This idea was nothing new to Peter, as he quotes from Psalm 34.  The idea is not new, but the application of this passage can be something new in our lives.  How radical a passage, yet how simple.  I believe that the lives of many would change if we sought peace, lived humbly, and turned from doing evil.

Today, let us seek to live by this simple yet powerful passage! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

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