A Year of Grace

365 Days of Grace From God's Word

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

The Lord Is King!

Psalm 93

 1 The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty.
      Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength.
   The world stands firm
      and cannot be shaken.

 2 Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial.
      You yourself are from the everlasting past.
 3 The floods have risen up, O Lord.
      The floods have roared like thunder;
      the floods have lifted their pounding waves.
 4 But mightier than the violent raging of the seas,
      mightier than the breakers on the shore—
      the Lord above is mightier than these!
 5 Your royal laws cannot be changed.
      Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever. (NLT)       

The Lord is king!  Sometimes, I need that reminder.  When life confronts us with challenges, and we’re not sure what the future holds, this Psalm reminds us that no matter what we have going on in our lives, the Lord is still king!  There are times when we believe that the world is hopeless.  There are times when we feel as if our world is shaken and about to fall apart.  It’s then we return to this Psalm and remind ourselves, The Lord is king! 

God is not only mightier than the raging of seas, God is mightier than anything we face in our lives!  As I mentioned from the pulpit several weeks ago, perhaps there are things in our lives that we focus on more than God.  There may even be things in our lives that we believe to be more important than God, but nothing in our lives is mightier than God. 

Today, let us place God first, remembering that God is with us in all that we face.  God is mightier, God is greater, than anything in this world!  

Posted by Ramón Torres

Is Your Faith Practical?

Matthew 7:24 – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (NIV)

I remember the very first sermon I preached many years ago.  The title was: “Is Your Faith Practical?”  It was a modern take on a sermon written a couple hundred years prior by John Wesley.  I am, after all, a disciple of Wesleyan theology!  The sermon written by Wesley, like much of his teachings, was about moving from mere head knowledge to actually living out our faith day by day.  The teachings of Wesley are a large part of why I initially decided to become a Methodist.  I’m not implying that other denominations do not emphasize putting faith into practice, but from the denomination that I came from, the teachings of Wesley were new and exciting.   

When we think of the word ‘practical’, we often think in terms of convenience.  The word, however, literally means to be functional, and to be put into use.  Wesley was not the first to teach that we must put our faith into practice.  Indeed, Jesus taught this lesson over two thousand years ago.  Jesus not only taught us to put our faith into practice, but he also taught us the consequence of not putting our faith into practice.  

Faith is not something we store away just so we can go to heaven when we die.  Faith is where we draw our strength for living life day by day.  Faith is our source of strength when the storms of life toss us about.  Jesus taught us that when those storms come – and they will – our faith will enable us to survive the storms.  However, if we claim to have faith in Jesus, but fail to put his words into practice (verse 24), then we will never be able to withstand the storms of life.

Let us strive to put the words of Jesus, and all of the teachings of the Bible, into practice.  Let us build our spiritual house upon a solid foundation, so that when the storms come, we will be left standing. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Specks And Planks

Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NIV)

Around ten years ago I read the book UnChristian by David Kinaman and Gabe Lyons.  The book took a critical look at how the unchurched people in America view Christianity.  Using research provided by the Barna Institute, the authors stated that there are approximately 100 million unchurched people in the United States.  Of those 100 million people, 87% perceive Christians to be judgmental.  If those numbers are even close to being correct, that suggests that 87 million people in our country perceive us to be judgmental.  We can argue that their perceptions are wrong, but their perception is their reality, and to reach the unchurched with the message of Jesus Christ, we must somehow break through that perception barrier.

I don’t think that being judgmental is a new phenomenon among religious people.  Two thousand years ago, Jesus cautioned his followers against being judgmental.  Too make his point, Jesus used customary rabbinical exaggeration: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”  Of course, no one actually was walking around with a plank in their eye, but the point is clear – it is easier for us to notice the sins of others than it is to notice our own.  I don’t believe that Jesus would have us overlook or ignore the sins of others, but we would better serve others, and the kingdom of God, if we first addressed our own sin.

Today, let us refrain from being judgmental.  Let us instead focus on removing the planks from our own eyes so that we will be better able to help one another remove the splinter from their own. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Kingdom Seeking

Matthew 6:19 – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  (NIV) 

Not a day goes by that the economy, the stock market, the strength of the US dollar against the euro, is not in the news.  Every day we look curiously and cautiously at the gas prices.  For years now, people have lived in fear of ‘loosing it all’.  Indeed, many people have ‘lost it all.’  Or have they?  What, exactly, have they lost?

In today’s passage, Jesus makes it clear that money, and the things that money can buy, must not dominate our lives.  If they do dominate out lives, then we will live life never satisfied, never full, and always hungry for more.  Jesus never condemns money.  He never condemns having money or using money.  He does, however, condemn treasuring money, and he condemns loving the things that money can buy more than we love God.  Consider verse twenty-one: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Each of us will give our greatest effort and energy to what we really love.  If the things that money can buy are what we treasure, then that’s where our energies and priorities will be.  Likewise, if the things of God are what we treasure, then that’s where our energies and priorities will be. 

The desire for material possessions robs us of the joy and peace that comes from trusting God for everything.  The desire for material possession, if left unchecked, will move us from serving God to serving money.  Life is more than what we can purchase.  Jesus tells us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)  Life – abundant life – is more than food and clothing!  It’s more than houses, cars, retirement plans and vacations.  None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but they are bad when they come before God.  Jesus tells us to watch our priorities by telling us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33).

Today, let us seek God’s kingdom and righteousness! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

The Lord’s Prayer – Our Prayer

Matthew 6:9 – “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV) 

Last week I looked at the verses that came before this passage.  In those verses Jesus taught us about not praying for show, and to keep our prayers simple, not adding words upon words.  In these verses Jesus teaches us just how simple – yet powerful – prayer can and should be.  Entire books have been written about this one prayer, but let’s take a quick look at it. 

First, Jesus teaches us that there should be reverence in addressing God.  We probably address God differently in our prayers, but we should go to God reverently.  Keeping in mind that our relationship with all people should reflect our relationship with God, respect is important!  Perhaps, this is why many people treat others without respect, they have lost their respect and reverence for the creator of all people.

Next, Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s will.  We pray for so many things in our lives, and in the lives of others.  The most important thing, however, is to pray for God’s will to be done.  We know that God desires for us to have not only eternal life, but an abundant life here and now (John 10:10).  Knowing that God desires for us to have this quality of abundance in our daily lives, why wouldn’t we pray for God’s will!?

In verse twelve, Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness in the same manner in which we have forgiven others.  Ouch!  I’m sure that this is difficult for all people at times, but forgiveness should characterize our lives.  The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in Colossians 3:13 – “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Verse fifteen is often overlooked, especially when we recite this prayer together in worship.  Jesus tells us that forgiveness is given when we ask, but only if we have a forgiving spirit.  A forgiving spirit certainly takes spiritual strength and discipline, and is only achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Jesus teaches us to pray for guidance in our daily lives.  Jesus teaches us in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit will provide this guidance: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

Today, let’s pray this simple yet powerful prayer.  Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our steps so that we may stay in God’s will, live abundantly, and that we will have a forgiving spirit. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Pure Motives

Matthew 6:1 – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (NIV)

The story is told of two brothers, both of whom took an oath to share the gospel with someone every day.  One night, one of the brothers realized just before he went to bed that he had not shared the gospel with anyone that day.  Quickly he got dressed and ran into the street and shared the gospel with the first person he saw, and wouldn’t you know it just happened to be his pastor!  The question this story begs is this – what are our motives for our acts of righteousness?  The reading for today is all about having the right motives. 

Jesus takes it for granted that his followers would be practicing righteousness, but warns them about doing so in order to be seen.  He assumed his followers would be giving to the needy (verse 2), and he assumed his followers would be people of prayer (verse 5).  We need to be people who live righteously, but we must continually check our motives. 

Let us note that Jesus was not condemning public worship when he said to go into a private place to pray (verse 6).  The gospels give us plenty accounts of Jesus attending synagogue and the temple.  Jesus was, however, making the point that our prayers should be heartfelt communication between God and ourselves, and that our giving should be done out of true love and generosity.  Any act of righteousness or religiosity that is performed with the intent of letting others take notice of ourselves is the wrong motive.  Christians should be seen and heard, but our motive for being seen and heard is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to God.

Today, let us pray for pure hearts and pure motives.  Let us seek to show Christ to others, and let’s pray that Christ overshadows ourselves.

Posted by Ramón Torres

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