365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Month: June 2021

Can’t Do Nothing!

John 15:1 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (NIV) 

Today we have one of my favorite passages from John’s Gospel.  I very much enjoy the imagery of staying connected to The Source.  In our world today, we hear a lot about staying connected.  There is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and literally hundreds, if not thousands, more.  The one thing that this should teach us is that humans want to stay connected in some way with others.  This passage, for Christians, teaches us that we must stay connected in some way with God. 

The word in this passage that we translate as ‘remain’, was the Greek word μένω. Some translations have it as ‘abide’, but the Greek word carries more weight.  It’s an interesting word, and we need to understand the fullness of this word.  The Greek implies that one should stay put no matter what the circumstance.  It even suggests that staying put would be a matter of survival.  For the sake of our spiritual survival, we must remain connected to the one true vine. 

I would imagine that if we were given the choice of holding something close to us, or dying, we would give all of our attention to holding that object close!  Sadly, there are times when the world easily distracts us from holding God close to us.  Jesus’ call for us to remain in him is for our benefit.  God desires us to be spiritually strong.  God does not want us to be tossed about by the forces that are loose in the world. 

In verse five Jesus says: “apart from me you can do nothing.”  In our language, double negatives give an opposite meaning, but in many other languages a double negative is used for emphasis.  In the Greek, Jesus said: apart from me you can’t do nothing!  The emphasis should not be lost on us.  Without God we are lost.  Without God, we are tossed about by the world and we will not produce any spiritual fruit.   

Let’s make it our priority to remain, abide, and stay put in God through prayer, Bible study, worship, and through our fellowship with other Christians.  Remember, apart from Jesus, we can’t do nothing!

Posted by Ramón Torres

More For Us!

Psalm 15:1 – Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken. (NIV) 

In my sermons I often point out that being a Christian is more than just attending worship services, and it’s more than attending Bible Studies.  These things are important, but God desires more.  It’s not that God desires more from us, rather it’s that God desires more for us. 

In today’s reading, we find a description of one who truly seeks more than a label such as ‘Christian’, we find a description of someone – who through the power of the Holy Spirit – has become a new creation.   Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Psalm 15 is just one of many places in the Bible that we find a description of the characteristics of this new creation.  God wants to create something new in each of us.  Does God desire this just so that we will behave, walk the line, and stay out of trouble?  No.  I mentioned that God desires more for us, and it’s true.  When we become a new creation we live life with strength for our days that we did not formerly possess. 

The final verse of Psalm 15 states: “Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”  The world seeks to shake us every day!  There are many events in life that can shake us and cause us inner turmoil.  God wants more for us than a life lived with inner turmoil.  God wants us to live with inner peace.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:7 that when we live life under the authority of Jesus Christ that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today, let us remember that we are called to be a new creation through Jesus Christ, and that there is peace for new creatures!  Let us live life never shaken by life.  That, my friends, is Good Stuff! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

How Great Is Our God!

Psalm 8:1 – Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (NIV) 

Some three thousand years ago the psalmist looked at the night sky and thought to himself, “Wow, the God who made all of that is interested in me!” (That’s my modern take on verses 3 & 4).  Modern technology tells us that just within our own galaxy there are at least 100 billion stars, and perhaps four times as many!  Sophisticated telescopes have detected over 3,000 visible galaxies, each with billions of stars.  Astronomers stress that these are the visible galaxies, and that there may be more than 200 billion galaxies in the universe.  Mind boggling!  Yet, as mind boggling as those numbers are, we are still left with the mind boggling notion that the creator of all those stars knows how many hairs are on our head!

There are some who are challenged by a universe so large.  How, they wonder, could any being be in control over everything, and how could a creator of everything be interested in us?  The psalmist, like many today, wondered the same thing.  The psalmist wrote: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (verse 4)

When I ponder this question, two things come to my mind.  First, our God is infinitely great, and far beyond anything we can imagine.  Likewise, God’s wisdom is infinitely greater than anything we can imagine – and for that I am thankful!  When we consider the size of creation, let it be reassuring for us.  Let us not feel that we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but that our great God believes us to be extremely significant!  Indeed, we are so significant that the Creator came to this little planet in the person of Jesus, lived and died for us, and rose from the dead to purchase us a place with God for all eternity.

The second thing that comes to my mind when I consider the size of the universe and why God is interested in us is this: God wants us to think big thoughts!  When I consider your heavens – this is what the psalmist wrote in verse three.  Often, we get so caught up in life that we don’t stop to consider the bigger picture.  Our God is a big picture God!  The troubles and worries we have this day, in the big picture, are not so big.  I’m not belittling anything that any of us go through, but God has something greater planned for each of us than any of today’s worries.  We were made to fellowship with God in spirit now, and face to face for all eternity after this life!  That’s Good Stuff!

Posted by Ramón Torres

With Your Heart

Luke 16:13 – “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.”

14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. (NIV)

In this short passage, Jesus gives us a profound truth about justification.  What does it mean to be justified?  To be justified means to be right.  Due to the power of sin in our lives, left on our own we are not right.  Most significantly, we are not right with God.  Justification, therefore, is when we are made right with God.  We know that Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins, but his death alone does not make us right with God.  In order for justification to take place, something must be changed in our hearts.

John Wesley had grown up in the Church of England in a very religious family.  He studied at Oxford, and became a clergyman in the Church of England.  He served as a missionary to the British Colony in Georgia.  It wasn’t until after all of that, in 1738, while studying the Scriptures that he felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’, and that he knew that he was right with God.  Until that time, Wesley had tried to justify himself through his religious activities instead of depending upon God.  From that point on, Wesley’s life changed, and he would go on to lead the movement that is known as Methodism.

In the Scripture reading above, Jesus tells the religious leaders of his day that they were trying justify themselves, but that nothing had really changed within their hearts.  They were doing many religious things, and observing many religious rituals, but they did so only in an effort to justify themselves in the eyes of others (verse 15).  Paul tells us in Romans 10:10 that our hearts must be changed: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.”  There are many religious rituals that we observe, but let us never forget that the mere observance of such rituals does nothing to make us right with God.  We would be better served to spend time in prayer and study so that we, like John Wesley, might come to a place where our hearts are strangely warmed.

My prayer for you today is that your hearts have been changed, and that you believe and are justified. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

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