365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Month: July 2021

Not One Of Us?

Luke 9:43 – While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (NIV)

Years ago, while still in seminary, a friend and I went to pick his car up from the mechanic shop.  While we were sitting in the waiting room there was a commercial on the television for a local church.  The church was pastored by a couple who had a very different style of preaching than our own.  We chuckled and joked about their preaching style.  Just then a man walked over to us and said, “Don’t joke my pastors, they brought me to the Lord and saved my marriage.”  Needless to say, we were put in our place.  It was a lesson that I have never forgotten.

In today’s reading we encounter the disciples bickering amongst themselves about their place in the eyes of Jesus.  Then they had the nerve to complain because they witnessed someone doing great things in the name of Jesus, but they were ‘not one of us.’  Like my friend and I years ago, how easily we fall into this kind of thinking.  We tend to think that if someone doesn’t worship like us, pray like us, or do church like us, then they can’t have the truth like us.  

Jesus taught his disciples, and Jesus teaches us, that just because someone isn’t ‘one of us,’ does not mean that they don’t have the love of Jesus within them.  Our goal is not to be the greatest in Jesus’ eyes, and it is not to be the ones who possess the only way to be a Christian.  Our goal is to share the love of God in the manner in which we know.  Our goal is to worship God in truth and in spirit (John 4:24).  Worshipping God in truth and in spirit goes beyond our worship in church.  Worshipping God in truth and in spirit is about the way we live our daily lives (Romans 12:1).  We are called to live out this truth and spirit in different ways, yet we are all called.

Today, let’s not be critical of our Christian brothers and sisters who ‘do church’ differently than ourselves.  Let’s celebrate the varied ways in which God calls us to be the Body of Christ.

Posted by Ramón Torres

Don’t be afraid to follow!

Luke 5:1 – One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (NIV)

In today’s reading, Jesus is calling his first disciples.  I love to read about Jesus’ disciples.  What amazes me about them is that Jesus did not choose people with special ‘church’ skills.  As far as we know, none of those chosen by Jesus had any experience leading prayers or Scripture studies.  They were not leaders in their local synagogues.  They were simply ordinary, hard working, people.  In my career as a pastor, one of my biggest challenges is to get ordinary people to step up and actively involve themselves in the ministry of Jesus Christ.

I, myself, was simply a Park Ranger, with no special ‘church’ experience when I began to hear Jesus calling my name.  I, too, protested for some time as many people do when Jesus calls.  Years ago, when I was fearful to follow Jesus’ call, I found comfort in reading about Simon Peter.  Jesus called Peter to follow him, and when Peter realized who it was who was calling him, he stated: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  We fear following Jesus because we know we fall short of Jesus’ glory.  We ask ourselves, what could I ever do to help God?  Jesus, however, told Simon Peter not to be afraid.  

Maybe you are hearing something from God.  Maybe God is speaking to you through a still small voice, or through the voice of another, and maybe you are fearful of answering that voice.  God calls to each of us.  God calls us to move forward in our life as a Christian, to take steps forward to be Jesus’ disciple, and to be a ‘fisher of people’.  Take comfort in the fact that God simply wants people.  Worldly status is of no consequence.  Your past level of success – or failure – has no bearing on Jesus’ call.  Like Peter, we are all sinful.  Like Peter, Jesus calls us anyway.  Like Peter, God can use us in great ways!  Don’t be afraid to follow! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

I Will Remember

Psalm 77:1 – I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (NIV)

Do Christians ever doubt God? Of course they do. Doubting is part of our lives, but as this Psalm shows us, when it comes to God, we can overcome our doubt.  We tend to doubt God when we bring God down to our level.  Like the psalmist wrote in verse three above, sometimes we ‘remember’ God.  This implies that there are times when we aren’t thinking about God.  We get busy with our lives, and we forget.  We then think that if we have forgotten God, God has probably forgotten us.  However, this is bringing God down to our level, thinking that God acts as we act.  Thanks be to God that God does not act like us!

Verses ten through twelve of Psalm 77 teach us that when we doubt God’s presence in our lives, we should remember all the things that God has done for us.  God has a plan for us, and that plan is sure and certain, it never changes.  When we doubt God, we should meditate upon God’s mighty deeds.

Thomas Chisholm had a difficult life for several years.  Due to an illness he was confined to a bed for long periods of time.  Chisholm recovered, and gave his life to Christ.  While on a mission trip, he wrote a poem and sent it to his friend and musician, William Runyan.  Runyan found the words so moving that he put it to music.  I leave you with the words of his poem, and a great hymn of the faith.  Consider these words as our prayer as we meditate upon God’s hand in our lives.

Great is Thy Faithfulness;
Great is Thy Faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Lord unto me.

Amen! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Honest Prayer

Psalm 25:1 – O Lord, I give my life to you.
    I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.

The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. (NLT)

In the ancient Hebrew, this psalm is an acrostic – each line begins with the next letter of the alphabet.  In the ABC’s of prayer, honesty comes first.  How honest are we with God in our prayers?  This is the question this psalm asks of us.  In verse one, the psalmist gives his life to the Lord.  Other translations have, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (NIV, NKJV).  For the ancient Jews, lifting one’s soul was not just an act of praise, but literally keeping nothing hidden from God.  This is true worship!  This is how our lives should be lived, and how our prayers should be prayed – keeping nothing hidden from God.  

Sometimes, it’s not just with God that we try to hide parts of our lives.  Sometimes, we are not honest with ourselves, and we ignore parts of our lives that should be addressed.  When we are not open to God in our prayers, we close ourselves off from God’s instruction in those very areas that may need the most instruction.  Maybe deep down inside there are parts of our lives we simply don’t want to change.  Perhaps, we fear change, or we fear failure in changing.  Being honest with God keeps us honest with ourselves, and this allows us to address those areas of our lives that need the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit.

In verse four, the psalmist asks to be shown the right path.  Only through honest prayer can we find the strength to walk the right path.  Honesty and openness with God must be our way of life, and so in verse five the psalmist states” “All day long I put my hope in you.”

Let’s be honest with God – and ourselves – all day, every day.  Let’s keep nothing hidden from God, and let’s allow God to lead us in any changes we should make.

Posted by Ramón Torres

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