365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Month: August 2021

Victory In Jesus!

1 Corinthians 15:51 – Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV) 

This passage has been the subject of much debate throughout the centuries.  Some claim that these verses speak to an end-time event, a ‘rapture’, if you will.  Other critics of the Bible say that Paul was looking for the return of Jesus in his lifetime, and since Paul was wrong about that event then everything else that Paul wrote should be disqualified.  Others debate as to whether or not this passage speaks to ‘soul sleep’ – the idea that when we die we will stay dead until such a time when all who have ever lived and died in Christ will be raised.  As for me, I really don’t try to wade into debates over what the text might say, I just want to understand what this text can tell me. 

While there might be some things in this passage that make me wonder (and I, like many, have my own opinions), there are other things in this passage that speak to me loud and clear.  First, this passage tells me that there will be an end to my mortal life.  It also tells me that for those who are in Christ, there is something better waiting beyond this life.  In fact, this passage tells me that what is waiting is victory, and that death will have no sting.  This is comforting!  No one looks forward to the moment of death, but we can certainly look forward to the victory that lies beyond.

Sin causes each of us trouble in this world.  We all battle sin in one form or another.  This passage tells us that sin – our enemy – will be defeated.  While I believe that most of the teachings of Paul deal with living life here and now, in this passage Paul teaches us that there will be a reward after this life.  This reward is our gift from Jesus, he paid for the reward.  Our sin would keep us from receiving our final reward.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  That’s Good Stuff!

Posted by Ramón Torres

What Are We Clinging To?

Luke 18:18 – A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (NIV)

Today’s passage can be troubling for some.  Some read this passage and ask themselves, “Do we really need to give away all of our possessions in order to have eternal life?”  Jesus was not in the habit of telling people to sell all of their possessions, but he certainly was in the habit of telling people what it was that was standing in the way of their relationship with God.  At the end of Luke, chapter 9, Jesus confronts several men with the cost of discipleship.  The men had answers as to why they couldn’t follow Jesus at that time.  To those men, and to this rich ruler in this passage, the answer is essentially the same – that which comes between us and God must go.

After Jesus confronts the rich ruler, the disciples ask Jesus how can anyone be saved?  Jesus did not respond by telling them to go and sell their possessions.  Instead, he tells them that left on our own, it is impossible to be saved, but with God it is possible.  How do we tie this in with the man who was told to sell his possessions?  There are things that each of us cling to – things that we do not want to give up at any cost.  These may be material possessions, or they may be things like anger, resentment, or certain habits.  Often, these are the very things that come between us and a rich relationship with God.  On our own, we cannot overcome these things that destroy our relationship with God.  We can, however, overcome with the power of the Holy Spirit.

In John 16:33, Jesus told us that he had overcome the world.  Jesus offers to us the strength and power to overcome, as well.  Today, let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us overcome the things of this world that are coming between us and God. 

Posted by Ramón Torres 

Praise The Lord!

Psalm 117:1 – Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord. 

Today we look at an entire psalm, but it is the shortest psalm.   If we were to divide the Bible by all 1,189 of its chapters, Psalm 117 happens to fall right in the middle.  That’s just a bit a trivia and comes to you at no extra cost!  While Psalm 117 is the shortest, it does contain a couple of powerful lessons. 

The first lesson we discover is that praising the Lord is not something we do only when we feel like it.  We are commanded to praise the Lord!  While it is my hope and prayer that Christians would always choose to praise God, let’s be honest with ourselves – sometimes, due to circumstances of life, we just don’t feel like praising God.  So, it’s good that we have a command. 

Why do we need this command? We need it because praising God changes things.  It changes our hearts, and lifts our spirits.  Furthermore, when we praise God we become open to God’s action in ways we might otherwise have missed.  Remember when Paul and Silas were in prison, at midnight they began to praise God.  Midnight – for some, midnight is a metaphor for the dark times of life.  Praising God during our dark times changes things.  It certainly changed things for Paul and Silas! As they prayed, God showed up in a mighty way and they were freed from their chains.  Praising God can free us from our chains, as well.

The second lesson we learn from this short psalm is that God’s faithfulness to us endures forever.  I think we have all been let down by other people, and we have probably let a few people down ourselves.  Even good people stumble and fall short.  God, however, is always faithful.  God’s love and mercy for us endures forever.  That is truly good reason to praise God!

Today, let us be mindful of praising God, especially during those times when circumstances make it appear dark. 

Posted Ramón Torres

Leave Babylon!

Isaiah 48:17 – This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been like the sand,
your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be blotted out
nor destroyed from before me.”

20 Leave Babylon,
flee from the Babylonians!
Announce this with shouts of joy
and proclaim it.”  (NIV)

In today’s reading from Isaiah, God is commanding the people of God to flee from Babylon.  This passage follows the prophecy of the fall of Babylon to king Cyrus.  When Babylon fell, and when Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland, why would God need to command them to flee?  Wouldn’t they be eager to return home?  Wouldn’t they have a deep desire to return to their homeland, to reunite with long lost relatives?  We would like to think that this displaced group of people made a mass exodus much like their ancestors did when leaving Egypt centuries before.  The truth of the matter, however, is that only a small percentage of the people left Babylon.  There were several waves of returning refugees, but many chose to remain.  Why would they remain in Babylon?  They remained because they had grown accustomed to life in Babylon.  They had, in essence, become Babylonians.  They were comfortable. 

What a lesson for us!  Sometimes, we grow comfortable in our own ways.  We become comfortable with the language that we use, the grudges that we keep, and the prejudices that we hold onto.  We become comfortable with who and what we are.  While we may be good people, or not as bad as others, God calls us forward.  True, God loves us as we are, but God loves us too much to leave us this way! 

God’s love and grace continuously calls us to move forward in our discipleship.  God wants nothing more for us than to look back at where we are today from a year forward, or a month forward, and say, “Thank you God, for bringing me closer to you.”

Whatever it is that may be our Babylon – whatever it is that we have grown comfortable with – let us flee from it today!  Let us heed God’s call and move forward in our discipleship. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

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