365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Month: November 2021

Strength For Our Days

Isaiah 40:25 – “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)

I have a friend who likes to say, especially when life presents him with difficulties, “God is still on the throne.”  It’s good to remind ourselves of this awesome truth!  In today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, God is reminding the people that God is still God, and that God is still in control.

In this passage, God asks the people, “To whom will you compare me?” We would do well to reflect upon this often.  God has ordered the universe, created life, and given us every good gift that we need.  The ancient people to whom God spoke these words were facing difficulties, and at times we do, as well.  Sometimes we wonder about God.  We wonder if God cares, or if God is aware of our plight.  For God, who has created all things, our problems are certainly not insurmountable!

God asks the people why they are complaining (verse 27).  Then we have a popular litany beginning in verse twenty-eight in which God asserts God’s power and authority.  You, or someone you know, may be going through some difficulties in life.  If so, it is good for us to reflect upon, or share, these powerful truths: God is the everlasting creator; God never grows weary; God desires to give each of us strength for our days.  Most importantly for those who are facing difficulties in life, God tells us that those who keep their hope in God will find their strength renewed.  Indeed, they will become stronger than before!

This is Good News for each of us, and great news to share with others.  Let’s share this good news today! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Give Thanks to The Lord!

Psalm 136:1 – Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.

4 Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
His faithful love endures forever.
5 Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.
6 Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.
7 Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.
8 the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.
9 and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever. (NLT)

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday.  In our country, as in others, the original thanksgiving observances were harvest festivals.  Many pilgrims of Plymouth Colony had already succumbed to disease and starvation.  Indeed, the colony lost 45 of the 102 settlers during their first winter.  Given the circumstance, I imagine that the feeling of thankfulness and gratitude must have been felt deeply by those of Plymouth Colony, for without a harvest many more would most likely have starved.  Very few of us, if any, have or ever will know of extreme hunger, much less starvation.  Living with plenty has a way of moving us away from a spirit of thankfulness, and we begin to take things for granted.

It is good for a nation to pause and give thanks.  Even though our nation is experiencing what we call shortages of various goods, we live with plenty.  While it is good for a nation to give thanks, as Christians we should seek to live thankfully every day.  Indeed, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul told them to be careful in how they lived.  He then told them: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). 

Like those Christians in Ephesus long ago, we should be careful in how we live.  Let us start our days by giving thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Does Prayer Work?

Luke 11:1 – One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”(NIV)

As a pastor, I frequently field questions about prayer.  Some of the most frequent questions about prayer are: “If God knows everything, then why pray? “Does prayer really work?”  The answer to the first questions is fairly simple, while the answer to the second question is a little more complex.

Why Pray?  We should be people of prayer because Jesus taught us to pray.  Jesus taught us to not just pray a little bit, but to pray fervently.  And why wouldn’t we pray when we are told that for everyone who asks receives.

Does prayer really work?  My answer to this question would be: “It depends.”  You may be surprised to that answer, but think about it.  If someone prays that their favorite team would win the big game, are we to think that God will answer that prayer?  Will the winner of the game depend upon which team has the most people praying for a win?  To answer the question of whether or not prayer really works, we need to look at the prayer that Jesus taught us.  It’s quite simple, yet quite profound.

First, we address God in a reverent manner: “Father, hallowed be your name.” This keeps us focused on God, who we are and who God is. 

The next line of the prayer keeps us focused on God’s purpose for us, and for others: “your kingdom come.”  Kingdom life begins when we live under the authority of Jesus Christ.  Even though we will not experience the fullness of the kingdom until we meet Jesus face to face, we seek the kingdom now.  Kingdom life directs our life, our thoughts, our words and our actions. 

Next, we pray for our needs: “Give us each day our daily bread.”  I wonder how often our prayers for ourselves goes far beyond our true needs. 

Next, whenever we pray, we should pray for forgiveness: “Forgive us our sins.”  God is quick to forgive, but we must confess our sins to God in order to receive God’s forgiveness.  Likewise, our prayers for forgiveness should remind us of our need to forgive others: “for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”  A forgiving spirit should be our goal as Christians. 

Finally, we pray that God would direct our every word and action: “And lead us not into temptation.”

Does pray work?  Yes it does, when we pray for the right things.  Praying for the right things keeps us focused on God’s will for the world, and for ourselves.  Let’s be people of prayer, trusting that God will answer. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Enriching The Lives of Others

1 Thessalonians 5:12 –  Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. 13 Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.  14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.  15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. (NLT)

A great truth of the Bible is that God intends for us to live in community with others.  God does not want us to keep to ourselves.  Some of us may have a wider circle of friends and acquaintances than others, but we all should be people who live in relationships with others. 

Today’s reading comes from the closing verses of Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, and is rich with practical teachings on living a Christian life, and in particular, living our life in relationship with others.

First, Paul encourages Christians to honor their spiritual leaders, and to live peacefully with one another.  This is great advice for all churches!  He then goes on to write that we have an obligation to one another in the church.  This is something that I, as a pastor, try to stress to our church members.  It is the duty of the members to care for one another.  Paul tells us that we should warn those who are lazy – referring to those who are not living up to Christian standards.  Likewise, we are to encourage those who are finding it difficult to make a stand for Christ (the timid).  We are to be patient with everyone, and do good to all people. 

Paul then writes some things that appear to be more personal (be joyful, pray, be thankful).  These things are personal, but as people who live in community with others, these are way to witness.  Our attitude is contagious, and we should be people who want others to see – and know – the joy that Christ has put within us. 

Wherever you find yourself today, remember that God has put you there to be a light to the world.  Let’s live today enriching the lives of those around us. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Imitators or Imposters?

1 Thessalonians 1:1 – Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (NIV)

Today’s reading comes from the opening verses of Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica.  Paul had great success as a church planter in Thessalonica, and this letter was written as a follow up sometime around the year 52.  There are two great lessons to be learned from these opening verses, and I would like to look at a couple of those today. 

First, the Christians in Thessalonica became imitators of not only those who preached the Gospel, but of Jesus (verses 6).  There is no higher calling in the life of a Christian than to be an imitator of Jesus.  The Apostle John, in 3 John 1:11, warns us not to imitate the things of this world.  As we seek to live out our daily lives, let our goal be to imitate the characteristics we find modeled throughout the life of Jesus. 

Secondly, Paul writes that the Christians in Thessalonica became a model to all believers (verse 7).  When we imitate Jesus, our example will be noticed.  Paul tells them that the Lord’s message rang out from them (verse 8).  A good question for us to ask ourselves daily is this: What message is ringing out from our lives?  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord is ringing out a message.  That message may be a passive message, or one of indifference to the things of Jesus.  Our message should be that we take Jesus seriously, and that we believe not only in the salvation that Jesus offers, but in the life he calls us to live. 

Today, let the great message of love and peace ring out from our lives, so that the world may see!

Posted by Ramón Torres

 

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