365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Month: January 2022

Building Bigger Barns?

Luke 12:13 – Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (NLT)   

During the past several decades, one particular industry has sustained rapid growth regardless of the economic conditions.  Even when the economy has sustained losses, this industry grew.  What is this industry?  Self Storage units.  In just that past four years, the amount spent on self storage construction grew from one billion to five billion!  When one considers that the annual revenue in the United States from self storage units is close to forty billion per year, not a bad investment. Today there are over 60,000 self storage units in the United States.  It seems as if we don’t necessarily need bigger barns, but we sure do need more space to store all of our stuff.

How much stuff is enough?  I wonder if there might be some sort of correlation between the rise of self storage units and rise of various social ills.  Perhaps not, for humanity has always suffered from their fallen nature, but I do believe that the rise in self storage units paints a picture of a society focused on having more. 

In today’s reading, Jesus tells us the cost of staying focused on having more – we lose focus on God and upon godly things.  Having stuff is not a sin, valuing our stuff more than we value a rich relationship with God is sin.  Jesus teaches us that nurturing our relationship with God should be our first priority.  In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us that when we seek God’s kingdom first, all the rest will be given to us.  Does this mean we will have an abundance of stuff if we seek God first?  No, it means we will be satisfied with what we have when we seek God first. 

Let’s strive for a rich relationship with God, and the rest will take care of itself.

Posted by Ramón Torres

Religious Rules

Luke 6:1 – One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. (NIV)

In today’s reading, Jesus has once again angered the Pharisee’s, who I like to call the ‘good church people’.  I don’t call them that as a slam on church people – hey, I like to think that I am one!  I call them good church people because they were dedicated to their religion. I have to wonder, however, just how dedicated they were to God. 

Religious rules often get observed for no other reason than, “we’ve always done it that way.”  Let me give an example found in our own Methodist history.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed in frequent communion.  The first Methodist’s observed communion at least once a week, and often more.  Wesley also believed in having ordained clergy officiate at communion.  During the early years of the American frontier, ordained clergy were few and far between.  As a result, some churches would only observe communion once a month, and most only once a quarter, depending upon when an ordained clergy (called a Circuit Rider) could get to their church.  Today, we have no shortage of ordained clergy, but many United Methodists actually protest when they have frequent communion.  Why? Because that’s not the way they have done it.  They have forgotten what communion is all about, and forgotten why their church observes it so infrequently.

In the reading above, Jesus seems to break the letter of the Sabbath law, but when we consider what the Sabbath is all about – reconnecting with God – we find that he has not broken the spirit of the law.  Religious rules and laws are given to strengthen our relationship with God.  When we forget the spirit of the law, we are only keeping rules, and nothing more.

Let’s remember the spirit of the religious rules our faith communities keep.  Let us observe the spirit of such rules in our ongoing effort to draw closer to God.

Posted by Ramón Torres

Let Justice Roll on Like a River

Today many in our nation are pausing to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. day.  Dr. King’s most often quoted scripture verse was from Amos 5:24, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”   I’d like to consider the passage from which this verse is found. 

Amos 5:21 – I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!

If we believe, and we should, that as a prophet Amos was speaking for God, consider the weight of these words. The people were being told that their worship was offensive to God. They were being told that their songs of praise were nothing but noise to God!  That is some powerful preaching!  It is no wonder that Amos was run out of the Northern Kingdom by King Jeroboam II. 

The message of Amos, however, is as timely today as it was centuries ago.  Through Amos, God is telling us that what God wants from us is a life that is changed.  God is not saying that our hymns and worship are bad, but they are offensive to God if our lives are not reflecting the God that we worship. 

The people to whom Amos originally preached lived in a desert world.  Waters flowed for only a brief time every year.  A river and a never-failing stream are bodies of water that would flow year-round.  When Amos said, let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream, God was telling the people that God doesn’t want a part time commitment to godliness.  God wants our lives changed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. 

As we pause this day to remember our country’s struggle with civil rights, let’s consider our own lives.  Do our lives reflect the God that we worship?  Let us strive this day and every day to let justice and righteousness never fail in our lives. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Time For A New Song

Isaiah 42:8 – “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”

10 Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
you islands, and all who live in them.
11 Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices;
let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.
Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
let them shout from the mountaintops.

12 Let them give glory to the Lord
and proclaim his praise in the islands.
13 The Lord will march out like a champion,
like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;
with a shout he will raise the battle cry
and will triumph over his enemies. (NIV)

Today’s reading comes from one of my favorite prophets, Isaiah.  I have many favorite verses that come from this ancient prophet, and today’s reading includes one: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (verse 10).  I find this verse to be a challenge and a promise.  First, it’s a challenge because let’s face it, sometimes we get stuck in a rut, and singing a new song – a song of hope, a song of promise – is not really what we fell like doing.  We should note, God doesn’t ask us if we feel like singing a new song, God commands that we sing a new song!  Due to some of the events of life that we all face, we must begin each day singing a new song. 

I find verse ten to be a promise, as well.  Where is the promise?  We look to verse nine: “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”  It is in response to those former things, and looking to the future, that God tells the people to sing a new song.  Isaiah was ministering to the Babylonian exiles.  Those folks didn’t really see much chance of anything changing, but God was already working.  Because God was already at work, changing things that they could not yet see, God tells them to ‘change their tune!’  What’s done is done, God seems to be saying, and now they were told to prepare for something new.  I’m fairly certain they did not have any idea what that might be, but they were told to sing a new song in preparation for what God was going to do. 

When we find ourselves in a place in our lives where we don’t see anything changing, let’s remember God’s promise – what is done is done, and God is already at work, even if we don’t see it at the present time. 

Today, let’s sing a new song!

Posted by Ramón Torres

Looking Forward

It’s here!  A new year full of possibility and opportunity.  Twelve months.  Fifty-two weeks.  Three hundred and sixty five days.  Eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours.  Well, you get the picture.  We have a strange relationship with each new year.  We all feel compelled to make some changes in our lives, which is not a bad thing, yet we are often held back by our failures from the past.  Sometimes we make a resolution to change, but since we failed at making significant changes in the past, we figure there is no use in trying again.

If this depicts your struggle with resolutions, I would ask you to reflect upon the following Scripture verse: “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) It’s important to note that Paul does not simply say to look forward to achieving the goal, but to first forget the past.  To press forward, we must let go of the things from the past that hold us back from moving forward.  That does not mean that we cannot learn from the past, but we should not dwell on the past.  We cannot let the past paralyze us with fear or guilt.

Jesus said: “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)  When we focus on our past, we begin to believe that what we have been is what we will always be.  The Bible promises us that with God the opposite is true!  Indeed, consider 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

I would encourage you to make resolutions that would glorify God.  Sure, that could mean reading your Bible more, but it could mean many things: improving a relationship; furthering your education; taking control of health issues; and the list could go on and on.  My point is this, as Christians we should always seek to glorify God.  Indeed, we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

So, make plans to improve yourself, and look forward to it!

Happy New Year!

Posted by Ramón Torres

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