365 Days of Grace From God's Word

Month: February 2022

Shine A Light

Luke 11:33 – “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.” (NIV) 

 What is a Christian?  Is it believing that Jesus is God’s son?  Is it believing that Jesus died for our sins?  It certainly is those things, but it’s more.  When I receive someone into church membership, I not only ask them if they trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior, but I also ask them if they promise to serve Jesus as their Lord.  This is a part of Christianity that many overlook. 

Being a Christian is living the life that our Lord commands us to live.  In today’s reading we have some directions from Jesus as to how it is that we are live our life.  This short passage has three critical parts.

First, there is a practical lesson about lamps: “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.”  Lamps have a purpose, and that is to illumine the area around the lamp.  It would be foolish to light a lamp (or turn one on), and then cover it up.  It would be defeating the very purpose of the lamp. 

The second part of this passage is: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”  This reminds me of the line from the children’s song that goes, “O be careful little eyes what you see.”   What we see, and what we experience, will help to determine whether our spiritual life is healthy.  If we take in as much of God’s light as we can (through Scripture, worship, Christian fellowship, prayer), our whole body will be filled with light.  When we ignore these things, darkness soon fills our life.

Third, if we are careful with what we see and take in, then we will be like a lamp, shinning for others to see God’s light: “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”  Other people, who may not have God’s light within them, will see God’s light illuminating through us.  Just as we are drawn to a light when all around us is dark, those who live in darkness are often drawn to those whose lives shine God’s light. 

Jesus, our Lord, wants those in darkness to be drawn to him through his disciples.  Remember, covering a lamp would be defeating the very purpose of the lamp.  Likewise, not doing what we can to have the light of God shining from within us is defeating the very purpose of the Church, the Body of Christ.  Let’s let our light shine! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

The Snare Is Broken

Psalm 124:1 – If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. (NIV)

When I read Psalm 124, several images come to my mind.  Certainly, the psalm conjures up mental pictures of floods and raging waters, but the image that grabs my attention is a picture of a bird escaping a fowler’s snare.  This image is striking because when I read this psalm, I think in terms of my own life.  I think of times when I felt like a bird in a snare, trapped with no help of escape. However, I also think of the times when I knew that it was only by God’s grace and presence that I was able to move through those difficult times.

The psalm begins with an affirmation of faith – if it hadn’t been for the Lord, we never would have made it.  I think it’s good for us all to sit back for a moment and make this same affirmation of faith.

When I think in terms of God’s larger picture, there is another image that comes to my mind.  I know that the power of sin is the greatest evil I will ever face.  We are all sinners, and the power of sin separates us from God.  When I read this psalm, I see sin as the great snare that is written about in verse seven.  Left on our own, we are defenseless against this great snare.  Thanks be to God for Jesus our Christ!  Without Jesus, we would never make it.  The snare has been broken, and we have escaped!  This is Good News, and that’s Good Stuff!

Posted by Ramón Torres

Seeking What is Lost

Luke 15:1 – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (NIV)

Scandalous behavior!  That’s really what it was.  Jesus was intentionally hanging out with people who were deemed to be sinners in the eyes of the religious.  To those who sought to live by religious laws, this was unacceptable behavior.  For many Christians today, it is still unacceptable behavior.  

Jesus responds to their shock and outrage by telling parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin.  The application is clear – if we want what is lost to be found, we must seek out what is lost.  The lost among us will not find Jesus if we do not seek them out and show them Jesus.  While we can, and should, rejoice over crowds in religious services, we ought to be actively seeking those without a saving relationship with Jesus.  Through these parables, Jesus asks us: How can we seek the lost and show them Jesus if we choose not to associate with them?  How can we reach the lost if we judge them? 

Paul addressed this issue of judging nonbelievers in his first letter to the Corinthians.  He made it clear that we should do what we can to hold our Christian brothers and sisters accountable for their actions, but speaking of those without a relationship with Jesus he wrote: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people —  not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).  Speaking of those without a relationship with Jesus, Paul added in verse twelve of that same passage: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”

Jesus certainly preached repentance, but he had to establish relationships with the lost before he could get to repentance.  We should do the same.  If we approach the lost with judgment, we will push them away before we can establish a relationship with them and share the Gospel.

Let us not be quick to judge those without a saving relationship with Jesus.  Like Jesus taught us, let us seek the lost. 

Posted by Ramón Torres

Human Approval

John 12:37 – Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.  42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (NIV)

When we think of the term ‘peer pressure’, we usually think of teenagers and the things they do to ‘fit in’.  Peer pressure is not limited to the young! We all face peer pressure.  We face peer pressure because we want others to accept us.  No one wants to be disliked or rejected, and so we often choose our words carefully so as not to upset others.  Indeed, we should choose our words carefully, and we should try to get along with others, but there is a line we must not cross. When we cross that line, we have compromised our belief that Jesus as our Lord. 

In today’s reading, we are told that some of the Jewish leaders believed in Jesus, but were fearful of what others would say.  We are told in verse forty-three that they loved human praise. Are there times when we love human praise more than we love Jesus? Or, are there times we seek human approval?  Are there times when we go along with the off color jokes instead of speaking up because we fear what others may think of us?  Are there times when we join in the gossip so that we can be included in the conversation?  Are there times when we do not stand upon what we know is right because we ‘love human praise’?  When we act in these ways, we have given into peer pressure, and have compromised our belief that Jesus is our Lord. 

Jesus is our ‘Lord and Savior’.  It’s relatively easy to live with Jesus as our Savior.  A Savior saves us from the power of sin, but a Lord calls for us to live differently than the rest of the world.  It’s difficult, at times, to live as if Jesus is our Lord.  Today, let’s not give into peer pressure.  Let’s affirm by word and action that Jesus is our Lord! 

Posted by Ramón Torres

 

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