Archive for the ‘Acts’ Category

December 21st, 2015

The Trajectory of the Gospel

“It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.” Acts 28:8 (ESV)

The gospel is a message of enormous significance on a number of levels. The gospel is certainly about the actions of Christ, providing a means by which we as sinners can be reconciled to God, the Father, worshiping Him as we were created to do, but it is also concerned with much more than simply the means of salvation. The gospel is further concerned with where such an act, i.e. Christ’s resurrection, will take all of creation. The gospel is about the restoration of all things! As Paul himself writes in Ephesians 1:9-10, the gospel is about the Lord “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (ESV).

Paul wasn’t just concerned with proclamation; no, he was concerned about incarnation. He wanted the gospel to take up root in him, so that as with Christ the Word of God could dwell among all the peoples of the earth. He was concerned with poverty. He was concerned with sickness. He was concerned with every effect of the fall, seeing their eradication as further evidence of Christ’s victory over all sin.

You and I have the same ministry. We are called to proclaim first, yes, as Christ’s witnesses but we are also called to care. We are called to minister to the least of these as if we were ministering to Jesus Himself. Are you fully embodying the gospel? Or are you only partially concerned with its progression? We must be about telling people about Jesus, but we should also be concerned with showing them about the victory we have in Him.

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, December 21st, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Gospel, Restoration.
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December 20th, 2015

Our God Raises the Dead

“Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” Acts 26:8 (ESV)

The Resurrection of Christ is the most important event in all of human history, in that it secures our hope in a restored future. Jesus’ rising from the dead clearly displays for us the possibilities for all of creation, which will likewise pass away and be made new as Christ Himself was made new. There will be a new heaven; there will be a new earth. There will be a new Jerusalem, and we all, who are in Christ, will be made new, joining together with all of creation in its redeemed form to eternally worship our merciful and gracious God.

If there is no resurrection, then none of this is possible, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection is the foretaste of that which is to come. Certainly, such an event is possible. Some would say that it is not, and therefore dismiss Christianity as a whole, seeing its linchpin teaching as unreasonable. But given our belief about God, that He is the greatest possible being and the initiator of creation, then certainly it is within His power to breathe life back into that which is dead. Is a resurrection really that hard to accept, if God is Who He says He is in Scripture?

Do not shrink away from the teaching of Christ’s resurrection, fellow Christian. Despite what modern conceptions may say, we cannot afford to give way on this subject, for in it rests our entire system of belief. There is no demythologizing that which is central to our belief. God is omnipotent and our Creator. He is certainly able to raise the dead, and by raising Christ, He has secured for us an everlasting hope.

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Sunday, December 20th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Omnipotence, Resurrection.
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December 19th, 2015

Declare the Whole Counsel of God

“…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:27 (ESV)

The Ephesian Church was in danger. Paul speaks to the elders of the church and suggests to them that when he leaves, wolves will enter and try to devour the church. Paul’s concern, though, is limited, knowing that he has done all he can to prepare them by preaching to them the full counsel of God’s word. He did not choose to leave portions out, thinking that they would be too hard for them to digest or handle. No, he boldly proclaimed all of Scripture, knowing that even the hard truths were necessary for this church’s success.

In America today, we face similar dangers as that of the Ephesian Church, yet many of our leaders have shied away from preaching the full counsel of God, choosing instead to focus on the more acceptable aspects of Scripture. The problem, though, that arises when you only teach a partial gospel is that when difficult times come or false teaching is presented, the people do not know how to respond and are likely either defeated or led astray. Certainly no pastor intends for this to happen, but when parts of God’s Word and, thus, His character are ignored, the Church is ill-prepared to accomplish the purpose God has set before it.

My friends, may we commit to be a people who teach the full counsel of God. May we not shy away from topics such as God’s wrath and His coming judgment even as we proclaim His sacrificial love. May we teach people how to be better citizens or our planet, yes, but may we be more concerned with teaching them how to embody the fullness of Christ and the sacrifice such embodiment demands. God revealed Himself fully in His Word; who are we to question which aspects of Him are acceptable and which are not?

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, December 19th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, God's Word, Scripture.
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December 5th, 2015

A Community of Confession

“Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.” Acts 19:18 (ESV)

The message of the gospel is essentially a great equalizer, calling us all to the recognition that we, as is true with every single man or woman that has ever existed, are by nature flawed. We give our affection and worship to created things that were meant to direct us toward the only pure object of worship, God. That sinfulness in our life is ever-present and must be uprooted in order for the grace inherent to the gospel to take its place and fulfill us as we were meant to be fulfilled.

We see this practice of confession in repentance in Luke’s account of the rebuke of the sons of Sceva. Having been beaten up by the demonic force they were trying to expel, their power was proven to be exponentially inferior to that of Christ and His disciples, calling many who had practiced magical arts to renounce both the practice of sorcery and any item attached to it. They wanted to both acknowledge their failure and walk forward in grace.

This should be the practice of every believer. Why are we so afraid to confess our failures? We all have them. We all have fallen short of the glory of God, and yet it seems that every time we gather together as the Church we pretend those truths aren’t taught in the Bible, preferring to allow people to see us we want to be seen rather than how we really are. The danger is, though, that if we do not confess our sin and burn the remnants of it, it will linger and likely take us captive once again.

Test the gospel today, dear friend. Find a trustworthy friend or spiritual adviser and get that mess out of you, allowing them to help you burn all your instruments of sin and step back on the path of righteousness. Everybody knows you are a sinner; that’s why Christ’s sacrifice was necessary.

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, December 5th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Confession, Repentance.
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December 3rd, 2015

Know Your Culture

“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.’” Acts 17:22-23 (ESV)

We are called to be evangelists, as followers of Christ, proclaiming the “good news” wherever an opportunity arises. The nature of this work changes in different environments and cultures as the perceived needs that the gospel speaks to are different. For instance, the way you would present the gospel in the middle of an impoverished, third-world country may be different from the way you would present the gospel to a professor on the campus of Oxford. I am not saying here that the message changes from place to place, by no means! The cross of Christ and His subsequent resurrection always should form the center of our message, but how that message of hope impacts us as individuals certainly varies within cultures. We are speaking here of relevance.

Paul took this principle of relevance to heart in his missionary journeys, as evidenced in his encounter with the people of Athens in Acts 17. Paul studied the culture of Athens. He knew the “Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21 ESV). He also knew that the Greeks prided themselves on their ability to discuss at length matters of philosophy and religion. So, as he begins sharing the gospel on the Areopagus, Paul recognizes his need to speak into the particular culture of Athens while also presenting a distinct message about Christ. He does so by appealing to their inherent search for truth and their admittance that there may be an “unknown god” of which they had not been fully informed.

How well do you know your culture? Do you know how the gospel speaks into the generation coming after you? Do you know what areas of need your neighbors have for the gospel? Do you know fully how the gospel speaks into your life? Do the work of an evangelist today and see the beauty of the gospel as it comes alive in different environments to bring glory to the one, true God!

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Culture, Evangelism.
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November 30th, 2015

Joy is Bigger Than Circumstance

“And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…” Acts 16:23-25 (ESV)

How you respond to adversity matters. It matters because it communicates strongly about the source of your joy and contentment. Paul and Silas had been stripped, beaten, and thrown into prison. Then, they had been placed into stocks, likely stretching their legs out to the point where it popped their hips out of joint. They were undoubtedly in a tremendous amount of pain, not to mention the smells of a prison with no indoor plumbing.

While many of us would have responded to this with complaining, Paul and Silas respond with worship. Why would they do this? How could they respond in this way? They were able to worship in the midst of the worst circumstances because they had a holy perspective. They had already set their minds on heavenly things and knew that the Lord could use even this circumstance for His glory, which of course He did by allowing Paul and Silas to lead their jailer to the Lord. Imagine if they had complained or if they had run when they had the chance. This jailer likely would have committed suicide and the rest of the prison would have been no different. Yet, because of their joy being bigger than their circumstance, lives were genuinely changed.

Is your joy rooted in such a heavenly perspective? Are you fully satisfied by Christ, so that no circumstance can rob you of your need to worship? If not, spend some time this morning reflecting on what things you are more afraid of losing than your ability to praise. Chances are those things have an improper place in your life and need to be lost anyway.

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, November 30th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Circumstances, Joy.
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November 28th, 2015

Would You Send Your Best?

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:2-3 (ESV)

The church at Antioch was blessed, wouldn’t you say? They had some incredible leaders, serving as prophets and teachers, not the least of which were Barnabas and Saul, also called “Paul.” The church was growing and preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; they were actively building the Kingdom of God! In the midst of their growth, though, an interesting declaration comes from the Lord, in which He tells Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a new work, one that will take them away from their church.

For many of us today, this kind of calling would have induced panic. “Why would the Lord take our best men?” “We need Paul/Saul and Barnabas to continue to grow; we can’t do it without them.” But the church in Antioch made no such declarations. Instead, they fasted and prayed over these men, laid hands on them, and sent them out.

Why was the church in Antioch so willing to do this? They sent out their best leaders because they had a larger view of the Kingdom of God. They knew that their growth wasn’t dependent on any one man but rather on the favor and power of the Spirit at work within them. Further, if the Lord explicitly called these men out and they didn’t send them, surely the favor of God would leave them in their disobedience.

May we be like the church in Antioch! May we recognize that our devotion is not to a man but rather to the Lord, and may we be willing to commission our best men to be sent out for the good of the gospel, if the Lord so commands. We must be willing to sacrifice our best and trust in the Lord’s greater provision, as that is truly the heart of the message of Jesus displayed beautifully by the church at Antioch.

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, November 28th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Sacrifice, Send.
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November 27th, 2015

The Gospel is for All People

“‘If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?’ When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” Acts 11:18-19 (ESV)

We can easily be entrapped by our context. We assume, at least in the way that we act, that the world is everywhere as it is where we are and that people, generally, are the same as well. Within this assumption lies an ember of pride, suggesting that we are the center of the universe and everything that occurs is for our benefit. This is the nature of the self, to think the world is concerned with me above all else. The gospel must challenge that assumption within us, however. We are not more special than any other person God created, for He created us equal. We all have the same need of Him, both for satisfaction and salvation. We must not assume, as the early Jewish leaders of the Church, that the gospel is reserved for us alone; rather, we must give our lives to the realization that the gospel is for all people and all people need to hear it.

Are you engaging this tendency to consider yourself greater than the rest of humanity? How so? Are you actively seeking out friendships with people that are different than you? Are you descending or ascending the socioeconomic status ladder to show the equality of the gospel? Are you building relationships with nationals in other countries who are sacrificing to build the Kingdom of God in their context? Otherwise, you may say you believe that the gospel is for all people, but are you truly evidencing your belief in action?

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Friday, November 27th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Diversity, Gospel.
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November 26th, 2015

What God Has Made Clean

“And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’ And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’” Acts 10:13-15 (ESV)

Is there a more glorious statement in all the New Testament than that spoken by the Lord to Peter in Acts 10? As Peter responds out of a sincere religious devotion regarding that which is regarded as ritually unclean, the Lord responds with a new vision of ritual purity. No longer is our cleanliness concerned with exterior things polluting us in the interior; rather,  now our purity is seen from the inside out. The Lord through the sacrifice of Christ now can proclaim us clean, not from any ritual effort of our own but precisely because of the sufficient work of Jesus!

This is good news. We don’t have to pick and choose what we eat nor which livestock to sacrifice, for the completed ministry of Christ has given us the opportunity, once seen as unclean, to now be proclaimed clean! We can have fellowship with the Lord. We can be free from a future of wrath and judgment. We can have abundant life both here and for all of eternity all because God has proclaimed us clean.

Now there are some, perhaps, that still want to proclaim you as unclean, whether because of some Pharisaical pride or the inability to see past your past. Remember, though, that they do not have the final say. If you have repented of your sin and submitted your life to the Lordship of Christ, your past no longer defines you nor does your lineage, for the gospel is sufficient for all! Give thanks today, dear friend, that you have been made clean!

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Thursday, November 26th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Purity, Ritual Purity.
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November 25th, 2015

The Proper Response to Rebuke

“‘Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.’ And Simon answered, ‘Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.’” Acts 8:22-24 (ESV)

Simon was a new believer. To this point in his life, he had been the envy of many men, drawing crowds to marvel at his magic. Yet, when he heard the message of Phillip, he was compelled by the gospel of Jesus Christ and repented. His repentance, though, did not make him perfect, for when he saw the power of Peter and John as they laid hands upon those who desired to receive the Holy Spirit, he desired the same type of power for himself. He wanted the same ability to impress a crowd as before, just with a different source of wonder. Peter immediately rebukes Simon’s attempt to buy their power and favor, suggesting that such a gift was only for the pure in heart. His words were true and direct, and Simon heard them and repented yet again.

Just because we have given our lives to Christ does not mean that we have already attained perfection. In fact, we must guard against the comforts of the flesh taking up root once again in our hearts. As believers, may we not look at Christianity as a new way to get the same things we have always wanted. Rather, let us see it for the gift it is and passionately pursue it for the sake of God’s glory rather than our own. Further, may we seek to have people in our lives to speak hard truth over us when we do begin to forsake the name of the Lord for our own.

Do you have someone in your life that can speak tough truth to you? Do you respond as Simon did here? Remember, the goal for us until Christ returns is progress; we seek perfection but only in as much as it is rooted in that of Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Mobilization Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Abiding in Christ, Accountability, Acts, Truth.
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