Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

December 1st, 2015

A Different Gospel

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–” Galatians 1:6 (ESV)

Paul’s epistle to the people of Galatia has a very different beginning than his other epistles. Normally, there is a section of commendation in which Paul encourages the church in its faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here, however, Paul includes no section of thanksgiving, preferring instead to immediately address a dangerous issue both to the church in Galatia and the advance of the gospel as a whole.

The Galatians found themselves in the midst of a familiar struggle in the early formation of the New Testament people, disagreeing about the place of traditional Judaism in the face of this new theology rooted in the grace of Christ. This disagreement was so profound that it was causing division and motivating some, so-called “Judaizers,” to demand Gentile converts to be circumcised in order to be considered Christians. This act of man to secure salvation, however, is inherently opposed to the message of the gospel that Paul proclaimed. Salvation is entirely an act of God; man has no part in the securing of salvation, as he would then be able to share in the glory that is both God’s alone and the primary motivation for the act of the gospel in the first place. To say, then, that someone must perform a ritual in order to add to Christ’s salvation makes the gospel indifferent news rather than good news, for truly nothing has changed.

We must guard against adding to the message of grace inherent to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Either it is entirely a work of the Lord or it is not. Paul’s concern is legitimate, for when we add to the simplicity of salvation by grace through faith, we truly change the central message of the New Testament, for earned salvation is inherently impossible, as we could never earn enough to satisfy the wrath of God. Rejoice in the grace given by the Lord through Jesus and seek to work in response to that grace rather than participate in securing it.

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Galatians, Gospel, Grace.
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November 1st, 2015

The Distraction of Serving

“But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:40-42 (ESV)

Serving should be the natural response of someone who has been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself came to serve and to build a Kingdom that was others focused, as explicitly expressed in the “Sermon on the Mount” and various other teachings of Jesus. There is a potential danger, however, in this proclivity toward service. If we are not careful, we can begin to fall back into our “pre-gospel” understandings of how we relate to God and once again subconsciously use service as a way to gain His favor. You see, we like activity and we like busyness, because both of these things make us feel like we are contributing to the product. But the gospel expressly states that you and I cannot help ourselves and that salvation and the maintenance of salvation are entirely an act of the Spirit of God, enabled by the sacrifice of Christ.

We must, then, be careful in the midst of our serving to remember the reason we serve. We do not serve to gain, we serve because of what we have already gained in Christ. Further, in light of that realization, we must remember to sit and worship this Christ, Who has given us so much! There is a time for service, yes, but there is also a time for meditation. We must have balance, a balance that only comes by a healthy understanding of grace as exemplified in the good news 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 Sunday, November 1st, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Grace, Luke, Serving.
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September 23rd, 2015

The Wicked Act Wickedly

“Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” Daniel 12:10 (ESV)

The book of Daniel, at least in the 2nd, more apocalyptic part, seeks to affirm in the people of God both at the time of writing and today the sovereignty of  God in difficult circumstances. For those who are righteous, who seek out the activity of God in the events of human history, the hand of God will be evidenced. Even when seemingly difficult to see, we as the people of God must trust that He is there and that He is at work. The unrighteous, or wicked in this case, however, do not have the luxury of acknowledging the hand of God in difficult circumstances because they do not readily acknowledge Him in any circumstance. They choose to seek their own path and in so doing bring destruction upon themselves, which is truly all they know how to do.

As the people of God, we must live in this tension of knowledge today. On the one hand, we are aware of God’s blessing, our eyes having been opened by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and seek to find that blessing in any circumstance. The possible frustration for us, however, is found in those who do not know the Lord who act in wicked ways, as their nature leads them to do. We may want to force them into seeing the Lord through loud preaching or “Bible brow-beating,” but we must not! We must remember that the wicked act wickedly in any circumstance because they do not know the hope of Christ. We must not presume upon the ungoldy godliness. Rather, we must continue to proclaim the gospel and let the transforming work of the Holy Spirit lead them to a place where the revelation of God gives them hope and calls them to obedience. May we not forget as God’s people to be a gracious people to those who do not know Him, for we were once blinded to the beauty of our Lord.

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, September 23rd, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Daniel, Grace, Wicked.
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July 14th, 2015

Second Chances

“And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.” Jonah 2:10 (ESV)

Where would you be if God were not the God of second chances? You would be without hope and without a future. God will not only pursue you with His redeeming love, but He also gives you a second chance to obey His will.

The fish obeyed God in the midst of Jonah’s rebellion. God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry ground. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time (Jonah 3:1). After a three day aquatic experience of prayer in the belly of the fish, Jonah was now hurled onto the beach for a second chance to obey God’s way. The wonderful news is that Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3).

Jonah responded to God the first time by saying, “Lord, here I am, send someone else!” The second time, Jonah responded by saying, “Lord, here I am, send me!” On the Ship Jonah was singing, “I did it my way!” Inside the Fish Jonah was singing, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” Jonah came to know God as the God of second chances. Jonah learned a valuable lesson about obeying God.

Ponder the grace of God in your own life. Think through the decisions you have made over your lifetime to choose to go your own way. Do you remember how God pursued you with His redeeming love? God is so patient, so tender, and so persistent. He wants you to come to know Him by experience as the God of second chances.

Don’t give up. God has not given up on you. What God has begun in your life, He will bring to completion (Php 1:6). God always finishes what He starts.

Riding HIS Wave,

Stephen Trammell
Lead Pastor

Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephentrammell

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Grace, Jonah, Mercy.
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June 24th, 2015

The Danger of a Flattering Tongue

“A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28 ESV)

Jesus proclaims to us in John’s gospel that “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV). Truth is liberating, even if initially it doesn’t feel that way. Isn’t it better to know that you have a piece of lettuce stuck in your teeth than walking around naively smiling largely for the whole world to see your shame?

The problem for many of us in today’s culture is that we err on the side of self-esteem.  We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause them to doubt their self-worth by telling them the truth, even if it means that they build up a false reality in their own mind that will ultimately only lead to disappointment. (For an example of this, see every “try-out” episode of American Idol.)

We must heed the advice of the wise author of Proverbs and Jesus Himself; we must be truthful for the good of those we love.

Be mindful, however, that how we speak truth is also important. Certainly, truth is good, but we must also speak it in grace so that it can be received.  The truth isn’t always easy to hear and our defense-mechanisms as sinful men and women tend to explain away criticism that is spoken without love.  If, however, a hard truth is spoken with grace and compassion, you can take that information and hopefully become a better follower of Christ as a result.

The reality is that flattery is not reflective of the heart of Christ, because ultimately it encourages people to think of themselves as more than they are.  Truth reminds us that we are all works in progress seeking to emulate the perfect work of Christ.

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Grace, Proverbs, Truth.
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April 14th, 2015

Restorer of Life

“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’” Ruth 4:14-15 (ESV)

The story of Ruth is filled with God’s grace. Ruth became a widow after her mother-in-law had already become a widow. Instead of leaving Naomi to start a new life, Ruth chose to stay with her. Her loyalty and devotion to Naomi were demonstrated consistently.

  • “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’” Ruth 1:16 (ESV)
  • “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.” Ruth 4:13 (ESV)

God provided a kinsmen redeemer. The portrait of God’s grace continues in the first chapter of Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus where Ruth is named.

When you examine your story, you should be able to detect God’s grace. Consider how Jesus redeemed you and delivered you from the kingdom of darkness and placed you in the kingdom of light. Measure the grace God lavished on you to adopt you into His family and to fill you with His Spirit. You are a child of the living God! You are the apple of His eye and the masterpiece of His marvelous ministry of grace.

Riding HIS Wave,

Stephen Trammell
Lead Pastor
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephentrammell

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Grace, Naomi, Ruth.
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January 26th, 2015

God’s Grace

“And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.’” Genesis 21:8-10 (ESV)

Shortcuts in life can generate adverse consequences. Instead of waiting on God’s timing to produce offspring, Abraham and Sarah took a shortcut by utilizing Sarah’s servant, Hagar. “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” (Gen 16:2 ESV). Sarah got what she wanted, but later didn’t want what she got!

Abraham had to make the difficult decision to send Hagar and Ishmael on their way in order to keep marital peace with Sarah. Hagar finds herself in desperation and ready to give up her life and the life of her son, Ishmael, as they wander in the wilderness of Beersheba. She placed Ishmael under a bush anticipating his death as well as her own. Then God intervened:

  • “Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.” Gen 21:19-21 (ESV)

God’s grace always matches the desperation of our need. God has the final say even in the darkest of moments. When life gets messy, don’t hesitate to turn to the Master! God’s grace is more than enough!

Riding HIS Wave,

Stephen Trammell
Lead Pastor
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephentrammell

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, January 26th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Abraham, Compassion, Grace.
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November 16th, 2014

Authentic Christianity

“And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” Galatians 1:22-24 (ESV)

Think about someone you are acquainted with that would be characterized as being far from God. When you think of this person, maybe you wonder if he or she could ever change. Perhaps their perpetual behavior has made you consider them unreachable and indifferent to the grace of God.

Paul would have been considered someone like this. He was far from God and far from operating in the center of God’s will. Paul was deeply passionate, but his passion was misdirected and brought immeasurable harm to the followers of Jesus. Paul, known as Saul before his conversion, was steeped in legalism and sought to strip believers of their identity in Christ.

God revealed His grace through a powerful transformation of Paul’s life. Instead of persecuting the church, Paul began preaching the faith he once sought to destroy. Can you imagine the followers of Jesus contemplating the transformation of such an avid opponent to the movement of God such as Paul.

The churches of Judea praised God because of Paul. Though they did not know him personally, they praised God for the report of the life change Paul experienced. He became a portrait of God’s grace.

There’s no one beyond the reach of God’s grace. Even the vilest sinner can be radically saved and transformed by the power of God. The grace of God is sufficient to produce an authentic Christian out of anyone, including those far from God. What if you heard a report that gave testimony to the revolutionary transformation of the person you deem farthest from God? Pray for that to become a reality!

Drawing Near,

Stephen Trammell
Lead Pastor
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephentrammell

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Sunday, November 16th, 2014 at 1:00 am
Category Grace, Paul, Transformation.
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November 6th, 2014

Salvation That Works

“Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.” James 2:20-22 (ESV)

Your good works will not produce salvation. If only you could work your way to heaven! Then the challenge would be knowing how much work would be required by God for you to deserve entrance into heaven. How would you know if you have done enough to get there? What if you almost made it, but fell short by one good deed? Fortunately, God does not base your salvation on your works.

The Bible does not present a works salvation, but a salvation that works. You cannot work for your salvation, but your salvation will be evidenced by good works. In response to God’s gracious gift of salvation, you will want to express your appreciation to God through deeds of righteousness. Your deeds will not produce righteousness, but your righteousness in Christ will produce righteous deeds. Your “want to” changes as a result of your salvation.

  • “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21 (ESV)
  • “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” 1 John 3:24 (ESV)

Your salvation is a gift from God and is marked by a life of obedience.

Drawing Near,

Stephen Trammell
Lead Pastor
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephentrammell

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Thursday, November 6th, 2014 at 1:00 am
Category Faith, Grace, Works.
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November 3rd, 2014

Obvious Faith

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14 (ESV)

You can profess Christ and not possess Christ. What does it take for a person to be saved? Is it possible to have saving faith without deeds? Will my faith be demonstrated by my deeds? So many have embraced an “easy believism” theology which can produce a false sense of security. You can spend your entire life on the earth thinking that you are saved and in reality, be lost.

  • “‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’” Matt. 7:21 (ESV)
  • “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 1:10-11 (ESV)

Your eternal destiny is determined by how you respond to God’s offer of salvation found in Christ alone. Knowing about Christ is not sufficient for salvation. You must know Christ personally through faith in the completed work of Jesus on the cross.

Take inventory of your spiritual condition. Don’t rely on feelings. Trace your steps and identify the moment you had a life-changing experience. Clarify your conversion experience. When did you come to realize your sin and your need for God’s forgiveness? When you did acknowledge that Jesus is God’s Son and the only way to heaven? When did you receive God’s gift of eternal life?

Drawing Near,

Stephen Trammell
Lead Pastor
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephentrammell

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, November 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 am
Category Faith, Grace, Works.
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