Archive for September, 2012

September 30th, 2012

Embracing the Absolute Fast

“Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 ‘Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.’” Esther 4:15-16 (ESV)

Esther sensed the heaviness of the reality of her circumstances and was willing to invite her people to fast for her. She committed to a three day absolute fast along with them in preparation for standing before the king. Esther was willing to put her life at risk by standing before the king. Her boldness was fueled by the abiding connection she had with God through the spiritual discipline of fasting.

There are times when God will lead you into an absolute fast. This type of fast is characterized by abstaining from food and drink for a set amount of time. You have to be very careful with this kind of fast and make certain that God has called you to it. Going any extended length of time without water can be detrimental to your health. Be certain that God has called you into this type fast.

Fasting and prayer go together. You can pray and not fast, but you cannot fast without praying if it is to be a biblical fast. God calls you to a fast so that you can passionately pursue Him and place your dependency upon Him.

Do you need to hear from God concerning a situation you are facing? Are you in need of God’s wisdom and guidance? God may call you to an absolute fast to remove your dependency upon other things and to enable you to focus your attention on His provision.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 266: Esther 1-5)

Pursuing God,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Sunday, September 30th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Esther, Fasting, Obedience.
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September 29th, 2012

The Good Shepherd

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10 (ESV)

Repentance, returning in a state of brokenness over sin to the Lord, comes when we look upon the suffering of our good Shepherd and recognize our role in causing His pain. We have traded a Shepherd who cares for us and protects us for one who devours us and uses us for his own purposes. To rescue us, His wandering sheep, our Good Shepherd gave Himself completely, beaten and pierced for our iniquity. He became what we could not so that in Him we might be redeemed and restored. For His sheep, He was broken so we could be healed. For His sheep, He was condemned so we could find freedom. For His sheep, He was abandoned so we could find acceptance.

The incredible thing about these incredible truths is that they were motivated not by merit nor debt; rather, our Shepherd was motivated by grace and mercy! Simply because of the love that He had and has for His sheep did He lay down His life in such a profound way.

Today, consider the goodness of your Shepherd. Look upon His piercing and remember why it happened. Have you repented for your sin? Are you broken over how He was broken? Are you encouraged to know that in your repentance you will find grace and mercy?

We serve a Good Shepherd; may we respond as good sheep.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 265:  Zechariah 10-14)

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, September 29th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Good Shepherd, Repentance, Zechariah.
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September 28th, 2012

From Fasts to Favor

“And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’” Zechariah 7:8-10 (ESV)

The destruction of the temple was a defining moment for the people of God in that they saw their identity called into question. Without the temple, who were they? Undoubtedly, they asked themselves why God would allow such an heinous act to be performed (even though God had been explicit through the prophets of His holy motivation). In remembrance of the temple’s destruction and in hopes of the Lord forgiving their trespass, His people fasted and wept, especially in the fifth month, which was the month in which the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar some 70 years earlier. Now that they had returned, however, and were in the process of rebuilding, were they still required to mourn? Were they still required to fast?

The Lord answered their question with our present text. All of the punishment, all of the fasting, and all of the mourning were meant to engender in the people of God a right heart toward each other. The question was not whether or not the actions should continue but rather whether the actions had led to a change of heart.

“Are you prepared to think of others as greater than yourself? Are you willing to sacrifice for the name of the Lord? Are you willing to live with less so that others can have some?”

The Lord does not desire vain action in an attempt to win His favor, especially for us today, since our action could never compare to the glorious act of Christ on the cross. Our actions must be in response to a right heart within us, having been overwhelmed by His mercy and grace toward us. Why are you living morally today? Why are you praying and fasting? Are you doing it to gain His favor or in response to the favor He has already displayed?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 264:  Zechariah 5-9)

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Friday, September 28th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Favor, Heart, Zechariah.
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September 27th, 2012

“By My Spirit, Declares the Lord of Hosts!”

“Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.’” Zechariah 4:6 (ESV)

The people of God were discouraged. It had been nearly 20 years since their return and, yet, the temple was still only a foundation. Powerful opposition had prevented them from rebuilding the hallmark of their faith and a symbol of God’s favor and presence among them. Zechariah, though, comes with powerful visions and a powerful word to help them overcome the devastation they felt as a people who had failed to accomplish their mission. He says to them (in my own words), “Do not fear what mortal men can do to you. They only have conventional powers at their disposal. The Lord, however, has no need for those things because He has the Spirit, and the Spirit is mightier than any force this world has!” His encouragement to them was also a reminder that if God wants something accomplished, He will accomplish it in His own time and with His own power. His people must simply trust and exhibit faith in that power as they obediently follow His calling.

Have you ever been discouraged in your walk with the Lord? Have you ever felt like He called you to a task surrounded by opposition and that you failed? Do not let the enemy or any conventional wisdom dismantle your sure faith in God’s ability in the midst of your obedience. If God gave you a vision to accomplish something for His Kingdom, then faithfully walk forward in that vision regardless of the conflict, knowing that you have the Spirit of God behind you and He will not be stopped!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 263:  Zechariah 1-4)

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Power, Spirit of God, Zechariah.
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September 26th, 2012

Consider Your Ways!

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.” Haggai 1:7-9 (ESV)

We must not neglect the building of God’s house in building our own. Haggai prophesied during the return of Israel back to their land of promise, in which they initially began to rebuild the Temple but stopped when opposition arose. While there was a stoppage of work on God’s house, the people of God began to focus on their own needs and desires, ultimately neglecting their original purpose for returning! They became so side-tracked with their own lives that they neglected the calling of God to build His house.

The same tragic oversight happens to many of us today. We become so consumed with building our own houses that we neglect the Church of God. We will spend time investing in our companies and in our families, which in and of themselves are not bad things, at the expense of our ultimate calling to grow the Kingdom of God through the gospel and His Church.

Let us remember that any success we have as a businessman or woman is meant to aid us in building the Church. Any success we have as a family is meant to put on display the gospel for those around us to see in order to build the Church. Everything we do is meant to glorify God by building His Church! Is that your focus? As Haggai challenges us in the text, we should consider our ways if it is not. Be purposeful today in building the house of God.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 262:  Haggai)

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category God's Glory, Haggai, House of God.
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September 25th, 2012

Joy is the Heart of Worship.

“And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” Ezra 6:22 (ESV)

Joy is the heart of worship. In fact, I like to define worship as “joy expressed.” The heart of the feast mentioned above for the people of God was joy found in God’s faithfulness to them in allowing them to return to their land of promise and begin the process of rebuilding their temple. They were so overwhelmed by the provision of God that they could not contain their joyous response any longer.

Is worship for you fueled by joy? When you join your church to corporately praise the name of the Lord, are you motivated to sing those words and hear that teaching because of the inexpressible joy and satisfaction you have found in the saving work of Christ? When you serve on the mission field or in a local ministry near your home, are you doing so out of response to how Christ has so selflessly served you? If joy is not at the heart of your worship, then is it truly worship? Even in times of despair, our joy rises above that circumstance and allows us to sing hymns in the midst of prison cells.

Consider today all that you have to rejoice in from the Lord. Think about how faithfully He has guided you back to His promises and empowered you to do the work of ministry. Remember all the times that in the midst of adversity the Lord encouraged you and helped you to overcome. Write those remembrances down and use them as instruments of joy to fuel your worship today and every day as the people of God did upon returning to their home.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 261: Ezra 4-6: Psalms 137)

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Ezra, Joy, Worship.
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September 24th, 2012

A Conflicted Return

“And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.’ And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” Ezra 3:11-13 (ESV)

The Lord’s promise of restoration to Israel after their exile finally came to fruition. Having defeated the Babylonian Empire, the king of Persia, Cyrus, decrees (by inspiration from the Lord) that all the Jewish people may return to their home and rebuild the house of the Lord. As permission turns into reality, the laying of the foundation for the new temple is met with a mixed response. Some respond in joy toward the faithfulness of God to His people, recounting a praise first uttered by their great king, David. Others, however, are filled with sorrow by what they have lost and how far they have to go to reclaim it.

You and I have a choice in how we respond to God’s faithfulness after times of discipline. We can come through the other side rejoicing for how God has faithfully walked us through this process of refinement or we can focus on all that we have lost. We must remember that loss is part of pruning. God indeed requires sacrifice as a reminder to us of His supreme sufficiency.

When you look back on your life, don’t fret all that could have been. Learn from those lessons and walk forward in the joy that comes from obedience. Maybe you don’t have the old temple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a new one! Are you ready to lay your foundation?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 260:  Ezra 1-3)

Grace and peace,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, September 24th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Ezra, Response, Restoration.
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September 23rd, 2012

The Wicked Shall 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.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 259:  Daniel 10-12)

Grace and peace,

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

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Daniel, Grace, Wicked.
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September 22nd, 2012

Praying for Our Nation

“Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.’” Daniel 9:3-5 (ESV)

Daniel prayed in brokenness and confession on behalf of his people. He took ownership for their spiritual health and vitality. Daniel sought the Lord God in prayer. He cried out with fasting and humility before the Lord for God’s mercy to be extended.

Revival is for believers who have become apathetic toward the things of God. Revival is designed by God to restore a believer’s passion and hunger for God and His agenda. When revival comes, it produces a byproduct known as a spiritual awakening. While revival is for believers, a spiritual awakening impacts unbelievers and brings them to the place of transformation.

The only way for our nation to genuinely change is for the lost to get saved and have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for everyone, including national leaders and those in authority, that they may come to know the Lord personally and have a growing relationship with Him.

Can you imagine our nation fully yielded to the Lordship of Christ? Can you envision our nation passionate about pursuing God daily and living for His glory? Join me in praying for that vision to become a reality. Pray for our nation. Seek the Lord in brokenness and humility on behalf of our nation.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 258:  Daniel 7-9)

Pursuing God,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Confession, Daniel, Prayer.
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September 21st, 2012

Between the Lions

“Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!’” Dan 6:16 (ESV)

Daniel had a track record of faithfulness to God. His loyalty to God was unwavering. After the king signed a decree forbidding Daniel to pray to God, Daniel allowed his devotion to God to supersede his devotion to the king. Daniel was not willing to disobey God in order to obey the king. Instead, Daniel honored God at the expense of the king’s retribution. Daniel paid a hefty price for his obedience. He was thrown into the lions’ den.

  • “Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’” Dan 6:19-20 (ESV)
  • “Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.’” Dan 6:21-22 (ESV)

Your devotion and faithfulness to God may not ever lead you to be thrown into a literal lions’ den. However, your lions’ den may simply be having others misunderstand you or criticize you for your devotion to God. Your family members may not support you in your walk with God. Your co-workers or neighbors may not fully understand your commitment to serving God. Your lions’ den may be when your peers fail to comprehend your level of loyalty to God.

Trust God completely! God can shut the mouths of the lions. God can redeem the hurt you endure. God knows right where you are and He knows exactly what you need to accomplish His plan.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 257:  Daniel 4-6)

Pursuing God,

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

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Adversity, Courage, Daniel.
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