Archive for October, 2012

October 31st, 2012

God’s Work on Display

“And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” John 9:2-3 (ESV)

For me, this passage is one of the most challenging in all of scripture. Jesus and His disciples happen upon a man, who was born blind, and the disciples, influenced by the common belief of the day, asked what fault existed in this man or his parents that God would judge him by making him blind. Jesus, as He so often does, challenges the false assumptions of the disciples by suggesting to them the cause of this man’s blindness was not his sinfulness nor that of his parents but rather so the glory of God might be displayed through him, which of course it was when Jesus healed him.

What an incredible question this passage presents! Are we, as disciples of Jesus, willing to allow our bodies, our resources, our talents, our failures, indeed everything we have to be used for the work of God to be displayed? When difficulties arise in our lives, when we lose that job or sickness befalls us, are we willing to say to the Lord, “Work through me in this time to display your glory and my ultimate satisfaction and trust in you,” instead of asking, “Why me?” The tendency for us, like that of the disciples, is to ask what we have done to deserve such treatment. We want to know how we can fix it to regain that which we have lost, but what if the purpose is greater than that? What if we have been placed in that situation for God to do a miraculous work through us so that others may see Him and believe?

Are you willing to be used in that way? Are you willing to allow every circumstance in your life to be used for the glory of God? This teaching is challenging, yes, but I suspect our willingness to do so represents a new level of faith in our walk with the Lord.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 297:  John 9-10)

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, October 31st, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category God's Purpose, God's Will, John.
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October 30th, 2012

Does the Truth Set You Free?

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘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)

Do you know the truth of God? He has revealed it to you. The scriptures offer us the complete revelation of God, concerning His character, His covenant, and His plan for all things. As a disciple of Christ, that truth should make you come alive. Simply by reading the Bible you can know the God of the universe more intimately and uniquely. Granted, the truth given to us may not always be easy to read or hear, but we welcome it because we know that in it lies freedom. Freedom is in this truth because of how we are shaped into the image of Jesus as a result of hearing it, thereby enabling us to be more fully satisfied by Him as opposed to the things of this world.

For those who are not children of God, however, the exact opposite is true. While for us, there is a welcome reward to hearing the truth of God, those outside of the family of God are offended, seeing the truth as an obstacle to their freedom rather than a gateway. They see the principles and precepts of scripture as restraints, whereas you and I see them as pathways to greater freedom.

Simply, how you respond to the truth of God spoken over you says a lot about your place as a disciple. If you welcome truth because of how it enables you to be more like Jesus, then take comfort, child of God. If, however, you resist that truth to pursue your own selfish endeavors, you may want to take a moment and see what part of your life you have yet to surrender fully to the Lordship of Christ.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 296:  John 7-8)

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, October 30th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Freedom, John, Truth.
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October 29th, 2012

The Necessity of Forgiveness

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)

Forgiveness is a hard thing, no doubt, but it is also an essential thing for Christians. Peter in our passage this morning asks a question many of us have asked in our lives. How many times should we have to forgive someone? If someone keeps offending us or betraying us, should we continue to forgive them? Jesus answers from experience. While to the human mind forgiving someone so treacherous seven times may seem extraordinary, Jesus more than exceeds that expectation suggesting 70 times that!

Why should we keep on forgiving? Why should we forgive so freely? Well, consider the example of the gospel set before us. Consider how many times you and I have offended Jesus. Consider how many times we have rejected Him. Consider how many times we have rejected Him, and yet He forgave us. Not only did He forgive us, He made the forgiveness possible by taking on the penalty of our transgression Himself. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might be the righteousness of God! How incredible is that!

You and I must forgive because of how much we have been forgiven. I assure you nobody can do to you what we have done to the Lord, and yet in spite of our rejection He loved us enough to send Jesus to reconcile us. Do not be like the unforgiving servant, who having been forgiven chose not to extend that forgiveness to others. Rather, in light of what you have been forgiven, seek to extend that forgiveness to others as an act of worship to One Who has forgiven us so much.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 295:  Matthew 18)

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, October 29th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Example, Forgiveness, Matthew.
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October 28th, 2012

The Problem with Miraculous Mountains

“And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” Mark 9:4-5 (ESV)

What an incredible event! Can you imagine experiencing what Peter experienced on this mountain? Can you imagine how you would react if you were to see Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all in their glorified form? Peter wanted to build a memorial. He wanted to stay there indefinitely and just revel in the miraculous moment. Isn’t that exactly how we react to incredible, life-changing encounters with God? When we experience the Lord in this way, we want to stay there forever, and when we have to leave we immediately begin to long for the next mountaintop experience. Reacting in this way, though, completely misses the point of these impactful moments. These moments aren’t meant to be ends unto themselves; rather, they are meant to be launching pads for ministry, motivating and encouraging us to continue our ministry as disciples. Jesus didn’t let Peter build the tents because if he had, Peter would have missed all of the ministry He had for him in the valleys between the mountains.

May we not miss the ministry Christ has for us in our desire to experience the Lord in new and exciting ways. When the Lord reveals Himself to us so profoundly, the purpose is always to better enable us to accomplish the mission of the Church in building the Kingdom of God. Be thankful for these special moments, but don’t allow the pursuit of them to become distractions. Seek the Lord while He may be found, but when you find Him, serve Him.

 Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 294:  Matthew 17; Mark 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 Sunday, October 28th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Mark, Mount Transfiguration, Mountaintop Experiences.
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October 27th, 2012

Who Do You Say That I Am?

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Matthew 16:15-16 (ESV)

Throughout the centuries following the coming of Christ, humanity has been forced to make a decision as to His true identity. Who was He really? Was He another great prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah? Was He simply a charismatic leader? Or was He truly the 2nd person of the trinity incarnate? Where you fall in this debate is of the utmost importance as the answer forms the foundation of saving faith.

Jesus was more than simply a prophet, and He was more than another charismatic leader. He came proclaiming Himself to be Lord! He came as the anointed one of God chosen to rectify the damage of sin and restore creation. Any other conclusion denies the testimony of Scripture. As C.S. Lewis famously wrote in Mere Christianity, anyone who claimed what Jesus claimed could not be considered a moral teacher, if indeed He was not the Son of God, for His morality would be rejected as He would be proclaimed either a liar or a lunatic. Lewis’ “trilemma” is simply stated: either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord!

My friends, there can be no marginal or mild response to Jesus. Either you proclaim Him to be the Christ, repent, and follow Him with complete devotion, or you reject Him as the Lord and choose to continue to follow the path of self-exaltation. He cannot be just another voice in the volumes of history. Either He is unique or He is not. Who do you say that Jesus is? Moreover, do your life and actions reflect that sentiment as true belief?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 293:  Matthew 16; Mark 8)

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, October 27th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Christ, Matthew, Profession.
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October 26th, 2012

Where Does Sin Come From?

“And he called the people to him and said to them, ‘Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.’” Matthew 15:10-11 (ESV)

The religious elite of Jesus’ time were under the false understanding that sinfulness or unrighteousness is a state that comes from the inside of man being influenced by his outside. When they ate or partook of unholy things, those unholy things made them unholy. Jesus, however, had a different message for the Pharisees and scribes, proclaiming to them that sinfulness was a result of inward rebellion that no amount of action could either lessen or even increase? Depravity was (and is) depravity and while certainly the requirements of the law withheld God’s judgement against that depravity, those actions in no way made the individual more holy.

This teaching is the dilemma for all mankind. We are sinful and there is no amount of religious activity that can fix that sinfulness. We can act holy and we can fake devotion, but that doesn’t mean that the core of who we are has been transformed. We are simply white-washed tombs, as Jesus would say. But this also is the hope of the gospel, in that Jesus existed in a way that we could not. He was not depraved; rather, He was inherently holy. Through His sacrifice, He now offers His perfect holiness to us, replacing our sinfulness and transforming our hearts. We no longer have to pretend to be holy or fight to earn it; it has been earned for us and given to us freely as a response to our repentance. We are sinful, but Jesus is holy. Through Him we who were sinful can be declared holy and restored to a right relationship with God. Rejoice in that profound truth today.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 292:  Matthew 15; Mark 7)

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, October 26th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Holiness, Matthew, Sin.
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October 25th, 2012

Why Do You Seek Him?

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.’” John 6:26 (ESV)

Throughout the book of John, we see a progression of miraculous signs performed by Jesus through which He communicates to the world His authority over things both spiritual and physical. Earlier in this chapter, for instance, Jesus takes five barley loaves and two fish and feeds thousands of bystanders, proving His glorious and ample ability to provide and satisfy. The people in the crowd who experienced this miraculous work wake up the next day to find that Jesus and His disciples have crossed the Sea of Galilee (Jesus on foot and the disciples by boat) to Capernaum and decide to pursue Him.

The issue for Jesus, though, in this pursuit is their motivation for doing so. Why were they coming after Him? Were they coming because they had recognized this miracle as a “messianic sign”? Or were they coming after Him because He was a free meal ticket? Jesus suggests that the latter is the true motivation, rebuking them for using Him rather than worshiping the Anointed of God.

Why do you follow Jesus? Have you recognized Him as the Messiah, the only hope of the nations? Have you seen your depravity and great need for a savior and found Jesus alone able to satisfy that need? Or do you simply like what He can give you? Do you like the idea of receiving blessing? Do you like the idea of escaping Hell? Are you just using Him to feel better about yourself, feeling spiritually full? Or do you recognize the bread He offers as something much more profound?

Oh, child of God, do not mistake the generosity of Christ as a license to feel entitled. Do not lose the humility that should accompany the recognition that Jesus is the Son of God, Who has come to take away the sins of the world. Yes, we will receive blessing and, yes, we will escape eternal judgement, but our sole motivation for seeking Jesus should be a result of His greatest miracle, when He overcame sin and death so that we could have life abundant!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 291:  John 6)

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, October 25th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category John, Provision, Seeking First.
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October 24th, 2012

The Complete Sustaining Nature of Christ

“He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in their belts–but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.” Mark 6:8-9 (ESV)

What an interesting command from Jesus found here in Mark’s gospel. Jesus has called to Himself “those whom he desired” and allowed them to walk alongside Him as they learned (Mark 3:13 ESV). Now, as He is preparing to send them out, He commands them to take nothing with them except what they have on their back. Why would Jesus demand such a thing from His disciples? Why would He not allow them to “prepare” more thoroughly for the task at hand?

Jesus was teaching His disciples (and us) about the importance of fully relying upon Him and His provision for the purposes of ministry. If Jesus sends us under His authority and calling as His disciples, then He will sustain us as we go. If He sends you, He will provide for you. The disciples, like us, had to learn this truth in order to properly submit to the will of the Lord as His representatives, thereby allowing Him to receive all the glory for the work that He would do through them. Further, how could they communicate the complete satisfying nature of Christ without having experienced it themselves? In their mission, they were learning as they were going.

Do you fully rely upon the Lord to accomplish that to which He has called you? Or do you overcompensate, not fully trusting in His ability to work miraculously through you? When we fail to fully rely upon Him to sustain, we often miss the opportunity to be part of something extraordinary, since only in Him is such a work possible.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 289:  Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 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 Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Mark, Provision, Sustainer.
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October 23rd, 2012

Wisdom and Innocence

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 (ESV)

The mission of the Church given by Christ is not an easy one. How could it be when it is itself a continuation of the ministry of Jesus that resulted in His crucifixion? Jesus in this passage is preparing His disciples and, by proxy, us for the reality of persecution on this side of heaven. To prepare them and us, Jesus charges His followers to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” For Him, wisdom and innocence are our greatest assets in the midst of persecution?

Why these two traits? Why do wisdom and innocence help us in the midst of maltreatment? Jesus helps us as the passage continues. He suggests that we must use wisdom to know which men to trust and which men not to trust. We must have a discerning spirit, knowing that when men are confronted with their depravity they sometimes react harshly. Further, when the day comes that you can no longer escape the hand of men through wisdom, innocence becomes your ally. As with Jesus, people will begin to question the legitimacy of the charges brought against you, seeing your pure heart and your accuser’s malicious one.

Seek today to grow in wisdom by meditating on the Word of God and abiding in the Spirit. Ask the Spirit to open your heart to those men and women who are open to the gospel and to guard against those who are hardened. Secondly, commit to be above reproach. When we commit to this, we do more than ask if something is right or wrong; rather, we ask, “Is this wise?” If we commit to act only in the wisdom God gives, then truly who can be against us?

Be weary, sheep, for there are wolves around. Grow in wisdom and walk in innocence for your good and God’s glory.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 289:  Matthew 10)

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, October 23rd, 2012 at 1:00 pm
Category Innocence, Matthew, Wisdom.
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October 22nd, 2012

Let Your Light Shine.

“And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’” Mark 4:21-23 (ESV)

The Kingdom of God is being established by the Church through the gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world. We, as God’s ambassadors, are proclaiming hope and purpose as a result of the cross, demanding the darkness of depravity to recede in the glory of the light of God’s beautiful revelation in Jesus. We are revealing God’s purpose for all things and calling creation to restoration, enabling all things to worship the Lord and give Him the glory that He alone is due!

In light of these profound truths, how could we ever consider keeping the light within us as a result of the Spirit’s regenerative work hidden? Why do we allow the darkness to demand authority over the light? When we walk into a room as God’s chosen people, that room should be lit by the joy in our hearts, demanding the hearts of those who have not responded to Christ’s sacrifice to consider the difference in our worldview and there’s.

We have been called to be witnesses, which should not be a hard thing given this image from Jesus. Witnessing should be a natural thing, in that any time light steps into darkness the difference is noticeable. This was certainly true of Jesus, the ultimate light, whose radiance in the midst of darkness changed the course of human history! Will you follow His example? Will you let your light shine and build the Kingdom of God today?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 288:  Mark 4-5)

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, October 22nd, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Light of the World, Mark, Witness.
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