Archive for November, 2015

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 29th, 2015

What Causes Fights Among You?

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” James 4:1 (ESV)

In the midst of a disagreement or conflict, we very easily can point out the flaws in the individual or individuals with whom we are at odds. We can outline for anyone who will lend their ear to us their guilt and our innocence in the matter at hand. James challenges us, however, to consider another source for the tension: ourselves. James suggests that quarrels and fights within the church are motivated by selfish desires within the individuals themselves. The source of the battle is not the failure of the other, but rather the failure of me.

Think about his concept for a moment. When you “war” with someone in your life, what is the motivation for such hostile behavior? (As a side note, I use the words “war” and “hostile” intentionally here, as that is the image James is trying to create in the language of the New Testament.) Isn’t your anger typically rooted in the loss of some fix to a self-centered desire? “He stole my position at the church.” “He won’t let me teach.” “She always gets the solos and I never do.” Have you heard any talk like this at your church? Inherent to each of these phrases is a perceived loss, a loss rooted in selfish desires, and if we allow that loss to linger it can transform into bitterness and appear in anger.

Is there conflict in your life? Are you causing conflict in your home or church? Take a moment this morning and do some reflection. Why are you so invested in this disagreement? What “passion” is motivating your participation? Once you recognize your motivation, submit that to the Lord and see how peace may appear at the most opportune time for you and your family, both at home and at church.

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 29th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Conflict, Conflict Resolution, James.
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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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November 24th, 2015

From Selflessness to Selfishness

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts 5:1-2 (ESV)

Selfishness can have no place in the Church, for the calling of Christ upon it demands the sacrifice of the individual for the good of the whole. How could it not? Its founder and example personified this truth. Jesus sacrificed all for the good of God the Father’s eternal plan to unite all things to Him through the sacrifice of Christ. A body of people, then, fashioned after Him and dedicated to His service certainly should expect no less call upon them.

The early church understood this. In fact, at the end of chapter 4 of the book of Acts, the early church was holding all of their possessions in common, making sure none among them had need. They were sacrificing their material goods for the sake of the whole. One man in particular, Joseph, sold a field and brought all the money he had earned to the apostles to use for ministry. His sacrifice was immense and it was noticed.

This notoriety interested a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. They saw the recognition that accompanied Joseph’s selfless act and desired such attention for themselves. So, they sold, like Joseph, a piece of property, but unlike Joseph they kept back part of the proceeds for themselves while claiming to have given them all. You see, their motivation was their exaltation, while Joseph’s was the exaltation of Christ. Selfishness has no place in the body of Christ and Ananias and Sapphira were dramatically removed from the fellowship.

Why do you serve the Lord? If you were never recognized for the work you do for Him, would you be ok with that? Do you need the recognition as justification for your service or is the advancement of the Kingdom enough? Search your heart this morning, child of God, knowing that selfishness has no place in the Church. To be a true imitator of Christ we must commit ourselves to selflessness, for only in that can we aid the mission of the Church.

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, November 24th, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Selfishness, Selflessness.
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November 23rd, 2015

We Have Work To Do

“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 (ESV)

What a spectacle these disciples must have beheld as Jesus ascended into heaven! Can you imagine the thoughts running through their minds? Not 40 days earlier their Savior, once thought dead, suddenly reappeared, displaying His victory over the power of sin and death. Now, this same Jesus, having equipped them to continue His ministry in His absence, suddenly ascends into the sky! No wonder they were amazed. Who wouldn’t be amazed at such a display of the glory of God? If His first coming ended like this, what would His second coming look like?

While certainly the anticipation of Christ’s return should be of significance for us, we must heed the warning of the messengers in today’s passage and not become so focused on it that we miss the present. The Lord left us here with a purpose, and that purpose is comprised of so much more than simply trying to figure out when He will return. We are to “proclaim good news to the poor . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). All of this continued ministry is of course predicated on Christ returning to finish what He started, but our focus must be on building the Kingdom until our King comes to ascend His throne. Dear child of God, be thankful for Christ’s return, but don’t stare in the sky waiting for it to happen. Rather, act and serve as Christ Himself did while He was here.

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 23rd, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Acts, Second-coming of Christ.
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November 22nd, 2015

The Purpose of Scripture

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31 (ESV)

John reveals his purpose in recounting the works of Jesus in this gospel: that upon reading this account of Jesus the one who reads will be overwhelmed by its testimony and find abundant life. Incidentally, John also provides us with a larger purpose for Scripture generally. All Scripture functions in this way. The Word of God is meant to testify to the redemptive work of the Lord amongst first a particular people and now among all people. The Bible anticipates the need for a savior, reveals Jesus as that savior, and lays the groundwork for His ultimate victory over all things in His second coming. He is the promised hope for all of creation and John’s gospel exemplifies in a microcosmic way that truth, showing Christ’s authority over things both physical and spiritual.

Be thankful for the revealed truth of God’s Word today. Treasure it, for it is meant to be used by the Spirit of God to seal up belief in your heart. As you read the accounts of God’s redemptive activity, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to how He has worked redemptively in your life in similar ways. Allow the Word of God to do what John desires to do in His gospel: affirm in you correct and saving belief in Jesus Christ. Read the Bible and be amazed at God’s provision and miraculous work for His people.

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 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Holy Spirit, John, Word of God.
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November 21st, 2015

Go, Therefore

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

As Evangelical Christians, we often emphasize the need to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. We must do this because the resurrection of Christ and the ensuing consequences of His resurrection (i.e. victory over sin and death) are the centerpiece to the beautiful, eternal plan of God to unite all things to Him in Christ Jesus. God is working all things for His glory and He has called us to be a part of this process, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them the overarching truths of scripture.

In order to do this effectively, however, we must remember the power that drives us. We are not proclaiming empty words; rather, we are going forth in the authority of Christ to speak Spirit-covered words that He uses to draw men unto Himself. Our task, then, should not be a source of fear nor an object of neglect, for Christ has empowered us to accomplish this great commission.

Are you proclaiming the truth of the gospel? Are you making disciples? Remember, disciple-making is a long process that continues long after conversion, and both are a part of the ministry Christ has given to us. Commit today to share the good news of Jesus with someone who needs it and help them walk worthy of the calling Christ has placed on their life.

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 21st, 2015 at 1:00 am
Category Discipleship, Great Commission, Matthew.
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