Salvation Through Faith

Echoes - Cover

 

In my book, What God Knew, Tammy asks Michael the difference between God and religion. Michael answers by saying that God is the Almighty Creator, Maker of the universe and mankind. Religion is man’s feeble efforts at reaching God, trying to be good enough. But there’s nothing man can do to reach God. Only the Lord can accomplish that.

But I’ve got good news for Tammy. Man doesn’t have to strive to do anything to earn salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Here are some examples that contrast the two concepts. Religion says we should please God by our own good deeds, but salvation by faith tell us to first trust in Christ and then live to please Him. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10. The works part comes after salvation, and we do these things only because we love the Lord and want to serve Him, not to earn rewards.

Religion tells us we must be self-motivated—to exercise self-control. Faith proclaims Christ is in us providing the ability to serve. Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Religion says we need discipline and obedience in hope of receiving a reward from God. Faith says we confess, submit and commit ourselves to Christ’s control. Philippians 4:13. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Faith is all about the Lord and nothing to do with us. He’s the One who provides the grace for us to receive salvation then live for Him.

Salvation by faith sounds too easy. People would rather think they have to “do” something to get right with God. But God’s simple way to salvation is the only avenue we have to be saved and please Him. JD Neilson learned this truth in For All Eternity.

For All Eternity: http://tinyurl.com/p5qswo5       

Echoes From the Past: http://tinyurl.com/on75b92

 

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Regrets

Bible

 

I have a feeling everyone has regrets about their past. I do, for sure. I regret that I didn’t become a Christian until I was in my thirties. Before that time, I did some pretty stupid things and lived only for myself. There is nothing that will change those events or their repercussions. I shudder when I think about that point in my life. My past is set in stone.

I realize that Christians disagree on this subject, but I believe that if a person has genuinely given his heart to the Lord, no one can steal his salvation away. So another truth is set in stone, my salvation through Jesus Christ. Nothing can change that. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

One more fact encourages me as well. God no longer remembers all those bad days—that rough time in my life. So why should I beat myself over the head? Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12.

And the best part is God can use these regrettable wrongs from the past for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

As an author, I write about characters who overcome obstacles in their lives by God’s power and His word. If I hadn’t experience some of the same issues, I wouldn’t understand the debilitating roadblocks those sins heave into one’s life.

So, praise God. He can and will do the same in your life. Surrender to Him and witness the marvelous miracles He’ll do.

 

 

 

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Meet Cody James of Tammy L. Gray’s Latest Novel—Sell Out

As an author, I sometimes write about college life for Christians. That time and place can be a rough one for many believers. However, the years before college have their own special challenges. In fact, I often tell my high-school-age daughter that if anyone ever wanted to torture me, they should just put me back in my middle and high school years! That’s just the truth. As a counselor, I’ve met a lot of young people who negotiated these years pretty well. Yes, it was still hard for them, but when encouraged to live by their faith, they discovered the ultimate wisdom of their Creator.

Today, I want to introduce you to the character in Tammy L. Gray’s latest novel, Sell Out. He is like many of us, struggling through high school with a few added challenges along the way. But God is watching, and through a few choice friends, guiding. Once introduced, I’m sure you’ll want to get to know him better and read his story. Lucky for you, you can.

To get started, tell us a little about yourself.

Cody James. I’m a senior at Madison High. Captain of the wrestling team. Member of the elite social hierarchy. State champion.

Impressive … I think.

Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise our readers.

I’m living a lie

I’m in love with a rock star’s daughterSell Out cover

I hate my best friend.

Hmmm. Sounds like an interesting life.

What is your favorite thing to do?

DJ at the radio station and listen to classic rock. I also love making Skylar laugh; it changes the whole outlook of my day.

Oh, a kindred. Though I don’t DJ, music is my passion … other than reading, of course. And Skylar sounds wonderful.

When did things change dramatically in your life?

It’s not something I talk about, but I was bullied the early part of high school. It reached its peak my sophomore year when six guys jumped me in the locker room, stripped me down, beat me and took pictures. Those pictures were posted on an internal school website called, The Torment’s List.

Oh, that’s awful!!!

Did you have people to help you then?

My trainer, Matt Holloway. He saved my life. He changed my body, my mind and my purpose. He pushed me to be a man of character when all hope had slipped away.

Skylar Wyld, because she showed me what courage looked like. She challenged me to face my demons and find victory over them.

Good people are a blessing. I’m so glad you had them to be there for you.

Is there anyone you despise?

Blake Mason—Madison High’s self-elected King. He wants my girl and my position as Captain. I won’t let him get either.

Tell us about the current journey you are on.

I’m stuck. I don’t want to be a leader, but I am. I just want to win State, impress college scouts and stay out of trouble. High school is my prison. And yet, one party changed my entire trajectory, and somehow, I become the hero in this story.

Interesting. I’m curious to see how that happens.

What has life taught you?

That you have to fight for truth. That hiding behind fear is no way to survive. That allowing others to comfort you is not weakness, but strength. I’ve learned I’m not alone, but surrounded by people who love me for who I am, not what I represent.

Amen!

Has your work won any acclaim or esteem from others?

Well, yeah. I went from tortured outcast to wrestling star. I penetrated the elusive inner circle. Girls throw themselves at me, now. But it’s empty praise. The walls know the truth. They hold all my secrets.

Do you have any advice for those behind you?

Sure. Don’t be a pawn. Find the beauty of what’s inside of you and don’t let selfish, arrogant people steal it away. Life is not about surviving, but thriving. You can’t do that if you’re pretending.

Tammy, we want to know more about Cody James. Can you tell us where fans can find you or your books on the internet?

Sell Out is available in kindle and paperback formats at Amazon.com.

And it’s on sale this week so hurry over and buy it!!!

Sell Out

Like many elite private schools, Madison High has a legacy steeped in traditions, none of which revolve around learning. Survival is simple: keep your head down, don’t say a word, and never question school royalty.
Cody James, a former victim of Madison’s vicious brand of hazing, wants nothing more than to graduate without breaking the unspoken rules that could land him back in social exile. Cody has breached the elusive inner circle, and he has no intention of losing his hard-earned security. But a beautiful new student shakes up his plan to coast by and causes him question his role as sidekick to the king of the school.
As the only daughter of rock legend Donnie Wyld, Skylar has been homeschooled her entire life. Now she wants normal, and she hopes that Madison High will offer her an escape from her father’s deteriorating health. She never intended on catching the eye of the school’s self-elected king or falling for his confusing best friend. But one look at Cody James, and she is drawn in by his guarded vulnerability.
When an average Friday night party turns into a nightmare, Cody is forced to make a decision—fight or follow. But standing up for the bullied and broken means facing a past he’s long buried and risking the future he’s worked so hard to achieve.

*********

Tammy L. Gray headshotTammy L. Gray is the kindle best selling author of the Winsor and Set Apart series. Her mission is to provide clean, culturally relevant romances that incorporate messages of hope and healing.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tlgray.com

I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or twitter @tlgraybooks

Categories: Book Launch, Character Interview, Contemporary, Current Books, Fiction, Guest Author, Guest Blogs, Hero, Independent Publishing, Romance, Self Publising, Suspense, Teen, Young Adult | Comments Off

Hope for the Christian in Today’s World

Cross

 

Homosexual marriage legalized, unrestrained riots destroying businesses and neighborhoods, millions of babies slaughtered—just a portion of the events that characterize today’s world. Who knew our country would fall this far?

As a Christian, it’s scary to live in a society that holds dear the opposite of what our precious Lord teaches us in the Bible. God forbids homosexuality. (Don’t get mad at me. These are God’s words, not mine.) Instead of rioting in the streets, He asks us to love each other. And the slaughter of babies? What about “Thou shall not kill?”

It seems that the enemy undermines every truth God proclaims in His word. Is there any hope for those who want to stand for the Lord and his standards? For sure!

Man can legislate anything he wants, but God’s sovereignty prevails. “Your word, Oh Lord, is eternal. It stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8 Nothing can change what God has declared. That truth alone gives me strength.

But what expectation does the follower of the Messiah Jesus Christ have when he or she witnesses the condition of our deteriorating society? Though the events we see going on around us only get worse, in the end God’s kingdom prevails. And that has meaning for us, His children. Listen to the glorious declaration that many loud voices in heaven proclaim. Revelations 11: 15 brings me much confidence. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.'”

That’s astonishing news. Rejoice and refresh your spirit with this peek into future events. Hold your faith near to your heart and stand on God’s word. No matter what, in the end, He prevails. Halleluiah.

And in the meantime, let’s be about our Father’s business. Praying and talking to others about the truth that is within us.

 

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How Do You Feel?

Janie pushed the covers away and sat on the edge of the bed. She must’ve gained ten pounds over the Christmas holidays. Her head felt as if it were stuffed with cotton. All she wanted to do was crawl back into bed and shut out the world.

Christmas had been fun. Her kids and grandchildren had filled the house with laughter and activity as they flitted from one activity to another. Christmas morning, as they opened their gifts and thanked each other, brought back the past when Tom had been with them.

A heavy weight settled on Janie’s heart as she thought of her husband. He’d been gone three years. At times that was a lifetime—other times, only yesterday. How she missed him, especially during and after the holidays.

She rose and dressed in sweats. Tom had called them her comfort clothing. He was right, but she was determined to get through another day somehow. She made it as far as her recliner in the living room before the cordless phone, lying on the table beside her, rang. She’d ignore it.

It rang again. And again.

All right, already! Might as well answer and get it over with. She snatched it up. “Hello?”

“Hi, Janie?” Georgia’s cheerful voice seemed out of place in Janie’s present mood. “Say, would you be interested in filling in for me at the nursing home’s first-of-the-month service? All you have to do is be there at ten this morning and play the piano.”

“Oh, Georgia, I don’t know. I don’t really—”

“They’ll just be singing the old familiar hymns. You could play them from memory, but you’ll have a book too, of course. And you know how easy Jennifer is to play for when she leads the songs.” Georgia laughed. “I wouldn’t be asking but I just got the all-important call from my son-in-law. Chloe is having her baby! I’m so excited, I can’t stand it. My first granddaughter, and I’ve got to be there. I’m sure you remember what it’s like.”

A smile touched Janie’s lips. “Yes, I remember.”

“Oh, wonderful! Then you will?” Georgia’s voice bubbled over the line. “Thank you! Thank you so much. You don’t know what this means to me. I didn’t want to disappoint the folks at the home, but I can’t miss our baby’s birth either.”

“Of course, you can’t.” Janie rose and headed toward her bedroom. “I’ll get off here and let you go to the hospital. I need to get ready if I’m going to play.”

“Thanks again, Janie!” A click ended the call.

Janie’s step was light as she rushed through her room and flung open the closet door. She should practice the piano more. You never know when the need might arise. It’d be good to see Jennifer and listen to her beautiful singing voice. The folks in the home were always so appreciative each month, or had been the few times Janie had helped. Just thinking about them brought another smile to her face. Maybe she would volunteer to help out. How many times had the pastor said just being there was a blessing to the other helpers as well as the folks they ministered to?

She smoothed the dress she’d put on and ran a brush through her hair. A turn before the full-length mirror to check her appearance and she was ready. Her heels clicked on the hardwood floor as she hurried to the door bringing laughter to her lips. This was exactly what she needed. As she slipped into her coat and headed outside, she prayed. “Thank You, Lord, for bringing purpose to my life. Let this not be a one-time thing, but may I serve You and those about me each day with the gifts you’ve given me. I want to feel happy not sad living a life with no meaning.”Lesson of the Poinsettia  (2)

 

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22.

As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. I Peter 4:10

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Mildred blog

Christmas is just past, but the memories are dear. We enjoyed our children and grandchildren so much as they all came to spread their love through our home for a few days. The gifts and food we shared were nice, but the presence of family is what we’ll remember throughout the new year. I hope you will have as many wonderful lingering memories as I know I will.

I thought I’d give you an update on my writing. Although this is not all inclusive, here is what will be coming out next. If you enjoy historical stories, in mid-January, look for Awakening Joy, Through the Valley, and Love-Scarred Hands, The first will be on both Smashwords and Amazon, the last two on pre-order at Smashwords only until release when they will go on Amazon. These three books are the first in a series of five called Hands of Love that I wrote with my sister several years ago. I will be announcing release of the final two, Walk in His Way, and In Search of Gold, as soon as I know when that will be. I’ve long looked forward to having this series complete and available so am eager for their release.

Until next time, may God’s blessings be yours!

Thank you for reading my books. That’s why I write!

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The Christmas of 1973

 

 

MP900440281Okay, I know some people reading this are too young to remember that year, but the time came to mind right away when I searched  my memory for a unforgettable Christmas.

 

When I was a child, Christmas always centered around my mother, her incredible plans for the holidays, her yummy recipes, exciting parties, and the abundance of gifts for everyone. Christmas held the number one spot in her heart – her favorite holiday, and she wanted to savor every moment. After I got married and had children, Christmas wasn’t Christmas anywhere else except at Grandma’s. The girls’ presents went on and on. Some were from Santa, some from Rudolph, some from the elves, and even from Frosty. The gift opening ritual lasted from early morning to night.

 

In 1973 my soldier-husband received orders for Germany. It’s hard to describe the experience of living in a foreign land – the pros and cons. Many exciting, unique places to visit captivated our time – a weekend flight to London, a journey to Greece on spring-break, and plenty of trips to the beautiful Black Forests and Bavaria. Rather strange, though, were the words on countless  billboards along the autobahn in a language I couldn’t read.

 

What I didn’t anticipate were the events of the following winter when we would celebrate Christmas at our government quarters – alone. No mother, father, or extended family. Wait! I couldn’t have Christmas without them. But that year, we did delight in the holiday. Just the four of us. We were a family. We began to establish our own traditions. Allowing the girls to open one present of their choice on Christmas Eve, baking cookies together, creating cute Christmas decorations. Sure I missed my family, but for the first time, I realized my husband and kids were my family, too.

 

That next year I discovered I had another group of relatives as well. That was the year I met my Heavenly Father and found out how much He loves me and values me. It happened when I came to know His son, Jesus, as my savior. God welcomes anyone  and makes them feel right at home.  His family is the best. Merry Christmas.

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Receiving that Rejection Letter

 

 

 

Getting RejectionsOne of the hardest things I’ve had to learn since I started writing books was to deal with rejections. A manuscript is a writer’s “baby,” and we all know how our children or grandchildren are simply the cutest in the whole world.

When the “no’s” came rolling in at first, I felt like a failure and for fleeting moments, considered giving up penning a book. But the Lord helped to toughen me up. There are many factors why a publisher doesn’t want to accept a book. Most reasons, I firmly believe, are not because the author is just plain lousy and can’t write.

Marketability, timing of what’s selling, maybe even the genre of the book are all factors that might close the door in a writer’s face. Still, it’s hard to get that rejection letter.

I thought I’d grown thick skin and could take no with a better attitude. But about a year ago I got a rejection that literally broke my heart. And it was a long time coming as well. A editor that had already published one of my books turned me down flat. Not with a no—but by ignoring me. I had sent three more books in to this person. After a year, I finally realized the publisher didn’t want anything else from me. I fought shame and resentment for months after that.

Finally, my gracious Lord sent me an encouraging word which has now helped to wipe all my tears away and my feelings that my work didn’t measure up. I hope it helps anyone else in my same situation.

Isaiah 55:8-11. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.'”

Since that time, I’ve received a contract with another publisher and have self-published the rejected novels. Readers contact me on Facebook about how my books have helped. Ladies at my church say they can’t put them down. So, authors, wait upon the Lord. He has a plan for you.

 

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Getting Old

Getting Old

 

 

 

A decade ago, my husband and I worked in an independent living facility for seniors who didn’t care to live on their own. I met a lot of remarkable people during our short stint there, and I discovered some thought-provoking information.

Some of the residents wore a scowl on their face most of the time, griping and complaining about almost everything. They demanded the managers perform extra services other people didn’t receive, especially in the dining room. If they didn’t like an entree, they insisted the cook make something else especially for them. Frown lines etched their faces, and they appeared to be miserable. Very few smiles were evident.

Others residents seemed happy, always taking an interest in others. They thoughtfully sent cards on birthdays, gave a compliment, and smiled. I remember one couple who’d been married seventy five years who were still in love.

I realize people’s personalities vary, but I became curious about the obvious differences in attitudes. The married couple as well as others who appeared contented with their life circumstances, I soon discovered, were Christians. They were filled with peace and spoke of where they were going after leaving this earth. To spend eternity with their Lord and Savior. What an amazing difference!

I believe that many people derive their identity from their profession or accomplishments. But unfortunately that’s never enough. There will always be regrets about goals not achieved and missed opportunities along the way. If we have nothing else but our own triumphs, at the end of our lives, we have nothing. No wonder some of those residents scowled and were bitter.

Nothing in my life has brought me a sense of self-worth or pride. The only truth that sustains me is my relationship with the Lord. Jesus alone declares me significant and upright, and nothing in this world can accomplish that.

Oh, and in case you think I don’t have the right to say these things, I do because I’m fast approaching that age and know from experience.

Let’s not spend all our energy pursing goals but allow time to get to know the Savior, the only One who can give us purpose and declare at the end of our lives, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

 

 

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Sh-h-h, Can You Hear Me?

“Children! Listen to me!” Sally stood in the midst of twenty kindergartners trying to raise her voice above theirs only to be ignored. Sure, they were having their first party of the school year and everyone was excited, but at this rate, her first year of teaching would soon end.

“Sh-h-h, can you hear me?” A whisper miraculously reached her hearing.

Sally looked toward the door and saw the veteran teacher who’d befriended her on more than one occasion in the last three months. She met Sally’s harried gaze with a smile. “Whisper to me.”

Whether she heard the words or read her friend’s lips, she didn’t know but she released a breath along with tension. “Are you sure you can hear me?”

Martha chuckled and whispered again. “Go ahead and tell your students what they need to know, but whisper to get their attention.”

It sounded crazy, but Sally looked at a few upturned faces around her and realized the whispering had already caught some attention. Might as well give it a try. She turned to the children. “I need you to clean up your area.”

Amazingly, those closest turned to look at her and shushed their classmates.

“We have more to do.”

Like an ocean wave, quiet swept across the room until she no longer needed to whisper and returned to a calm, quiet voice. “I need you to clean up your area so we can have refreshments. Kayla and Jason’s moms are here to hand out cupcakes and punch. Please take your seats as soon as you’ve finished cleaning.”

A scramble erupted as the children worked together and hurried to their seats, hands folded on their desks.

Martha winked as she backed out of the room. Once more, she’d taught Sally a valuable lesson.

That evening Sally relayed her experience to her husband. He shrugged. “Sure, isn’t that the way God gets our attention? If we don’t want to miss His voice, we’d better turn off all the noisemakers in our life.”

Ted was good with advice, but Sally didn’t always get the connection. Later, she washed dishes while Ted watched a show on TV. “Lord, help me learn how to be a good teacher. Show me what I need to know.”

Her prayers seemed to go no farther than past her lips. You’re no different than your students. You are making too much noise to hear God’s voice.

“Lord, I’m sorry.” Sally finished the dishes then went to the bedroom and closed the door. There, she knelt beside the bed. Laurie and the Lawman blog“Lord, help me make special time for You. May I close out the noise from my active life. Help me tune into Your voice alone. I want to hear when you whisper.”

… and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? I Kings 19:11-13

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