1 Timothy 1

monday devo

“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:18-19

1 Timothy is jam-packed with rich truths that Paul wrote to Timothy, a mentee in the faith. 1 Timothy was written sometime between 62-67 A.D. while Paul was out of prison. He wrote to Timothy, a person who he had known since about 46 A.D. and who was currently ministering in Ephesus, a town in Asia Minor. A majority of this letter focuses on how to ‘do church,’ discussing a range of topics from  worship services to church leadership to interactions between church members. 

1 Timothy begins with an instruction to remind people to not teach different doctrines or pay attention to myths or genealogies (1 Tim. 1:3-4). In doing this, Paul said that the people were promoting “empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.” Wow! That’s a powerful statement. The discussions of the people of the church in Ephesus were not glorifying God. Instead, they were people just carelessly making a prediction about topics related to the concepts Paul taught. The discussions of the people were like junk food instead of a wholesome diet. They tasted good in the moment, but they ultimately produced nothing of value for the people. 

We need to ask ourselves what type of instruction we are filling ourselves with, as well as what types of instruction we are giving others. If are not taking in any instruction or teaching about God’s word, we will starve. God’s word is our daily bread, and we daily have to get into the word to get the nourishment that we need. Once we do, we have to look at the type of teaching we are getting. Are we taking in things that will build us up and draw us closer to God? Or does a majority of our Bible study focus on acquiring knowledge that we could use in a debate or class but ultimately leaves us spiritually unfulfilled? If we are teachers, we also need to ask ourselves these same questions. Is what we are teaching empty speculation, or are we teaching what Paul was teaching? Paul said that his ultimate goal for the instruction he gave was to produce a love that “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). If that is not our goal for what instruction we take in and give, then we need to reevaluate our purpose for that instruction. 

Paul recognized the importance of analyzing the purpose for what we do. When we reject producing pure love as our goal, we can lead ourselves and others down a path that leads to the shipwreck of their faith. In other terms, when we are not placing God’s plan first in our lives, we are choosing to not allow God to work in our lives. Let’s all strongly engage in the battle of our faith. This begins with the spiritual food that we take in. Make sure that you are taking in good things, not empty things.

~ Cayce Fletcher 

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2 Thessalonians 3

“Brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” ~ 2 Thess. 3:13

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is encouraging believers to hold fast to the traditions that was taught to them by his message or letters (2 Thess. 2:15). His final directions to the believers in Thessalonica was to watch how they were living. Paul had first touched on this in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 where he says, “We encourage you to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” In the months that spanned in between the letters, those who were living irresponsibly had not yet changed how they were living. He says in his second letter, “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Though at first this can seem harsh, Paul is not talking about someone who is physically not able to work. In the Thessalonian church, some able-bodied believers were not working for their own food. Instead, they were relying on the church for their food, thus taking away from those who may have actually needed the food because they couldn’t work. They were also using their free time to interfere with the work of others. 

So how does this passage relate to us today? We all have a responsibility to contribute to our community of believers. If you are not regularly meeting with church or body of believers, the first step is to find a church and get involved! Then, we have to evaluate our attitude, actions, and speech about the church. Unlike the irresponsible believers in Thessalonica, we should adopt the attitude in our church of givers not takers. Do we view the church as a place that we go to for a service once or twice a week? Or do we view the church as a community that we are currently building up? If we believe the church is meant to serve us, our attitude will be that of a taker, a selfish attitude that focuses on ‘What does this place do for me?’ A giving attitude focuses on what we can do to help to strengthen the church. Our attitude is directly related to our actions. A taker attitude will be critical, hands-off, and selfish, whereas a giving attitude will be encouraging, supportive, and selfless. A giving attitude will try to build up members of the church through encouraging words, financial support, and tithes of time and resources. When we are focused on giving to the church, our speech will also be focused on building up rather than tearing down. A taker attitude will lead to speech that criticizes without ever contributing solutions. A giver attitude will use wise words so that their speech helps to glorify God. 

The way that we work and contribute to the community of believers is a testimony to the world of our faith. We have to focus on how we can give to glorify God. And when it seems too much, we can remember Paul’s words, “Brothers, don’t grow weary in doing good.” 

Sunday Devo

~ Cayce Fletcher 

Stake Your Life on This

John 11

John 11 25

In John 11, Jesus received word that his dear friend was very sick, and yet Jesus stayed where he was for two more days before heading to Bethany, where Lazarus was.  When he finally got there, Lazarus had been dead for four days.

Martha, Lazarus’ sister came out to meet with Jesus, and we have a record of their incredible conversation.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

I love these incredible statements of faith:  If Jesus had only been there, he could have healed Lazarus.  Even now, God would give Jesus anything Jesus asked.  “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

No wonder Jesus loved this family.  They were devout followers of Christ with amazing faith.

You know the rest of the story.  Jesus told them to roll away the stone.  Martha said basically, “he’s going to stink, he’s been dead four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Then Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  And the dead man came out!

Many people believed in Jesus because of this miracle.  But not everyone believed. The Pharisees’ response was, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him…” and they plotted to kill him.

How is it possible to have such diametrically opposed reactions?  Unfortunately, we see a similar range of reactions to Jesus today, from faithful devotion to hostility.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have the same reaction Martha demonstrated.  And I’m staking my life on verses 25 and 26.  I want to encourage you – do the same.  And I’ll look forward to seeing you at the last day.

-Steve Mattison

 

 

IF you Believe, THEN…

John 8

John 8 31 32

As we have read repeatedly in the last two chapters, we see again in John 8:30, 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

Then Jesus shared this powerful truth:

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This passage points out that while belief is important, belief alone is insufficient.  If I’m completely honest, I don’t like the implications of this passage.  I want to just believe and know I’m ok.  Unfortunately, I see a similar warning in James 2:19, where we’re told, “Even the demons believe – and shudder.”

Now Jesus has my attention.  If belief alone isn’t enough, what does He expect? I interpret these two verses as Jesus giving his followers a series of If .. Then conditions:

  1. If you hold to my teaching (which I interpret as meaning: you need to live your life like Jesus told you and demonstrated to you).
  2. Then you are really my disciples (meaning, you’re not really His follower unless you do what He told you to do.)
  3. If you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth. (This suggests to me that people can’t even understand the truth unless they are really Jesus’ disciples.)
  4. Finally, when one knows the truth, the truth will set them free.

 

The believers Jesus was talking to had the same reaction I tend to have.  Wait a minute, set me free?  I’m not a slave.

 

Jesus went on to say that anyone who sins is a slave to sin, and Jesus came to set people free from sin.

 

This is really interesting to me.  As members of a denomination that claims to have the faith of Abraham, we may tend to think we have a corner on the market for faith and truth.  But how focused are we on the holiness message Jesus is sharing in this passage?  This should challenge us.

Verses 35 and 36 go on to say, 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I want a permanent place in God’s family.  But to have that place, I need to be set free – first, from sin, and ultimately from death.

 

This requires adding to belief:

  1. Following Jesus’ teaching
  2. Becoming his disciple
  3. Knowing the truth
  4. Having Him set me free.

Sign me up!  How about you?

-Steve Mattison

Judging Jesus

John 7

John 7 24

In John 7, we see multiple examples of people struggling to believe in Jesus because he didn’t fit their expectations of the Messiah.

In verse 27, the people were saying, 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” I don’t know what scripture or teaching they were relying on, but they were confused, and it prevented their believing.

Despite his not meeting their expectations, verse 31 tells us, 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him.  They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

The religious leaders heard the crowd whispering about him, and sent temple guards to arrest Jesus.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

 

We see three general categories of people in John 7.

First, some people just believed in Jesus because of the miracles he did and because of his teaching.

Second, some wanted to believe, but they knew some scripture (like the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem), and they thought they knew some facts (like Jesus came from Galilee, and not from Bethlehem), and they couldn’t reconcile the two – so they struggled to believe.

Third, we see the religious leaders, who knew the scriptures far better than the common people, but flatly rejected Jesus — partially because he broke the letter of the law by healing people on the Sabbath, and partially because he was disrupting their hold on the religious establishment of their day.

It’s easy to look back at those people and think, “They were so stupid.  Why didn’t they just believe?”  What about us?  Are we any better?  Do we have pre-conceived expectations of God, or Jesus, or Christianity that just don’t seem to fit our knowledge or experiences, so we’re struggling?  Have we studied the Bible so much that we already “know it all” (like the Pharisees), and are relying more on our knowledge of scripture than relying on our relationship with God and His son?  Or will we take Jesus at his word, as recorded in John 7: 24… 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

The good news is, regardless of whatever you decided before, you get to make your choice again today.  Choose wisely.

 

–Steve Mattison

 

A Hope, a Command and a Reassurance

Matthew 28

Matthew 28 20b

In the matter of a few sentences, we have a hope, a command and a reassurance. This hope is the greatest hope that anyone could have: the hope of a resurrection. The simple fact that Jesus walked out of His grave is proof enough that we too will walk out of our graves. God has given us a taste of His power, showed us that death isn’t something to fear. All throughout Matthew, we have seen the way that Jesus has lived and have heard His words. We know the way in which we are to live our lives. Jesus was the perfect example for us. If we follow in his footsteps just imagine the reward the we will receive knowing that Jesus was rewarded with eternal life.

This hope that Jesus left us with is accompanied with a command, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples all the commands I have given you.” This command is a heavy one, although it seems straightforward. First Jesus commands us to go. We need to move to carry out this command. The second part is to make disciples. This is a daunting task these days. It seems like no one wants to hear about religion of any kind, let alone discipleship. Maybe people don’t want to listen to you, this just means that you must go. Jesus said in Matthew 10:14, if someone won’t receive you, then shake the dust off your feet and move on. This applies to us in our daily lives even if we aren’t going to move to Peru to minister. If our friendships aren’t moving towards discipleships, then perhaps it’s time to go.

Jesus, knowing how hard this command would be to follow, provided a reassurance to go along with it. He said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus held firm until the very end of His life. He weathered the taunts and the persecution, the beatings and the crucifixion. If anyone understands hardship, He does. And He is with you always. When you are struggling in the face of trial, look to Jesus. Understand how he endured His trials and let His way work in your life. Allow Jesus to give you strength as you strive to follow his command, holding fast to the hope that we all share in the resurrection to come.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Turning Shame into Honor

Matthew 27

Matthew 27 29b-31

After Jesus had been sentenced, flogged and mocked, He was hung up on a cross with a sign hanging over His head, reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” This sign was another attempt to show contempt for Jesus. The sign mocks His name and labels him a heretical blasphemer. Yet in this attempt at mockery, there was truth. Jesus will return as King of the Jews and all those who followed Him. God took the shame that the Jews who crucified Jesus tried to cast upon Him and turned it into Honor for Jesus.

God constantly takes our shame and turns it into honor. In our current society, it is common to be called names for living a righteous and biblical lifestyle. Many will call you a prude, a goody two shoes, a tryhard. Their goal is to tear you down in the eyes of the world, to paint you as one who sits on an imaginary throne of righteous living and looks down on the world to condescend. This mockery is your honor. It is a testament to the effort that you put in to live as you have been called. Continue to wear your breastplate of righteousness and endure the mockery, and have your shamed turned into your honor.

-Nathaniel Johnson