Alien

John 15 19 (1)

As a bearded, green-eyed, 6’ 2” white male, it was hard to lose me in a crowd when I was doing mission work in Peru.  I dare say it was apparent to everyone that I was not a local.  Now we could spend a lot of time being politically correct, especially with the hotbed of controversy that currently exists around race, ethnicity, and nationality –  I PROMISE I understand more than most how tall you are, what color your hair, eyes, or skin are, or even how bearded you are doesn’t necessarily make you a foreigner. You’re right. I very well could have grown up in the streets of Huanchaco, in fact, my Memaw (that’s a grandma in the South) who looks a lot like me, spent the majority of her childhood in Peru’s capital, Lima – HOWEVER, shocking as it may be, I didn’t run across anyone that remotely looked like me.  This left most people with the right conclusion –  I was obviously a foreigner.  In fact, Mackenzie, another girl on the mission team who happens to be pretty tall too, and I posed for more than one set of pictures with complete strangers while we were out and about because we were in fact so strange ourselves (if only they really knew).  I can only imagine the conversations that took place later – “You will never believe what we saw today” – as a phone is being pulled out to show the photo – “They were so TALL.  And WHITE.  And HAIRY.” Well maybe more true of me, but Mackenzie does have pretty long hair.  What is true of me in Peru is true for me in Michigan, and Ireland, and even North Carolina (which is the state above my own that defiles their barbecue with vinegar) – as much as I try to conform to the people and surroundings, there is still a part of home that shows.

As Christians, we rightfully spend a great deal of time being inclusive. According to Paul, in one of my favorite passages, any identity we bring to the table – nationality, status, or gender – is superseded by belonging to Christ (Gal 3:28). This is consistent with the message of Jesus – “Who is my neighbor?” – anyone. Jesus drives home the point that love crosses cultures as he tells the familiar parable of “The Good Samaritan.”  Make a note: this story is NOT simply called “The Good Child of God.”  This is not a politically or socially correct tale.  However, the moral of this tale from Jesus is not “See – Samaritans can be nice too,” but lies in the emphatic removing of the barriers of race, class, and status to place the sole importance of your identity coming from following the will of God alone – all that other crap: doesn’t matter.

This means that the lines we draw are simple.  We don’t have to use family trees, tax brackets, brown bags, diets, or circumcision to prove that we are followers of Christ.  Our status comes from following the example of Christ as we live out our faith. In so doing this, you are part of the promises of God, or you’re not.  You’re in his will or you’re not.  You’re a sheep, or you’re a goat (Matt 25:31-45).  This is divisive.  Some would have you believe there are many paths to salvation.  No, there is only one (John 14:6).  Some would have you believe that other religions worship the same God.  No, they don’t (Deuteronomy 6:4).  Some would have you believe that since God is love, everyone will be in His kingdom.  No, see the aforementioned sheep and goats.  At this point, you might be shaking your head. Is it moving left to right? Or it is moving up and down?  I get it.  I can feel the reflexive wince kick in from the “you do you” age we live in, but if you submit to today’s wisdom and not the teachings of Jesus, your home is here and now.

We are called to be aliens of this world which means we must, we HAVE TO! be different.  When so many are clamoring that truth and identity are relative, Christians must stand-out like a 6’ 2”, greened-eyed, bearded white man in small-town Peru or more so like a 33 year-old radical priest flipping over tables in the tabernacle, and say, “This isn’t so! Children of God, don’t give up your inheritance!”  We have to say IT IS NOT OKAY to sling mud or resort to physical violence just because someone has wronged you.  IT IS NOT OKAY to steal from someone even if you think you are deserving of what they have. IT IS NOT OKAY to live with someone before you’re married or divorce them simply because you decided not to be with them.  IT IS NOT OKAY to fail to actively teach your children the Word of God.  IT IS NOT OKAY that multiple sexuality and gender fluidity are glorified and thought of as superior to God’s design.  AND MOST OF ALL, IT IS NOT OKAY TO WITHHOLD THE LOVE OF CHRIST FROM ANYONE WHO STRUGGLES WITH ANY OF THESE THINGS OR MORE, NO MATTER WHAT TITLE IS PLACED UPON THEM OR THEY PLACE UPON THEMSELVES.  The Good Samaritan is the The Excellent Jihadist is The Great Transexual is the The Awesome Deadbeat Dad.  “That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11)”’ This is the transition that is the definition of our hope.

The time of exclusion on this earth is temporary because our awaited time is soon coming; I don’t say this with triumph as much as I do with a sense of urgency.  It is worth the persecution, the name-calling, or moments of being looked upon as a fool or insensitive in order to lead someone to the true knowledge and the fullness of knowing their identity as a stranger of this world but more importantly, a child of God.  He has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us, not even withholding His own Son for us all.  It is time to make some waves because of your faith.  Maybe become the object of ridicule because you speak and act so differently.  But most importantly, it is time to stand as an example of how God changes the hearts of His children in this world, and moves them into the precious citizenship of His Kingdom.

“They are so JOYFUL. And LOVING. And GIVING.”…”Why?”

Aaron Winner
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1 Timothy 6

Sat Devo

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:18-19

What is the purpose of life? What really matters in life? These age-old questions have numerous answers, but Paul tries to point us to the true answer in 1 Timothy 6. In this chapter, we see two different kinds of people: those who love money and those who love God. In Paul’s words, those two things can’t exist together. Paul says, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Paul doesn’t necessarily call money evil in this passage, but he definitely states that loving money, or making it an idol in your life, will lead you down a dark path. In fact, Paul urges Timothy in the next verse (v. 11) to run from these things and to pursue, instead, “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” It would seem from these verses that the love of money and God are mutually exclusive. Jesus confirms this when he says in Matt. 6:24, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” 

Our culture today encourages us to make ourselves slaves of money. Our lives are dictated by pursuing jobs that will provide enough money to pay our bills and other living expenses until we can get the next paycheck. If we have the chance to work more to get money to buy some more nice things for ourselves, many of us will jump on the opportunity. And, that lifestyle is applauded by those around us. But, we have to always ask ourselves when get sucked into a cycle of living: is this godly or worldly? According to 1 Timothy 6, our purpose in life shouldn’t be to become rich and get all of the material goods that wealth entails. 

So what should our purpose be? Paul answers that in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: 

“Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of a life that is real.” 

When we set our hope on God, it changes what we think is important. Instead of pursuing a life of riches on earth, we begin to “collect for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart[s] will be also” (Matt. 6:20-21).

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 5

Fri Devo

“Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.” 1 Timothy 5:25

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul changes his focus to how those in the church should take care of those in need. In the early church, the church created a support system for widows who could not take care of themselves (because of cultural norms and their age). This support system was an important part of the church’s ministry and testimony. In fact, James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). Paul does give requirements about which widows to serve in this chapter, but a central truth here is that we should be serving those who are in need now.

As we look at the modern-day church, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing for those in need now. We’ve talked this week about how our faith will be shown through our actions. When we are following Jesus, we should show gentleness as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). According to this passage, we should also be showing kindness and goodness through our generosity and hospitality. If you look at your life and find this is not the case, think of ways you can begin to serve those around you, whether in a church ministry or one you create yourself. This type of service should be an outpouring of your strong relationship with Jesus. 

Just like Jesus cautions in Matt. 6, when you serve, you need to ask yourself what you are doing this for. If you are serving to try to save yourself, you can stop and rest. God’s gift of grace is the only thing that saves us. If you are serving to gain glory from others, you should stop and ask for humility. As Jesus says over and over again, when you are applauded for your actions by man now, you’ve gotten the reward for your actions. We should serve, because we want to love our brothers and sisters in Christ just like Jesus loved us. And, “your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 4

Thurs Devo

“But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-8

I’ve always had the dream of running a marathon. It’s something that I put on my bucket list in high school. At times, I’ve gotten closer to this dream by keeping up with a running plan and completing 5Ks and 10Ks. Other times, like now, that dream is definitely in the distant future as my running shoes collect dust in the back of my closet. 

As Christians, we have a dream as well. Our dream, or our goal, is to live in the Kingdom of God. This hope should give us the strength to aspire to live righteously. We should be pursuing godliness with our lives with the same passion that an athlete would pursue their sport. However, my pursuit of Kingdom-living can sometimes be like my goal of running a marathon. Instead of inspiring me or causing me to take actions towards that goal, I just add it to the list of things that I might do in the future. This goal doesn’t push me to live in a godly way. It becomes a dream that never affects my reality.

Though running and other sports can have positive benefits, we should be actively training ourselves in godliness. Like Paul says, “Godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (v. 8). Like running can help me to feel better in my daily life as well as help me to finish a future race, godliness helps us to live abundantly now and in the Kingdom. Importantly though, as Paul describes it in this chapter, godliness isn’t a switch that you can flip on and off. After baptism, you don’t just emerge out of the water a new person who will always make good, godly decisions. Godliness is something that requires training. How do we train in godliness? We follow the example and teachings of Jesus who reveals godliness to us (1 Tim. 3:16, 4:6). So let’s put on our training shoes and get to work! 

~ Cayce Fletcher

***If you would like to read some more about how to train yourself in godliness, check out this article about the topic: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2018/02/11/train-sport-godliness/ 

 

1 Timothy 3

“I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:15

Yesterday, we read about Paul’s instructions to men and women in church during worship services. The common thread throughout the chapter? We all need to pray in humility. As Paul continues his letter, he talks more about what a church should look like, focusing in particular on church leadership. He describes two different leaders: Pastors (or Elder) and Deacons. The job requirements for both of these positions may seem a little bit overwhelming. Instead of being the usual list of requirements that you might find in a job listing (e.g. must be upbeat and engaging, a team player, bachelor’s degree), these requirements shine a light onto the heart of a leader. 

Wednesday Devo

If we are a new believer, the first step we should take in our faith is to grow in our relationship with God. We do this through daily prayer and Bible reading and through meeting with our church family. However, after we have committed ourselves to the faith and have started to mature in the faith, we need to begin to work in ministry. We may not become a pastor or a deacon, but we may lead a Sunday School class for kindergartners, be on staff at an annual church youth camp, or be involved in a visiting ministry for shut-ins. If we are working in ministry, we are leading some group of people. Even if you feel like you are leading no one, you can look at your family, whether that’s children, younger siblings, or cousins, and see the effects of your influence. 

Though the requirements listed for pastors and deacons were written specifically for them, we can look at this list to judge how well we are filling our leadership role. We are not saved by these characteristics and traits, by having them shows evidence of how God is working in our lives. For instance, we should all strive to not be a bully or quarrelsome and instead be gentle (1 Tim. 3:2-3). Why? Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If God’s spirit is working in our lives, we should be showing evidence of that. So, as you look through the traits listed, think about how you measure up to the job requirements. If you find that you would not be able to fill these requirements, you should take a look at your life and ask God to help you change those areas. Those that are following you are counting on you to lead them down the right path. They are looking at you to see the way they should act. Where are you leading them? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

1 Timothy 2

Tues devo

“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Paul never shies away from hard teachings in his letters. In this chapter, there are some of the most pointed verses towards women in the Bible (1 Timothy 2:11-15). One of my roommates in college hated those verses. In fact, she had taken scissors and cut that passage literally out of her Bible. When we read this chapter though, we shouldn’t read with blinders on. Yes, there are some parts of this passage that we may be resistant to for whatever reason, but we have to lean into that resistance. We can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible we focus on; that was exactly what Paul was urging Timothy to teach against in 1 Timothy 1. 

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul begins by telling Timothy to let everyone know that prayers should be made for kings and everyone in authority (vv. 1-4). Then, in v. 8, Paul moves to instructing the men to continually pray without anger or argument. Finally, in vv. 9-15, Paul instructs the women to wear modest (not showy) clothes and learn in quietness and submission. When taken in the context of all three parts of this chapter, a common theme runs through these passages that is not just meant for women. 

Paul is instructing all of the church to practice submission to authority. Submission is “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.” It’s the way that we posture our heart so that we are quick to learn and understand the way that God wants to work in our lives. We all need to be submissive to authority, but all too often, we are not. Instead, we are prideful, which is one of the very things that God hates (Prov. 6:16-17). When we have a pride problem, we may buck under the authority of the government, our work, our parents (or husband), and our church. In fact, when we have problems submitting to the earthly authority in our lives, we will have problems submitting to the heavenly authority in our lives. 

So what antidote does Paul give for pride in our hearts? He encourages us to pray. If our goals are (1) to create the best testimony with our lives that we can (v. 2) and (2) to bring everyone into the family of God (v. 3), we should lean on the power of prayer to do so. When we are praying for others, we recognize that we can’t do anything solely on our own power for them. Instead, we can only trust that the ultimate authority, God, will work in their hearts. When we pray, we also can be thankful. Gratitude is another way to curb the pride in our lives. When we are grateful, we recognize it’s not about us and what we deserve. It’s about the graciousness of the other person we are thankful for. 

“It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence – ‘Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy name be glory.'” ~ Charles Spurgeon

~ Cayce Fletcher

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