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

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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 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 

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 

Lessons from the Wilderness: The Israelites

heb.Over the next few days, we’re going to look at four wilderness stories in the bible to learn a lesson about what the wilderness is and what it can teach us. The first Wilderness Wandering Lesson is this:

Wilderness Wandering Lesson #1: The faithful love of God is infinitely more secure than our fractured circumstances.

The most recognizable story of wilderness is that of the Israelites. After 400 years of servitude to the Egyptians, the Israelites kept crying out to God for the deliverance prophecied by Joseph in Gen. 50:25. That help came in the form of Moses, who was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites to the land of Canaan. So this so-called Promised land, part of the covenant promise that God made with Abraham in Gen. 12, was the Israelites’ destination. Even in the Israelites’ time in the wilderness, we can see two purposes in the wilderness. The wilderness in the first year was a time of purification and dependence. It is in the wilderness that the Israelites learned to trust God for direction (Fire and Cloud – Ex. 14) and sustenance (Manna and Water – Ex. 16). In Exodus 16, God even says, “I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions” (v. 4). This testing was his goal for the first year the Israelites spent in the wilderness. Spent mostly at the base of Mt. Sinai, it was in this time that the Israelites received the ten commandments, built the tabernacle, and received the rest of the law (Ex. 15-Num. 10). Though there was difficulty in this time (think Golden Calf – Ex. 32), this time in the wilderness was also full of incredible closeness to God. It was during this time that the Israelites were able to witness the Shekinah glory of God descend on the tabernacle. And, during this time, the Israelites experienced the humbling dependence on God that came from relying on him.

Map-Route-Exodus-Israelites-Egypt

We can think of this first year in the wilderness as the training wheels period where God was showing the Israelites that relying on him was best. That trusting in him was the way to choose life and joy. In Numbers 10, the Israelites break camp and move towards the border of the Promised land. In Numbers 11, the cracks begin to show again as the Israelites complain more and more about hardship, food, and in the case of Aaron and Miriam, the power and relationship with God that Moses had. Based on the tendencies that we see in these chapters, we shouldn’t be as surprised as we generally are that the Israelites get to the border of the promised land and choose to go against God and refuse to take the land because of their fear (Num. 14). The Israelites chose not to go into the promised land because their trust in God was lacking. They didn’t think that God would do what he said he would. Instead, they based their decisions on their circumstances, which seemed too difficult to overcome. It’s this that ultimately angers God and leads towards his judgment against the Israelites: They would wander the wilderness for 40 years (one year for each day they spent scouting the wilderness). In the remaining chapters of Numbers, we see more instances of rebellion and provision as the Israelites do exactly as God says and wander the wilderness for 40 years. It is not until the book of Joshua, that we see the next generation of Israelites rise up and take the land just as God promised his people that they would.

These two tales are frequently told together, but they tell two very different stories of the wilderness. In the first, the Israelites seemed to have done nothing to be put in the wilderness, while in the second, the wilderness was a place of punishment for the past sin of the people. But, the purpose of each wilderness experience is the same. The wilderness is meant for purification and refinement, to make the people of God ‘holy, because [he] is holy’ (Lev. 19:2). Too often, I think we view the wilderness as a punishment, and because of that, we go back to asking God, “Why? Why am I here?” We may even sound like some of my high school students when they get called out, “Why? I wasn’t even doing anything!” (No matter what they are doing.) We need to stop viewing the wilderness as a place of punishment. It can be that place, as we’ve seen with the Israelites. But, more importantly, this time in the wilderness is where God is beckoning us back to him. It’s in this time that all of the Israelites first heard God’s word. It’s in this time that they felt the characteristics of God that Moses spoke in Numb. 14:18. In your wilderness wanderings, instead of focusing on the doubt – the questions of why you are in that experience – focus on who God is:

“The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation.” (Numb. 14:18)

Rest on God’s faithful love, and in your time in the wilderness, don’t forget to remember who he is. When we trust in him, our circumstances don’t seem so challenging anymore.

~ Cayce Fletcher

Pursue Wisdom – Proverbs 8

wisdom more precious than rubies
per·son·i·fi·ca·tion
/pərˌsänəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/
noun
1. The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.

The ability to make observations of all things whether physical or abstract and transform them into practical understanding that helps us to live better lives is an important aspect of wisdom and wisdom literature.  It certainly is a time honored tradition.  If you’ve ever read Aesop’s fables you are familiar with this kind of use of metaphor, here’ an example:

The Ants and the Grasshopper

THE ANTS were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime.  A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food.  The Ants inquired of him, “Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?’  He replied, “I had not leisure enough.  I passed the days in singing.”  They then said in derision:  “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.

Proverbs 8 is a textbook example of personification.  The writer takes Wisdom as an idea and personifies it all over the place.

Wisdom calls out and raises her voice.  Wisdom takes her stand.  She cries aloud at the city gates.  Wisdom speaks truth and rejects lies.  Wisdom is older than the earth, she was alongside God before the creation.  Wisdom has children and imparts blessing to all who listen to her.

I’m a big fan of metaphorical language and so this kind of personification of wisdom is very appealing to me and how I think and communicate. To me, the theme which rises above all in Proverbs 8 is that Wisdom should be highly valued:

  • “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold.  For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
  • “My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver”
  • “Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.  For those who find me find life and receive favor from the LORD.”

The importance of wisdom can’t be overstated.  It’s essentially giving high value to common sense and good judgment.  The writer of the Proverb wants the reader to value common sense and good judgment so much that he or she looks for it every day.  Where can I find valuable insights that will help me to live a better life?

Here’s the problem, there’s an awful lot of foolishness in the world and our entertainment industry and now social media traffics in a lot of foolishness.  Now, don’t get me wrong- technology is a double edged sword and there’s a lot of wisdom to be found at our fingertips.  I’m not the most skilled mechanic or carpenter in the world, but when I have a household repair job I need to tackle, I can usually find at least a dozen Youtube videos showing me how to get the job done.  But there’s also a lot of stupid stuff on there that can be an extreme time waster.  We all have the same amount of hours in a day, we need to be wise in how we use it.  We can eagerly use it to search for wisdom where it can be found… or we can waste it on foolishness.  Do you value wisdom enough to eagerly pursue it like it was gold?

One gold nugget from Proverbs 8 to close “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (vs. 13).  If we fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, then we need to love what God loves and HATE what God hates.  So pay attention to the things that God hates: “pride, arrogance, evil behavior, perverse speech.”  If God hates it, so should we. So we need to reject attitudes and actions in ourselves that are offensive to God.

So let’s learn to love wisdom (even if it isn’t a person).

~ Jeff Fletcher