Before-and-After Transformation

Titus 3

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Though I had never met the woman in person, I was pretty certain it was her. I’d seen many photos of this wellness coach, and I had always been stunned at her story: she lost nearly 200 pounds by following the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan, which I try to also follow for health reasons, and was now a weightlifter as well. Something about her smile was distinctive and very recognizable. I knew she lived in this general area, so it wasn’t too far-fetched to think it could be her. As we got off the hotel elevator together, I summoned up the courage to ask: “Excuse me, are you a THM coach?” She looked stunned, but kindly replied, “Yes, I am…” I explained that I recognized her from the social media pages and was awed by her story. She gave all the glory to God for helping her become healthy. We said a few more words and then parted ways. Later that night, she posted humorously on the group page that she was now a B-List celebrity because she had been recognized in public looking a bit disheveled on her way back from the hotel waterpark, and then I formally introduced myself on social media as well. 

“Before-and-after” posts almost always entice me to stop scrolling and read into the story. Whether it is a weight loss, home makeover, cake decorating challenge, hairstyle tutorial, or hoarder-to-minimalist success story, I feel so thrilled watching a transformation take place. I think we all love a good change for the better, yes? Perhaps that’s why I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of butterflies too! 

Paul tells us how our “before-and-after” should look, beginning in Titus 3:3: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” That is who we used to be, but that is not who we are now! He continues, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” So, what do we do now instead of all those behaviors we used to do before we were saved? Paul says, “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” 

Before God saved us, we were overcome by all sorts of sinful behaviors. But now that  we have experienced the kindness and love and mercy and grace of God that we did not deserve, we need to devote ourselves to doing what is good. 

We have known since we were children sitting on Santa’s lap that we were supposed to be good! But what exactly does that mean in a biblical kind of way? Hop back up to verse 1 to find a bit more guidance. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” This list seems to be at least a partial, but still challenging, description of “doing what is good”, don’t you think? 

Paul urges yet again – it must have been such a problem in their society as it is in ours! – to avoid foolish talk (verse 9). I’ve noticed this theme throughout 2 Timothy and Titus; it is a good reminder that we need to pay careful attention to watch what we say, making sure our words are edifying. We are called to be representatives of Jesus in everything we say and do. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

What does your “before-and-after” look like? Maybe, like me, you were raised a Christian and don’t have a dramatic story to tell. But God has still saved you by his grace! Write out your salvation story and testimony, so that you will always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15)

In this scripture, Paul calls believers to “do what is good”. What are some specific good things you think God is calling you to do in this season? 

Am I Greek?

Titus 2

Friday, September 16, 2022

During our most recent homeschooling year, my children and I studied world history from Creation through Greek civilization, reading the biblical accounts alongside mainstream history that was happening synchronologically.  It was so interesting to see all of the historical events weaving together to validate the Bible! When we studied Greece, we also learned about the Greek gods and goddesses, which proved to be a great opportunity to reinforce to my children the concept of false gods and idols. It also allowed for discussions about why we follow YHWH, the one true God.

Titus, to whom Paul wrote this letter, was a Greek convert to Christianity. He was leading a church, and there were a lot of problems within it. The gods of the Greeks were corrupt (for example, Zeus, the main god, was a promiscuous liar), and the Cretan Christians were getting mixed up with the qualities of the Greek gods versus the one true God, as well as copying the behaviors of the people around them. As such, there were many issues that needed to be addressed to maintain order in the church and help the new Christians get back on track with Jesus. Paul specifically speaks of men and women (both young and old), as well as slaves, with different ideals that were specific to their situation. However, all of the things Paul listed are qualities that we should all aspire to attain. I like the way The Message records verses 1-10 (I’ve put in bold the main actions):

“Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, trustworthy in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around. Guide slaves into being loyal workers, a bonus to their masters—no back talk, no petty thievery. Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God.”

Yet again, though written for a certain people in a specific time, we are not that different from the Greeks; we, too, have idols, are prone to wander, and can easily be misled by the culture around us. All of these qualities Paul listed are still admirable ambitions for all of us today! Which ones will be your focus in the coming weeks? 

Much of Paul’s advice to the Cretan church involved the older people being good examples and leaders to the younger people. There is an old saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” meaning that it is important for the child to have many good influences, as well as for the parent to have support in the difficult journey of parenting. No one could have prepared me for the mental and physical exhaustion that accompanies the wonderful joy of being a mother – and it isn’t getting much easier as my children grow older, either! I know I need help sometimes and have been grateful to some wonderful ladies in my church family (and actual family) who have come alongside me to offer help when needed. There is someone out there who can benefit from your prayers, your stories, your listening ears, and your godly wisdom, and there is likewise someone more experienced in the faith who could be all those things for you as well. 

Paul ends by reminding us that we have been saved by grace, and through our salvation, we are called to deny the passions of this world, striving to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives”. But that is not all! We are still waiting for our promised hope, when Jesus will return and redeem us again, bringing us into the Kingdom as his family. That is our goal. That is our hope. That is our happy ending. We must stay focused on the goal, spread the good news, and seek strength to live for God during this life, no matter what it may bring.

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

-What does it mean to you to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life? Are there any changes you need to make to do so?

– Is there someone younger than you (or younger in the faith, rather than in age) whom you could mentor? What about a godly person who might be willing to mentor you? Invite each of these people into your life.

Potty Talk

Titus 1

Thursday, September 15, 2022

POOP.

That was the very first word my then-4-year-old son taught himself to write, all on his own. (Proud homeschooling mama here…)

Like many boys his age, he was fascinated with all things disgusting. It was rare for even a few minutes to pass – especially at supper time! – without him making reference to some sort of bodily function, and laughing hysterically at the mere mention of it while the rest of us just prayed it would stop. My other son, now four years old, has followed suit and is also obsessed with preschool potty humor. To him, every funny noise is flatulence; every repulsive smell must be lingering from the bathroom, and it is all hilarious. Even if we explain that the sound was just a balloon releasing air or the smell was simply spoiled food, he entertains himself for a long while with the (pleasant?) thoughts of bodily functions in the house. He cannot seem to get his mind away from potty talk. 

As humankind, we, too, can become stuck in thought patterns or ideas and continue to feed those beliefs. In verses 15 and 16, Paul writes to Titus, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Now, I am not at all implying that innocent preschoolers have corrupted consciences; that was simply a humorous and relatable example about what happens when our minds are focused on one kind of thing. However, there are many people who continue to feed, to themselves and others, lies and negativity and unpleasant thoughts, which are contrary to God. As believers, we are called to live pure lives, demonstrating the redemption of Jesus’ sacrifice. We can claim to know God, but if we deny him by living without pure motives, we have lost our testimonies and are guilty of corrupted minds. Paul calls those kinds of people “detestable, disobedient, unfit for doing anything good.” Ouch. I don’t want those labels assigned to me. When my mind begins to dwell in negativity, judgmentalism, or even perversion, God often brings these lyrics to my mind: 

Give us clean hands; give us pure hearts. 

Let us not lift our souls to another… 

Oh God, let us be a generation that seeks, 

seeks Your face, O God of Jacob. 

In this book of Titus, much like he did in 2 Timothy, Paul is addressing the issue of “meaningless talk and deception” among rebellious people. Such tendencies must have been rampant then as they still are today. He calls believers to rebuke people who demonstrate this behavior so they will be “sound in the faith.” He also sets high standards for leaders within the church in verses 6-8: “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” 

Whew! I’m glad I’m not expected to follow such stringent guidelines, aren’t you? Not so fast. Though these qualifications are given to a specific church, they can still be applicable guidelines for our church leaders – and attenders! – today. Since our leaders are also human and prone to stumble like the rest of us, we must continue to pray for them as they seek God and lead His people. And, as Christians aiming to honor God and constantly growing in our faith, we too should aspire to live up to similar expectations as we serve and connect with our local bodies of believers. I’ll close with this verse that seems to fit with this passage and is a good reminder about how we should think (and therefore how we should behave, since our thoughts influence our actions): 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

Philippians 4:8-9

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

With which of the qualifications in verses 6-8 do you most struggle? Pray for God to help lead you to overcome it. 

Most of us who are reading this claim to know God, but have denied him by our actions at times. What are some ways you have done this? Ask God for His strength to live fully for him.

Preach It!

2 Timothy 4

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A few of my children became very skilled at working the system: if I said no to their request, they simply asked Dad! It only took a few incidents for us to catch on, and from then on, my husband spoke an automatic reply: “What did Mommy say?” This, of course, would result in a frowning, drooping head as the child was forced to reveal Mom’s veto. “Then that is my answer too. We are one.”

As humans, we search for permission, validation, and affirmation from numerous sources. If we believe or want justification for (fill in the blank), we can usually find sources to confirm that idea, no matter whether or not the data are manipulated. Usually, we don’t even want to know the other side. 

I’ll never forget sitting in my college classroom as a nervous freshman, disagreeing with the biblical doctrine that was being presented as fact. Having strong beliefs to the contrary, I politely asked the professor a question about his belief that really didn’t make sense to me. Even though I believed his position was not true, I wanted to try to understand how he came to that conclusion. He was very polite in return, and we had a good dialogue as he allowed me to share my beliefs. I hoped that the discussion would spur my classmates to search the scriptures for truth as well, but my new friend behind me basically just said, “I’ve always been taught this, and I don’t really want to be confused with facts.” 

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul urges Timothy to keep on preaching carefully and patiently, always being prepared to correct, rebuke, and encourage. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Though people will turn from their faith and seek affirmation of their erroneous beliefs and desires, He reminds Timothy to keep focused on his ministry and push through the challenges. 

I think Paul was aware as he penned this letter that his time in this life was drawing to a close. He pronounced in verse 7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What a powerful epitaph! I, too, want to be remembered in this way, don’t you? Paul continues in verse eight the hope that we share as followers of Jesus, awaiting the Kingdom: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Keep focused on the goal, my friends. The challenges we face will pale in comparison to the reward waiting for us in the Kingdom. 

Though Paul was left alone many times, deserted by his friends and co-laborers, he did not harbor unforgiveness toward them, nor lose hope. Instead, Paul focused on the positive: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (verses 17-18) 

May the Lord also stand by you and give you strength as you continue to share in this most important work of the Gospel. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

Consider your legacy, how you will be remembered, your epitaph. How do you want people to remember you, and what steps do you need to take to create such a legacy? 

What are some things that your “itching ears” want to hear? Are you focusing on the Bible and God’s truth to guide you, or the ways of the world? 

Our Response to a Corrupt World

2 Timothy 3

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Though I’ve always struggled with anxiety, I can trace a lot of my childhood anxiety back to one source: the 5 o’clock news. I dreaded the hour-and-a-half each evening that my Dad would sit down in his recliner and turn on the television to hear the journalists report the sad and scary happenings of the day. I grew up near Dayton, Ohio, which has several times been on the “ten most dangerous cities (of its size) in the USA” list, so there were a lot of terrifying updates about local robberies and murders, not to mention domestic and global catastrophes, such as the Persian Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing. My tender heart had great difficulty accepting such chaos and pain in the world. 

Then as a sophomore in college, I witnessed a hit-and-run, a robbery gone awry that resulted in the vehicular homicide of a sweet man, beloved in his community. I was forced to relive that terrible day many times over the next several years as a prime subpoenaed witness, until a series of unfortunate mishaps with the trials resulted in the guilty suspects being released with a clean record. I was aghast that the lawyers could be so slimy as to defend people who were clearly guilty of theft and murder, and that such evil could exist in the first place. 

With all the terrible things in the world today, it causes me to wonder, how much worse could it actually have been back in Genesis 6 when God felt he needed to start again with godly people on Earth?

The world became corrupt again after Noah, and the wickedness in human hearts has continued for millenia. Paul warned Timothy, starting in verse 2, that in the final days, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Paul reminds Timothy to stay away from such people. That list sure sounds like the tendencies of a lot of people in this world and on the news today… and if I’m being completely honest, it sounds a lot like me at times too, when I lose my Christ-focus. I, too, have been “such people.”  I am a sinner saved by grace, and I need to humbly remember how Jesus has saved me. I also need to be careful when I am in the world, to not be of it; it is important to not be influenced by people who are doing evil things, or I might sway to become a part of the sin and be pulled away from my relationship with God. Yes, we need to share the love of Jesus with everyone, but also have boundaries in those relationships.

Sometimes new Christians think that following Jesus should be The Easy Life, but the Bible is very clear that we will have difficulties as followers of Jesus. In verse 12, Paul promises that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus himself said that we will have trouble, but he has overcome the world! (John 16:33). So Paul reminds Timothy two verses later to keep focused on what he has learned, keep the legacy of faith alive. By focusing on what we knew in the good times, we can have the strength to make it through the difficult times. 

Then in verse 16, he reminds Timothy that the scripture is a guidebook for life, a manual for living. By following the God-breathed scriptures, we can have the training and correction we need to be ready to do good work for him, and (I would add) to fight any battle that we might face: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I believe that is true today as well. The scriptures have survived for thousands of years because God wanted us to have them as a roadmap for our journey in this life, His special guidance through which He still speaks to us. 

I’ll never forget how I beamed with pride as I sat in the front seat of our old red Dodge Omni hatchback, filled to the brim with camping supplies for our family’s annual vacation to the Hocking Hills KOA campground, with the Rand McNally road atlas sprawled over my 10-year-old lap. I was my Dad’s “navigator”; I had the very important job of following the criss-cross lines on the map (which my Dad had conveniently highlighted prior to our departure) to help us arrive at our vacation destination, leading the way for the rest of the clan in the car behind us. Until I was a young adult, I believed I was a good navigator. However, when my husband Dan and I got married and began to go on trips together (before smartphones were commonplace and while GPS car systems were still out of our price range), I realized that a modern Ferdinand Magellan I was not. As a directionally-challenged individual, my mis-reading of maps led us on many, shall we say, unplanned adventures. (Now, we reminisce about those frustrating adventures with a half-smile as we thank God for the invention of Google Maps and data plans.) It turns out that I wasn’t the navigator at all; my Dad had already highlighted the route and knew where he was going. He gave me the map and taught me how to read it at a basic level, but ultimately he was leading us the whole time. Likewise, God has given us a map (the Bible), and He shows us the best way to live. But we need to read His word, study His “map” and seek His ways for our lives through prayer and wise counsel. Then we will be better equipped to do His work. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

As a Christian, we are guaranteed persecution in this life. Think and pray about ways that you can prepare yourself to face those trials.

In what practical ways can you encourage and support other Believers who are facing trials? 

Look back on your life. How have you felt God’s leading through prayer and His word? How do you sense Him leading you today? (It’s a great idea to keep a journal of God’s faithfulness and answered prayers, which you can read again during difficult times!)

Godless Chatter

2 Timothy 2

Monday, September 12, 2022

As a Special Education teacher, I usually chose to eat lunch in my classroom – not only so I could complete my work early and head for home the very second my duty hours concluded, but also to avoid all the gossip that was rampant in the teacher’s lounge. (There was much unwholesome chitchat among the teachers about problematic students and challenging parents, and I tried to avoid it; I would be lying if I said I had never joined in, but I tried to stay away also to avoid the temptation to gossip.) However, when my Special Education team decided through testing, observation, and collaboration that a certain student had progressed sufficiently and therefore no longer qualified for intervention services, his mother sought legal action to force the school district to continue his therapies. This led to innumerable meetings among his intervention team, which included oodles of hours to complain whenever the parent was not present. Though many of the staff’s grievances against her were legitimate, it was a very toxic and negative environment. I was especially disgusted by the way in which the atmosphere suddenly changed to small-talk chatter through seemingly-friendly smiles once the mother entered – the very same person who had been the source of much degrading talk just a moment before. Worst of all, whenever I was around such hostility, I felt that it negatively impacted my ability to be the loving, kind, student-focused teacher I wanted to be. It drained my energy, my love, my joy, my focus. 

Though I’m more than a decade removed from the teacher’s lounge now, I’ve discovered another rampant source of dissentive arguments: social media. I’ve learned the hard way that it is nearly impossible to change the mind of someone via a FaceBook thread, and that otherwise-kind folks can be exceptionally harsh and judgemental when they’re behind a screen rather than face-to-face. Most likely some of you have noticed this sad reality as well. 

In 2 Timothy 2:15-17,22-24, Paul reminds Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene… Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful…” Paul adds that this kind of quarrelsome, godless chatter is from the devil. 

We have a higher calling as followers of Jesus, and especially as leaders, to watch our mouths. We must conduct ourselves in such a way that there is nothing of which to be ashamed, living according to biblical principles. As representatives of Jesus, if we are engaging in negative talk, we are distracting from the message of Christ and even tearing down the body of Christ. Such behavior also takes away our joy and our focus on the task God has set before us. Though the sinful natures in us might want to join in with the crowd, we are called to flee those desires and instead seek after “righteousness, faith, and love” as we are “kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

In the earlier verses of this chapter (3-9), Paul is reminding Timothy to work hard and keep focused on the goal of serving his Savior. He compares this suffering and dedication to the steadfastness of a soldier, the drive of an athlete, the persistence of a farmer, and ultimately, the dedication of Jesus Christ. Though Paul is in chains, he reminds Timothy that the Word of God is NOT chained – the Good News still needs to be shared! Soldiers, athletes, farmers all have to work very hard to reach their goals. They can’t afford to be distracted by foolish talk, and neither can Timothy be chained to negative chatter or anything else that holds him back from fulfilling his calling. It is important for all of us to keep focused on the goal of serving Jesus in each decision and action, whether big or seemingly small. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

Think about your break room conversations or your social media behavior… would people know by your actions that you are a follower of Jesus? 

What are the “evil desires of youth” from which God has set you free?

What kinds of things do you need to stay away from or spend more time doing  in order to better focus on the work God has in store for you?

Frozen by Fear. Let Loose by Love.

2 Timothy 1

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The pale princess cowered in the corner of her frigid room. Though she had been living a solitary life for many years for fear of people discovering her secret, Elsa was now summoned from her self-imposed prison for her coronation. 

“Conceal; don’t feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know…”

If you’ve seen the movie Frozen, you know that Elsa had some sort of mystical power that could create and manipulate snow and ice. She had hidden it for a long time, but a stressful situation at the coronation event caused her to lose self-control, divulging her secret to her entire kingdom and initiating an eternal winter in her kingdom. Afraid that people might turn on her, Elsa abdicated her right to the throne by escaping to the mountains to “let it go”, seemingly embracing newfound freedom resulting from the revelation of her secret. The story continues with ups and downs, laughter and sadness; however, at the end of the movie, Elsa discovers that the way to control her powers is not fear, but rather love! 

What does this have to do with 2 Timothy 1, you ask?  Well, in this letter (which is believed by many scholars to be the last correspondence that Paul penned before his death), Paul is reaching out to his young protege, Timothy. He wants to remind Timothy of the gift of his salvation, and give him some warning and encouragement for the trials that are yet to come as a follower of Jesus.  

Paul begins by reminding Timothy where his salvation journey began, being taught by his grandmother and mother. Paul then reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (verse 6). Elsa squelched her gift, but that is not the way God wants us to live in regards to our salvation. God gave Timothy, and us, a free gift of salvation, and He desires for us to fan it into flame! God longs for us to embrace His gift, to share it with others. What happens to a fire when you fan it, blow on it, nurture it? The fire grows! If you want to have a fire to keep you warm while you’re camping, you have to tend to the fire: replenishing wood as it burns down, blowing oxygen into it to get the fire rolling again, etc. Likewise, we need to actively be nurturing our gift of salvation, tending to our relationship with God each day, and sharing that gift with others, rather than hiding our gift like Elsa did. 

At the conclusion of the movie, Elsa is elated to learn that love, rather than fear, is the best way to manage her powers. Verse 7 continues, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” God’s design does not include us living in a constant state of fear. When we accept His gift, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. In fact, we normally think of hate being the opposite of love (and sometimes it is), but scripture also indicates that fear and love are opposites (“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18). Paul wanted to remind Timothy to not focus on fear in the difficult times ahead, as God’s gift does not include fear; rather, focus on power (the Holy Spirit), love (God IS love – see I John 4:8), and self control (a fruit of the Spirit, along with love, that is produced in our lives when we are seeking Him).

In verse 8, Paul advises Timothy to not be ashamed to be a follower of Jesus, but to be ready to suffer for the gospel “by the power of God.” God’s power is promised to us even through the suffering, because we were saved and “called to a holy calling”. Just like Elsa’s powers had a purpose (which was further revealed in the sequel), God has a purpose for us, and He wants us to be strengthened and willing to partner with Him – through good times and bad – to fulfill our calling to His purpose. 

I’ll close with this 1883 hymn by Daniel Whittle that some of you might remember, which is based on verse 12: 

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.


But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,

At night or noonday fair,

Nor if I walk the vale with Him,

Or meet Him in the air.

-Rachel Cain

Reflection questions: 

 – What are some practical steps you can take to “fan into flame the gift of God” in your life? 

– Reflect on some events in your life that led you to following Jesus. How can you use those experiences to encourage others to walk in faith and love instead of in fear? 

Respect

1 Timothy 5

Saturday, September 10, 2022

When I first moved to Louisiana I had experienced culture shock. The food was different, the accents were different, and even the weather was different. All around, it has been quite interesting. I think the thing that stood out to me the most is the amount of respect everyone gave each other. Especially if someone was older than you were. When I first went to church and was introduced to some of the kids there they all had to call me “Mr. Jesse” which was quite weird to me because I had not lived with a prefix my whole life, unless it was something formal. Likewise, the amount of Yes sirs and No sirs, and yes ma’ams and no ma’ams was alarming. The only time I said those things growing up was when I was in trouble. However down here it is considered just respectful. Paul, In the first verse of 1 TImothy chapter five reminds me of this culture. “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” All of these things have to do with respect. Some people say “I’m not going to give respect unless I get respect.” However I would say Paul gives us good guidelines for this by saying Honor older men as fathers, and younger as brothers and women as mothers and sisters. This is how we should treat everyone, as if they were family. It can be difficult sometimes, families can be tricky.

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. Who has been a good example to you of showing respect to others? How do you think they do it?
  2. When do you have a hard time showing respect? What can you do to improve in this area?

Want to Get Rich?

1 Timothy 6

(Today’s devotion will be on 1 Timothy 6. Tomorrow we will jump back to 1 Timothy 5. Thanks for being flexible with us!)

Friday, September 9, 2022

 “Hey Jesse are you going to buy a lottery ticket?” A group of my coworkers had been talking about the jackpot because the lottery had reached over a billion dollars. The conversation that followed that question was followed with speculation of what the group of us would buy or what we would do with the money. Many, if not all, said they would have quit their jobs and bought extravagant things. Some even said they would invest it and be smart with the money. And some said they would give most of it away and keep enough to live on for the rest of their life. My answer to the question was “No, I mean of course it would be nice to have that money but I know I would probably spend all of it and end up in debt, broke, or dead.”

I think the lottery is a good example of what the world reaches for but doesn’t understand. Money may be able to buy you a boat, a cool new car, house, vacation, or whatever. However those things are only temporary and don’t satisfy the one thing we all strive to achieve in our lives. CONTENTMENT. No, not fugitives selling wintergreen lifesavers out of a tent, but contentment. The understanding of knowing what you have right now is enough. Just read what Paul in 1 Timothy 5:6-9 says “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Money is not bad, however if you aren’t content without it, what makes you think you will be content with it? I can tell you from experience you won’t be,  unless you are trying to attain only to godliness first. Then everything else ordinarily falls into place and we become content. Something I struggle with, and I am sure you do as well, everyday. The understanding that God takes care of His people when they are seeking him is scattered all throughout the Bible. My favorite example and probably most prominent is Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of god and his righteousness, and all these things shall be handed unto you.” (I recommend reading the whole chapter to get the gist of what “all these things” Jesus is speaking about. No the lottery isn’t one of those things.) Seeking God is where we find our ultimate contentment. With him we don’t have to worry about plunging ourselves into ruin and destruction as many of the past lottery winners have done. Instead, we live our lives knowing we are content.

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. What do you think Paul meant when he said, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)?
  2. How does your contentment rank? Without ‘getting’ any more – how can you boost your contentment level with what you have right now?
  3. Explain how the Love of Money can be the root of all kinds of evil. Have you seen an example of this?

Nourishment

1 Timothy 4

Thursday, September 8, 2022

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” – 1 Timothy 4:6

One of my favorite parts of the year is camps, and retreats, and other various conferences. At these conferences I always love hearing other people’s stories of faith. Listening to the speakers everyday and overall being surrounded by people of faith and having a safe place to discuss, and weed through questions we often ask. These events we attend are crucial in spiritual development. But why do I feel differently when I get home? Similar to a feeling of hunger, if we do not surround ourselves with the nourishment of Godly things. The fact we feel hungry at home and not at these events, probably means we need to start being more diligent in reading and feeding ourself with spiritual truths, and people. If we did that we wouldn’t be as “hungry”. As Paul says, it’s just a part of “being a good servant of Christ Jesus.” That and it feels great to be close to God and his promises. Go, be nourished. I know I need it. 

-Jesse Allen

Application Questions

  1. When do you feel most spiritually nourished?
  2. What do you think God expects you to command and teach to others? (verse 11 and surrounding passage)
  3. Have you been watching your life and doctrine closely? Why do you think Paul mentions both? What is the result if you persevere in doing both well?
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