Let the World See

1 Timothy 1

Welcome!

Today’s passages seem to have some different main themes, so while all of these are valuable, we will be focusing mainly on 1 Timothy 1 for the purpose of keeping this devotional to a reasonable length 😊

1 Timothy 1 is written by a very dedicated and enthusiastic believer, Paul.  Paul is a very impressive man with an incredible testimony (that we get to see a little bit here) and clearly has a passion for the Kingdom.  This is why I sometimes have to re-read his messages to better comprehend just how deeply he cares for people and soak up all the energy for spreading the gospel he has!  Paul tells Timothy that God’s plan operates by faith (v. 4) and that our role as believers is to have love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (v. 5).  I LOVE that description of who Christians should be in the world!  Loving, Good, and Sincere.  Do you think the world today has that view of Christians? Or do you think that unfortunately, the world has the view of Christians who turn to fruitless discussions regarding the law (v.6-7)? 

It can be hard to swallow verses like 1 Timothy 1:9 where it says “the law is not for the righteous, but for the sinful”, if you are a sinner and know a Christian who has fruitless discussions about the law.  However, if more Christians today took their righteousness and expressed the “glorious gospel” that has been entrusted to them (v. 11), I have a feeling that it would be much easier to reach those who do not know the law!  The implied context in this passage is not expressing the idea that once you are a believer you don’t have to follow the law, but rather that once you are a believer your focus should shift off yourself and your “good works”, and move towards reaching others who need to know the law.  Paul models a great example of how to approach others about Jesus, by telling them that Christ came to save ALL sinners, including the worst of them all, which was himself! (v.15) When we openly share the impact Christ has in our lives and humbly recognize that we are all sinners, it becomes much easier to reach those who need salvation just as much as we do.

This is not to say that discussions of the law should not happen amongst believers!  Paul tells Timothy to strongly engage in battle to avoid having a shipwrecked faith (v. 18 -19).  To be prepared for battle, it’s important to know what you are up against and how to combat it!  What is key here is that our battle is not one meant to destroy arguments or put down people by boasting of our own righteousness, but rather our battle is against the evil one who is dedicated to keeping people out of the Kingdom.  Our battle is fighting for the citizenship of an eternal Kingdom, for ourselves and for everyone we meet.  The law is one tool we use to win that battle!  Another tool is our own testimony, another is the story and purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and yet another is simply sharing how amazing our God truly is.

Isaiah 40:28-31 provides a great passage to reach others with; I encourage you to memorize it for the sake of winning the battle!

“Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth.  He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.  He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.  Youths may faint and grow weary, young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 39-40 and 1 Timothy 1

Portion Sizes

2 Kings 1-4

Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit

On our occasional visits to Disney World, I often think about the cruel irony of Walt never laying eyes on his biggest dream.  He died just five years before the Magic Kingdom opened, just as they were breaking ground. While Disney was charismatic, passionate, creative, and a visionary, he surrounded himself with an entourage of like-minded people, so consequently, his dream did not die with him. By mentoring and empowering those who worked for him, he allowed their passion, creativity, and vision to fuse with his own, to accomplish even greater things than even he could imagine.  In some manner of speaking, each one of the people around him each received the spirit of Disney, yet retained their own spirit, allowing them to benefit from both. This legacy has been passed down over and over again, and Disney has become one of the most innovative companies in film, television, and travel.  Using a conversion that translates 1966 dollars to 2020, The Walt Disney Company is worth a hundredfold more today than it was 54 years ago, maybe even more than Walt, the greatest of the imagineers, could have ever dreamed.

 

While the opening today sounds like one of the final chapters of a leadership book, it is akin, albeit less significantly and definitely imperfectly, to the promises of Elijah and Jesus.  Both not only spent a great deal of their time speaking with God, prophesying, and doing miracles, but both these men made specific investments in the people around them for God’s message to increase.  Jesus surrounded himself with the disciples, and Elijah’s legacy is specific to Elisha.  There is no doubt that these men’s examples made a profound impact on those who spent the most time with them (and yes, the example of Jesus is reverberating, impacting us today, but that’s the direction we’re heading).  The momentum of Elijah or Jesus did not stop when they were taken to heaven.  In fact, Elisha, and Peter, often thought of as the disciple Jesus was closest to, were recipients of faith-induced natural phenomena (2 Kings 3:17 ; Acts16:26).  Additionally, both Peter and Elisha raised people from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35; Acts 9::32-43). Years of watching, listening, and serving led to specific callings for each of these men to do bigger, bolder things than demonstrated by their predecessors (with exception to the propitiation of Christ).  In fact, both Elijah and Jesus prophesied this to be so (2 Kings 2:10; John 14:12-14)

 

This begs the question: who are we bringing along on our faith journey?  If we are effectively sharing the Gospel message, is there not someone who is receiving an exponential portion of whatever our faith has to offer?  How can we extend our finite time on earth to impact the infinite time we will inherit in the kingdom of God? It may be as simple as sharing our faith with our family.  As my children grow, I am alarmingly realizing the majority of their modeling and information is from my wife and me.  Our ultimate goal is that their faith far exceeds our own, yet if we do not show the devotion, love, and belief we have, they will never receive even a single portion of it, much less build upon the faith we have.  It could be we have served in ministry or occupation where we are now becoming the experienced one (this is also known as “old”).  It is time to take someone under our wing, share our testimony and calling.  By allowing someone to watch, listen, and serve, they can learn from our successes and failures without having to bear the consequences or responsibilities, ultimately placing them in a more successful position when they are on their own, long after our influence has left for one reason or another. Their trajectory is steeper, and at some point will outpace us.

 

Ultimately, we should be intentional about sharing our faith, vision (God-given), and resources (also, God-given) with our families or small circle of influence. Our greatest calling may be to prepare the way (Eli, Mordecai, and John the Baptist) for someone who will do more than we could possibly imagine because God will use them to exponentially grow his kingdom.  Let’s make some significant investments. Let’s sow and tend the seeds. Let’s watch as God makes the return thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold because the world is starving for His message. Let us pray and work to serve up bigger portions than ever.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 5-8 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Let Your Light Shine Before Men

Matthew 5

matthew 5 16

Clemson University is less than 30 miles away from my house.  The people I go to church with are Clemson fans. The people I work with are Clemson graduates.  On any given day at school, half of my students could be wearing Clemson hoodies, shirts, or lanyards.  For the most part, the people of Upstate South Carolina bleed orange, accessorize in purple, and decorate with tiger print.  I know no matter where you live, there is a similar pride for a local college too, BUT your college wasn’t in the NCAA Football National Championship game (well, unless it’s Bama).

Now, it seems like I’m rubbing it in.  I’m not. My loyalties lie elsewhere, to the rival and unfortunate underdog, South Carolina; however, I do admire the fandom of many of the people I call my friends.  It did not surprise me on Monday night when I logged onto social media that orange was the color of the evening. I saw post after post after post about Clemson’s domination and victory in the National Championship game (sorry, Bama fans).  These people simply could not help themselves because there was something praiseworthy to talk about and they felt like they HAD to share. Although the rivalry and redundancy made me slightly disturbed, there was saving grace in many of these posts.  So many of my friends not only shared news about the victory, but also shared the words of wisdom and faith given by Dabo Swinney, the coach of Clemson, and the players from both sides, who used this moment as an opportunity to let Jesus Christ shine before men, sharing their faith with the cameras rolling.

In today’s reading, Matthew Chapter 5, there is an overwhelming amount of wisdom to take in as we begin the Sermon on the Mount which spans three chapters.  You could easily spend weeks studying the dissertation of Jesus in these chapters alone. To help give focus to this rich reading, so many of Jesus’ words today focus on changing the source of our actions, moving from a mindset that focuses on religious practice to a mind-changing Kingdom of God focus that infects our thoughts.  Harbored hate (5:22), disharmony with a brother or sister in Christ (5:24), looking lustfully (5:28), emphatic swearing (5:34), and even unwillful giving (5:40) become explicitly stated intentions of God’s Law. Jesus painstakingly picks at the heart because fulfillment of Law (5:17) is not in empty legalistic work, but in the motive that navigates these actions.  When the cameras of life are rolling, people will hear our words and see our actions, so intention and motive are not enough, BUT it is the Shining Light, the treasure hidden within the jars of clay, that will ultimately show the surpassing power, hope, and beauty that comes from God’s desire in our hearts (2 Cor 4:7). If we can simply love God and love others (Matt 22:36-40) every Law and moment becomes an opportunity to let our light shine, showcasing works of love and the plans of our Heavenly Father for all men to see.

Sometimes there’s trouble in this execution. It is a lot easier to share a video, applaud someone else’s effort for Christ, and feel like we have done our duty. That is simply not enough.  This is in NO WAY to slight Clemson fans. Or Bama fans. Or football fans. As a South Carolina fan, I am no fan’s judge, and as a sinner, I am no man’s judge. This is simply to mindfully consider the way we “share” our Christian faith in our time and culture.  How are we showing Jesus Christ in our lives to shine before mankind? Are we constantly placing our light on a lampstand where it fills and consumes our actions and the people around us? Or are we conveniently hiding our light under a basket until it becomes easier, safer, or more opportunistic to share? I applaud Dabo, and Trevor, and Tua for sharing their faith, and it inspires me to do the same, but there must be a light shining in OUR hearts that is driving OUR actions.  We are called to reach the dark corners of our place and time, where the voice of Jesus and Dabo do not reach (Acts 1:8) or where they are simply treated as white noise until the fulfillment of the Law is felt with all-consuming actions by us who carry the same message of hope.

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We must stop being complacent “sharers” of our faith.  It is time to get out your light and dust it off; to become deliberate and vulnerable with your faith, transforming your mind (Rom 12:1,2); to place it where any man, woman, or child who crosses your path will see your actions; and then watch the glory of God as it fills up your life and the lives of those around you.

-Aaron Winner

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