February 21 – We are ALL IN!

Read 1 Timothy 4:12

Few things in this world get me more excited than people discovering their potential in Christ. When someone gets the chance to find freedom and utilize their skills and abilities to build the Kingdom, it brings a joy to my heart that is indescribable.

That joy multiplies whenever it’s a student discovering a passion for Kingdom-building.

Students have such an incredible opportunity to spread the Gospel. They’re surrounded by their friends at school, on their teams, and on social media. They have access to the hearts of so many people.

It’s been my joy to get to walk alongside our middle school students as they begin to learn what it means to have the ability to influence others. It’s been such a joy to see them grow through mission trips, inviting their friends, and through their personal walk with Christ.

Whenever I consider how students can impact the people around them, I am reminded of what Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12.

He brings recognition to the fact that, just because someone is young, doesn’t mean they don’t have influence. And even more so – what kind of example they can set for believers when, even at a young age, they choose to live out their faith in their speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

Seeing a student who is willing to take their next step by beginning to influence the people around them, moving from a “me, me, me!” attitude to an others first mindset, is something that few people get to see. How lucky am I that it’s a part of my job on a regular basis!

Nothing compares to the feeling of hearing a middle school student say, “I invited 3 of my friends to come to Grace Students this weekend! I really hope they come!”

It is consistently such a blessing for my wife, Jess, and me to see our students grow in their faith as they walk alongside others and share the Good News with them. It is my joy to be ALL IN with our student ministries here at Grace!

Sean Snyder

December 5 – Personal Contentment and Financial Covenants

Read 1 Timothy 6:1-10

“The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.”  (Prov. 22:7)

The “covenants” we establish with lending institutions enable us to have today what we can pay for tomorrow…and the next day…and next month…and next year.  Some of the financial decisions we make, you see, lead to servitude.  The writer of this simple proverb reminds and warns us of this reality.

Of course, we can avoid that kind of slavery through debt-free living.  We can decide to never enter into such an agreement with a bank, mortgage company, or lender.  That commitment would certainly enable us to avoid the slave/master relationship described above.

But beyond the external actions and decisions to borrow or not to borrow is something even more basic.  It is the principle of contentment.  On our refrigerator, we have a magnet that reads:

“Contentment is a state of the heart that says you would be at peace if God gave you nothing more than He already has.”

  • Choosing contentment helps you to avoid the griefs of regret and misdirection (v. 10b).
  • Choosing contentment prevents you from wandering from the faith to chase other idols (v. 10).
  • Choosing contentment steers you clear of the traps and temptations that have caused the ruin and destruction of countless others throughout history (v. 9).
  • Choosing contentment will cause you to be satisfied with the essentials (food and clothing) rather than yearning for the luxuries (v. 8).
  • Choosing contentment will force you to view life through the lens of eternity where nothing material you currently have will still be yours (v. 7).

The potential of the contented life is amazing.  Just imagine the expenses you can avoid!  Just imagine the savings you can experience!  Just imagine the freedom that can be yours by paying for things with money you have!  Just imagine the resources you can leverage for the purpose of generously doing good for others!  Ultimately, just imagine the satisfaction that comes from finding your satisfaction in God rather than things!

sbk

August 12: Don’t Covet

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10
This week we are exploring the commandment, “Do not covet.” A wise friend of mine often says, “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.” Why? Because the more we desire something, the more we build up and embellish it in our minds. Wouldn’t it be great to have all the money so-and-so has? I’d love to have a house/car/boat/you-name-it like them. If only I was in their shoes, just think of the prestige and fame that would be mine! I am also reminded of another wise saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The point here is two-fold. First, if we were to get what we think we want, we would most likely be very disappointed in how the reality falls far short of our puffed-up expectations. It doesn’t measure up. It gets old and out-dated. It breaks. Second, once attained, the objects of our desire often come with some very unexpected consequences. A big house/car/boat requires much cleaning, maintenance and expense. A long-awaited promotion includes loads of headaches and endless hours. What we have possess us instead of the other way around.

When we ignore the things God has already given us in striving for what we do not have, our level of contentment plummets. I find it very interesting that today’s passage mentions food and clothing but does not include the last of the big three we feel are absolutes – shelter. Would I be content with just food and clothing? Not even a little. The point here isn’t that I should aspire to live life like a homeless guy, but rather that my bar for contentment should be set very low.

Why would I be happier living this way? It isn’t too hard to grasp the idea that we can’t take anything with us when we leave this life. If God wants the absolute best for my time here on earth, verses 9 and 10 give me a glimpse into navigating that time successfully. Seeking the riches I think I want is a temptation and a trap of foolishness. Not only is it harmful, it will result in exactly what I don’t want: ruin and destruction. In wandering from contentment found in the family of faith, I only end up pierced with grief from chasing that which I can’t ultimately keep.

What are you chasing in your life?

Wade Karhan

July 10: Honor Parents Who Need Help

Read 1 Timothy 5:1-16

What does conduct in the church look like? What kind of leaders and servants should a church have? How do people in the church relate to one another? Those are the kinds of questions that Paul is answering in this first letter to his dear friend Timothy (3:15). In doing so, the fifth chapter of this book also gives you insight into how you are to respond to the fifth commandment to “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12).

As a background to Paul’s thoughts, you should note that caring for widows is close to the heart of God (Deut. 14:28, 29; Js. 1:27). Thankfully, that kind of care was also important to the early church. Just a short time after the birth of the first church in Jerusalem, you can read about the concern they demonstrated as they offered food to widows on a daily basis (Acts 6:1-6). That kind of widow care apparently continued beyond that place and beyond that point in time. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives clarity for this ministry of the church in Ephesus.

While the apostle gives a fairly detailed list of qualifications for receiving help, that is beyond the scope of our intentions here. Key for us to recognize is the priority that the Scriptures ascribe to family members in providing care for a widow. Here is the clear teaching:

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (v. 4)

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (v. 8)

“If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.” (v. 16)

The point is clear. God has designed the family to be first in the line of care providers for other members of their family. Demonstrating this care is both a means of saying “thank you” to the generation ahead of us and a proving ground for our faith.

Are there family members (parents and grandparents especially) that you need to honor in this way?

sbk

June 16: For the Rich

Read 1 Timothy 6:17-21

As Paul gave Timothy clear instruction about conduct within the body of Christ in Ephesus, there was one final group of people Timothy was to address…the rich. Something within us causes most of us to tune out at that point. But wait. Let me just point out income in some of the countries where Grace is involved in ministry. Did you know that…

  • The average income in the Central African Republic where we have dug water wells is $700/year. That is less than $2/day!
  • The average income in Cambodia where the Kane’s and Wise’s serve Christ is less than $1/day at $321/year!

So, would you place yourself in the camp of the rich? “Rich” is a comparative term, isn’t it?!

Whether we consider ourselves rich, or not, today’s reading has great instruction from which we can benefit. First, there are things to avoid…like an attitude of pride or a misplaced hope! Pride can cause us to forget the ultimate source of our resources. They all come from God. Even when you believe it to be the sweat of your brow, in reality, He provided the strength, wisdom, and opportunity. Be quick to give Him credit for all you have!

Paul also warns us, regardless of how much we have, not to affix our hope to our resources or possessions. Both are transient. They can be gone in a flash! For that matter, so can we! Instead, remember that God is our hope. He is eternal while material things are but temporal!

Second, there are things we should do! We should be people who generously leverage our resources in order to worship God and serve others. While it is true that we cannot take any money or material possessions with us, we can utilize them in such a way that eternity is impacted. Just think, by investing in something like a water well in Africa, an African boy may live longer, hear the gospel, respond to it and spend eternity with Christ and with you in heaven. By investing in the Ministry Center in Cambodia where the Kane’s serve, a Cambodian girl may find Christ and be forever different!

Meanwhile, the generous investment of your resources also somehow translates into an eternal treasure that you will only realize on the other side of this life.

Are you rich? Be generous!

sbk

June 15: Godliness, Contentment, Spiritual Gain

Read 1 Timothy 6:2b-16

Did you notice in today’s reading the two equations representing differing mindsets?

  1. Godliness = $ Gain
  2. Godliness + Contentment = Spiritual Gain

The first of those equations is the message of many false teachers in Timothy’s day…and also in ours. They embrace conclusions that are contrary to biblical teaching about Christ and godliness. They are characterized by pride, and controversial quarrels and friction seem to follow them wherever they go. Either their teaching or their motivation is characterized by the idea that “godliness is a means of gain.” As a result, they either teach that “God wants you wealthy” or they use their false spiritual platform motivated by the idea, “I will use this spiritual façade to make me wealthy.”

Meanwhile, equation #2 is the real reflection of life the way God planned it. Indeed there is benefit, there is gain to leading a genuinely godly life. But there are three important caveats that make this much different from equation #1:

  1. The gain is not necessarily financial. If your life is fueled by the motivation to get financially ahead, you are setting yourself up for disaster! That disaster is exposed in verse 11, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
  2. Instead, we must possess a pervasive attitude of contentment. Most people I know (myself included) have a refrigerator, freezer, and a pantry or cupboards in which there is food for meals for days to come. In our closets, dressers, and storage containers are found ample clothes that we would not have to do laundry for days if we so chose. Contentment says, “As long as I have clothes on my back and my next meal, I need nothing more.
  3. The godliness is true godliness. It is not characterized by false teaching, by pride, or by dissension and quarreling. Instead, it embraces the essential truths of the faith and seeks to respond in obedience to God’s expectations…not find loopholes. It is sincere, not motivated by any anticipated win other than gratefulness for all that God has provided and a desire to please Him and experience all He has truly intended.

Fix your focus on Christ and pursue equation #2!

sbk

June 14: Elders and Employers

Read 1 Timothy 5:17-6:2

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I am not sure how to relate to that person”? Perhaps the person is a bit different . . . a little unusual . . . and you just don’t know how to interact with him/her. Maybe they are just “normal,” but they are older/younger or in a position of authority over you.

I never realized until recently how much the New Testament letters instruct us as believers about how to relate to others. In fact, already in this first letter to Timothy, Paul has communicated how we should view and interact with those older, those younger, and with widows (5:1-16). In today’s reading, we are given further instruction…this time about how to relate to elders and employers.

Elders can be unusual. I’ll give you that. Being one, I know that I can be odd. Nevertheless, Paul outlines the following principles with regard to these spiritual leaders in the local church.

  1. They should be carefully selected (v. 22). They should only be commissioned to ministry after careful evaluation in light of such things as character evaluation as reflected in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
  2. They should be honored (v. 17). Now, don’t go overboard here. An elder is not next to the incarnate Christ! Meanwhile, elders give of themselves to shepherd and to protect the flock of God. They are deserving of our respect.
  3. Depending on the situation, they should be compensated (vv. 17, 18). To be sure, there will be people like Paul who make tents and proclaim the gospel (1 Cor. 9). But, the general principle is that those who give great amounts of time and energy to preaching and teaching should be paid.
  4. They are not perfect and should be corrected (vv. 19, 20). Out of respect, this should be done by two or three and not potentially based on one person’s inaccurate assessment.

How a person relates to an employer is also outlined here. OK, the actual statement is to how a slave is to respect and honor a master. Thankfully, the closest parallel in our culture today is the employee/employer relationship. But if slaves were to honor masters in sometimes terribly unfavorable circumstances in the first century, shouldn’t we do the same today?

How does this impact how you will relate to elders and employers this week?

sbk

June 13: First Responders

Read 1 Timothy 5:1-16

As Timothy instructed the believers in Ephesus about proper conduct within the church, he was to tell them how to relate to one another. Relationships within the church, you see, were to reflect the same kind of respect, concern, and propriety that you would experience within the family (vv. 1, 2). But, ultimately, the family was to be like the fire department in situations of desperate need…they were to be the first responders.

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (5:8).

When we, as family members, act as first responders (especially to parents and grandparents), we are doing two things. First, we are “repaying” them. They have made an investment in us.  Who we are, is, in part, a result of how their lives have intersected with and impacted ours.  When we give time, energy, or resources to family, we are saying “thank you.”

But beyond the “thank you,” our provision for relatives and immediate family is a litmus test of our faith.  You see, family is the first context in which our faith is to be lived out.  In fact, if we fail to care for our family, God is not pleased (v. 4).  Ouch!  That is a strong statement.  But it gets stronger yet.  Your care for your family says something about your faith.  Family care is so much a part of the natural, first response of genuine believers that a failure to care indicates that faith is not genuine (v. 8).

I hope, however, that you also noticed that there is a second line of defense.  The second ones on the scene, the ones who also carry responsibility…especially for widows…are those in the church.  As in the first church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-7), the church is to help meet the real needs of godly, older women who have lost their husbands.  In fact, it is this genuine concern for widows and orphans that should characterize true believers (Js. 1:26, 27).

Are you participating in meeting the needs of your family?  Are there widows, orphans, or single-parent children with real needs in your world that God would have you respond to?  The family…and the church…should be first on the scene!

sbk

June 12: Doctrinal Stability

Read 1 Timothy 4:1-16

If you had received the same orders that Timothy had received, how well would you do? Hopefully you remember that Paul wanted Timothy to stay in Ephesus, “so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1:3). Would you recognize false teaching…let alone confront it?

Sure, there are different flavors of false teaching, but the specific kinds that Paul had in mind had some of these characteristics:

  • Its ultimate source was not divine but demonic. (v. 1)
  • Its human mouthpieces were “expect something from you, but not as much from me” deceivers. (v. 2)
  • Its authority stems from irreverent myths and silly wives’ tales. (v. 7)
  • By nature, it legalistically restricts freedoms that God gives to his people. (vv. 3-5)

Now, there are other forms of false teaching that are just as dangerous. For example, many today would pretend to use Scriptural authority while claiming freedom in areas that God has restricted.

The real key to identifying the false teaching is the principle emphasized among experts trained to recognize counterfeit money. They become so familiar with the genuine currency that the attempts at imitating it stand out. Timothy, you see…

  • Had been brought up in the truths of the faith (v. 6)
  • Had followed good teaching (v. 6)
  • Was to diligently study and correctly handle the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15)
  • Was to publicly declare the truths of Scripture (v. 13)
  • Was to watch and persevere in sound doctrine (v. 16)

So . . . back to my original question . . . would you be able to identify false teaching? Your ability to do so will grow as you give attention to the word of God. The dangers of being pulled in to an unbiblical worldview are very real. Up your commitment to the Bible today!

sbk

June 10: Godly Women

Read 1 Timothy 2:8-15

  • No running.
  • No gum chewing.
  • Raise your hand and be recognized before you speak.

These might represent just a few of the rules you might expect in a school setting. Meanwhile, remember Paul is writing this letter to Timothy as God’s representative to the church in Ephesus in order that people would know how to conduct themselves in church (3:14-16). This “conduct” is not focused on things to do or not to do while in a building. Instead, it has more to do with how people relate to one another, what roles they play, and on what they should focus attention and energy.

We saw in chapter 1 how critical the teaching of the church is! Already in chapter 2, we have been reminded of the priority of prayer and of the fact that men should be especially diligent in prayer.

What about women? Certainly, women are to be prayer warriors as well. But the noteworthy characteristics of a godly woman extend beyond that.

Rather than catching attention with flashy and perhaps revealing clothing, women are to be modest. They don’t, through their appearance, attempt to be the standout that causes all eyes to turn. That isn’t to say that they should wear a drab burlap sack and no makeup. But, ultimately, attention is to be drawn to the Lord, not to them.

Rather than being primarily known for external beauty, women are to be known for their godliness as depicted in good works. Their righteous behavior, genuine concern, and selfless service for others are the very things that draw attention to them . . . and ultimately to the Lord. Remember? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that our good works cause others to glorify God!

Rather than being known for loud, outspoken leadership, women are to be characterized by quiet submission. Certainly, this runs contrary to societal norms, and yet it is another facet of the godly women that makes her beautiful in God’s eyes and appropriate as she relates to those in the body of Christ.

Modest dress, good works, and quiet submission are the types of things that characterize godly women in Christ’s church.

sbk