Exercise of the Heart

MSG Eph 3:8 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.

ESV 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

NLT 8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.

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What you see above are three different versions of the same verse listed one after another.  The first is an esteemed paraphrase and the other two are translations. The Word of God still has the power to remind us it’s purpose is our purpose too. Put yourself in Paul’s place and read these inspired words as if they’re your own.

“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.  Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.”

Combining three different versions of this one verse has become an exercise of the heart that makes use of repetition to emphasize the clarity of their purpose: the “privilege” to tell people about the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”  It’s also become a contemporary application that confirms the Word of God is still alive and able to inspire the heart of His people to make it very personal.

Biblegateway PDF
This downloadable PDF file has directions on how to use your internet access to read many versions of a single verse Bible reference in list form.

[Footnote] of Fullness

NLT Eph 2:19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
                                                                      OR
ESV Eph 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[sojourners] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[IN] the Spirit.

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Those [footnote] brackets have become a valuable alert in Scripture which hold gifts designed to broaden our faith.  The carefully thought out phrases or words within those brackets are so much more than the work of dedicated translators.  Footnotes matter because they are one way God uses to reveal the fullness of His truth through the many translations of His Word.  They challenge us to consider even a simple two-letter preposition like “IN” as a breath of fresh air that opens the eyes, the mind and the heart to greater understanding.  [IN] is a footnote of fulllness that reveals God’s heart for our personal growth.

NLT: “you…being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.”  Those are familiar and true words with the blessing of Good News that we are the dwelling place where “God lives by His Spirit.”
……………………………………………………AND……………………………………………………….
ESV: “you…being built together into a dwelling place for God by[IN] the Spirit.”  There’s the same familiarity of truth and blessing but with the Good News broadened by the emphasis of a simple [IN].  God ‘lives by His Spirit” throughout all time because “we are carefully joined together in” Christ as “saints and members of the household of God” to enable us to live “for God [IN] the Spirit.”

Response of the Heart

ESV Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

NLT Eph 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

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Take a minute and think of how many times you’ve heard yourself say “I should.” We are by nature a people of “shoulds,” even when it comes to our faith. Should’s are like the underbelly of human response compared to God’s Grace. Grace is “the gift of God.”  That gift is the foundation of His heart that validates every aspect of our faith.  “And you can’t take credit for this;”…your repentance, your transformation, your growth, your study, your wisdom, your knowledge and understanding of your relationship to God and it’s impact on your human relationships and behavior.  

Only by fully accepting how powerful Grace is in our life can we come to realize there is nothing in that list that is dependent on our “should’s.”   Grace is responsible for our repentance, our transformation, our growth, our study, our wisdom, our knowledge and understanding of our relationship to God and it’s impact on our human relationships and behavior.

This is the Word of God: “We are God’s masterpiece.”   He has “created us anew in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus is the Piece of the Master created within us to change our human nature from “should’s” to our response of the heart “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” 

Live Your Inheritance!

NASB Eph 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 

NLT Eph 1:18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

Verse 18 from both the New American Standard Bible and the New Living Translations have become the foundation of this post.  The words are slightly different but the questions are the same.  They reminded me that the “glorious inheritance” is a real part of our daily lives, and so much more than a reward at the end of it.  

  • What is God’s purpose in opening the eyes of our heart?
  • What is the hope to which he has called us?
  • What is the glorious inheritance? 

Visual, written and spoken information bombards our senses but not everything makes it past the defenses life teaches us to build to protect our heart.  The gift of hope is God’s purpose that has made His Word endure for centuries. Hope that penetrates the defenses of the heart to see beyond itself into God’s own heart with the confidence to ask: whose inheritance? Ours or His?

Ours!  That dear friend is only a part of the much bigger answer.  God’s inheritance has been given to enable us to live beyond our imperfections in this world while waiting for the perfection promised in the next. God has already invested everything of Himself in us to provide us with “the riches of the glory of His inheritance IN the saints…

His!  “The confident hope he has given to those he called” has revealed the complete answer from God’s own heart through Jesus so we might live everyday as “his holy people who are HIS rich and glorious inheritance.”

Live your inheritance!

The Promise of Until

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, [Or until God redeems his possession] to the praise of his glory. ESV

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In him [God] making known to us Christ to unite all things.  In him we have obtained an inheritance, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [UNTIL God redeems his possession] to the praise of his glory.

Until” is just one word in these few verses but it has become the laser-like focus of the promise of a future inheritance from God.  Hope is “set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”  Our trust and hope in Christ is part of the “plan for the fullness of time…UNTIL God redeems his possession to the praise of his glory.

[.] Full Stop Truth

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. [NIV]

OR
[b] in his sight in love.  5 He

A period [.], called a full stop in British English, is one of the first punctuation marks we learn about when we begin reading and writing.  It’s a [point] used at the end of a statement. Very rarely when we read are they of any notice because they’re so common.  In this case it was the repositioning of that period that caused me to do a “full stop” and ask myself this question; whose love?  His or ours?

The answer of course is both.  The relationship between the Sovereign God and us is certainly meant to be one of love and that is the [point] of this footnote [b].  The first iteration was God’s choice: “in his sight[.] In love 5 he” makes it clear God was operating toward us in love.  What intrigued me was reading that same sentence with the footnote in place; “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless “in his sight in love[.]  5 He”

There are two clear truths in this short passage: He chose us in love to be holy and blameless[.] AND He chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight in love[.]  The human authors and editors of the Bible have been inspired to use that footnote to preserve the fullness of God’s absolute truth.  Our heart’s response is to stand “in his sight in love” only because “In love” He has chosen us “to be holy and blameless in his sight[.] Full Stop

The Recipe of Reality

“Am I then really that which other men tell of? Or am I only what I myself know of myself? Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint, and ready to say farewell to it all…Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!” [written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his prison cell.]

The last sentence of Bonhoeffer’s poetic words touched an emotional reality in my own life that could be true for your life too.  I couldn’t resist tying it to this Scripture that reveals a truth about Jesus.  “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.[John 2:23]  

Our hearts are broken by that Biblical truth because it reveals a reality we can barely acknowledge about our own reliability. We think we know ourselves but we wonder, do we, really?  We know, in our hearts, the words we use to describe our faith are sometimes more desire than truth.  We know, in our hearts, there is a restless longing that the best of those things will be true, but are they?  We know the emptiness of prayers that search for words our hearts can’t find until we admit we are only beginning to recognize our need.

I was going to end that last paragraph with “Jesus gave Himself for us!” Then I realized that was just a comfortable cliche.  Jesus knows us more completely than we will ever know ourself.  He didn’t give Himself to us!  He entrusted Himself to His Father, on our behalf, to complete His love despite the truth He knows about us.  Get emotional about it!  That is the recipe of reality that sustains us when all we can say is  “Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!”

The Recipe for Tomorrow

2 Peter 3:1…I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder…5 by the word of God…9 The Lord is patient…that all should reach repentance…11 in lives of holiness and godliness…13 We are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells…14…without spot or blemish, and at peace…18 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

To him be the glory both now and
to the day of eternity. [ESV]

Amen.

Almost two years have passed since I last posted about this chapter.  How I happened to know that is interesting.  It showed up as a Facebook Memories notification this week which was certainly a timely reminder. [read here] As I re-read that post and looked at other versions, verse 9 stood out…”The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” [v9 NLT]  The Lord’s provision is bigger than “yesterday” which captures our memory or  “today” which occupies so much of our daily experience.  The Lord has given us His purpose for the recipe for tomorrow.  “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.”  [v15 NIV]

The Recipe of Evil

2 Peter 2:17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 

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This is Peter’s reminder that God will not ignore false prophets or bold and arrogant false teachers that continue to be a threat to the real freedom He offers. It’s a grim, but necessary record of the consequences that accompany deliberate sin. The skillset of evil is designed to cleverly manipulate truth.   The word “evil” barely covers how bad “these people,” are who purposefully seduce others with demonic lies while luring them into believing they’re offering freedom.  “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”   

“Think of a traveller in the desert being told that ahead lies a spring where he can quench his thirst and then arriving at that spring to find it dried up and useless. Think of the husbandman praying for rain for his parched crops and then seeing the cloud that promised rain blown uselessly by.”a   This is not freedom.  This is the recipe of evil created to enslave people: it changes the character of the past, alters the present with suspicion and finally destroys the expectation of hope for the future.

a Barclay commentary on 2 Peter

The Recipe of Man

2 Peter 2:1…there will be false teachers among you…3…these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories…4…God did not spare angels when they sinned…5…did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood
7…he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless
9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. NIV

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Genesis 2:7 tells us “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  Dust + the Breath of God combined to become the recipe of man.  Consider this – God Himself created two separate natures in the soul of human life; the physical [dust] and the spiritual [His breath].  The God of all creation designed us to be evidence of His love, not puppets.  

Those two natures were at war even in that first perfect environment.  That first sin was a shocker.  Clearly the soul of human life has the dual ability to respond to the instincts, passions and impulses of the physical nature at the same time it has a longing to respond to God’s love with the instincts, passions and impulses He breathed into us. We need to be shocked by that realization. “Our great security against sin lies in being shocked at it.”a. 

Peter doesn’t sugarcoat the consequences of the physical nature of sin or neglect to remind us God breathes within the spiritual nature of the righteous.  IF this is so, THEN the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.”

aJohn Henry Newman