Monthly Archives: August 2020

The Third Chapter – Mark

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.  

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This story seems odd to me.  Why was the man with the withered hand there on the Sabbath?   Had he just gone to the synagogue because it was the expected thing to attend?  Did he know Jesus would be there?  Did he want to hear what Jesus had to say?   Did he hope for healing?  He must have known of the hostility the silent group of Pharisees had toward Jesus.  He cetrtainly knew that healing on that day would be breaking the law even before he heard Jesus say “stretch out your hand” 
– Lesson 1: It takes faith to even consider there might be answers to your questions but from that faith comes the courage it takes to be willing to reach out to Jesus when you hear him speak.

Healing may have happened in a miraculous moment but the destruction of Jesus required a plan, and thankfully for us, even evil plans require time.  The Pharisees chose to leave the synagogue determined to use their spiritual power along with the political power of the Herodians to destroy Jesus…but God had a different plan so Jesus could continue his ministry
– Lesson 2: God can,and will, even use evil men and the time they spend planning destruction.   Jesus has the power of God that redeems men and their misspent time.  Through Jesus, evil will be overcome with good that accomplishes God’s plan for a future and a hope for us.

The Third Chapter – Matthew

I followed a familiar pattern as I was looking for the next blog post study for myself; look at resources, look at what I’ve already written in the past and repeatedly pray “show me.”  I get a lot of extra reading done in this process and at some point something clicks and I realize I’m ready to begin the next chapter.  I’ve spent much time reading and pondering the first two chapters of each New Testament book in the past [The Firsts and Second Chance] so The Third Chapter seems like both an answer to my prayer and a logical choice.  

Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 

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The wilderness is not the setting you’d expect the advancement of a Kingdom to happen.  A baptist living a very humble life in the middle of nowhere is not who you’d expect to be part of the fulfillment of an ancient promise.  The confession of sin and sacrifice was familiar but there are some unusual things that make this baptism of repentance the direct path to God.  

Only that path can establish the multitude of nations that God promised Abraham.  Only that direct path can open the heavens “to fulfill all righteousness.”  Only that path can provide another baptism mightier than water, and more powerful than devout sacrifices alone can.  Only Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, can build a Kingdom of promised purity and true repentance within the hearts of the children of God.  Only Jesus!

Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Identity

In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organisations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.  Eph 6:10-13 [Phillips]

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Remember playing dress up when you were a child?  You were trying on a new identity with old clothes imagining what your future might look like.  That was only pretend and mostly those old clothes didn’t fit quite right.  Now God has given us something better than imagination for our destiny.  His custom fit spiritual body armor is what protects us from the flaws of our own imperfection and enables us to look our best as we learn to live His identity as our destiny.

• truth as your belt
• righteousness your breastplate
• the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet
• salvation as your helmet
• the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God
• faith as your shield
Eph 6:14-18 [Phillips] 

“Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground.”

Submission💕

NIV Eph 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”c  32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
c Gen 2:24

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This part of Ephesians 5 is a challenge because it’s familiar.  Countless, is how I’d describe the number of times I’ve read or heard these verses and familiarity tends to become like unconscious editing.  So, here’s what we already know about submission:
– Wives: submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
– Husbands: just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  

It’s so easy to massage that truth about submission into something related to behavior that soothes our conscience instead of letting it change our relationship to each other and to the church we love “out of reverence for Christ.”  I know about that personally.  I also know there is a reality check that challenges me to look at how I am living that truth.  

As a wife can you honestly look at your relationship to the Lord and integrate that into your relationship to your husband?  Or from the other side of the issue, does your relationship to your husband look like your relationship to Jesus?  No one else can write the rules of what your submission should look like but your honest answers to those two questions is the essence of true submission that makes reverence for Christ visible to the world.  How’re you doing?

Now husbands, here’s your first question: How does your relationship to your wife give evidence of your love for the church?  Or from the other side of that issue does what happens in your personal relationship to your wife bring honor to the church?  No one else can guess your answers but their honesty is what makes it possible to honor your bride as well as the Bride of Christ, the church.  How’re you doing?

See the Light!

EPH 5:13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” ESV

These words about Christ and light reminded me of John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  I assumed Paul was echoing John but a chronological  timeline of the Bible showed Paul was martyred before John was even written.  What first seemed like an echo became instead Paul’s faithful voice of personal experience pleading for all to wake up and see the light!

Paul wrote these words about the same Lord who’d confronted him with blinding light on that long ago road to Damascus: “Christ will shine on you.” He knew their reality can make light visible even to conflicted hearts.  There’s no amount of human intellect that can explain the process that changes ambivalence toward God into living faith.  There’s no amount of good preaching that can convince a heart to respond to Christ.  There’s no amount of scientific proof that can prove salvation has occurred, or explain how an in-dwelling Holy Spirit can be an actual reality.  That, by definition, is the mystery of Faith.  Faith is not an echo of anyone else’s intellect or truth. “It becomes visible” only when individual hearts are exposed by the Light himself and the “light of life” becomes personal experience.

The notable JB Phillips New Testamenta says “For light is capable of “showing up” everything for what it really is. It is even possible (after all, it happened to you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also. Thus God speaks through the scriptures: Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

aJB Phillips: English clergyman who studied classical Greek at Cambridge University and personally translated the New Testament into modern language.

Warning

EPH 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. ESV

One easy response to conflict and anger is the the ostrich effect: a cognitive bias that causes people to avoid information that they perceive as potentially unpleasant. 

The ostrich effect may be comfortable but it has no power to make things right.  Anger is uncomfortable but it’s powerful and often feels right.  Don’t miss the reality this Scripture warns us of; “In your anger do not sin.”   Your personal faith is the power over those emotions of anger and conflict.  “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” and give “the devil a foothold.”  He plans to steal the power of your faith in the darkness.

One-ness

NIV EPH 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

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No one would dispute our world is desperately in need of peace and unity, right?  Maybe the problem is we’re not taking Scripture at it’s word.  Let’s try that! It’s so much easier said than done, though, because peace and unity requires being…
– Humble: a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.
– Gentle: showing a mild, kind, or tender temperament or character.
– Patient: tolerate delays, problems, suffering without being annoyed or anxious.
– Bearing: a determination of position

Those qualities are a difficult reminder of their specific purpose; to point us to the need of a position to attach them to – “bearing with one another in love.”
Of course, I believe those things are a necessary part of peace and unity.  Of course, I want those qualities and the love to go with them.  Unfortunately there’s another “of course.”  Of course, peace and unity wouldn’t be nearly as hard if everyone would just agree with me. 

More than ever before I realize that humility, gentleness, and patience are clearly elusive parts of love that sometimes slow my journey of faith.  If that is truth, then the original meanings of peace and unity are worth exploring.
– Eirēnēs, translated peace means joining what’s been separated to make one again
– Henotēta, translated unity means oneness and/or in unison

My conclusion is this: The “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” is like a two-way street all of us have to travel.  Peace and unity are not dependent on which side of the road you’re on. “Humble, gentle, patient and bearing” are the necessary speed bumps of faith that slow us down so we pay attention to these absolute truths: “There is one body and one Spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.”   That one-ness can rejoin what has been separated and get us over all the speed bumps “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 https://biblehub.com/interlinear/ephesians/4.htm
Read Ephesians 4 as a word-for-word translation

Housekeeping

NLT Ephesians 3:14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

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There’s no higher praise to God than these Words Paul has written.  The faith given when the Holy Spirit moves into your heart is what makes it Christ’s home.  That’s when the housekeeping begins.  Housekeeping refers to the management of duties and chores involved in the running of a household, even your heart.  It reminded me of this writing by Robert Boyd Munger so I’ve included the PDF below.  It’s simple enough for anyone to recognize themselves in it and profound enough to change your heart.

My-Heart-Christs-Home

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.