The Third Chapter – 1 Timothy

I Timothy 3:14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He[God] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. [ESV]

1 Timothy 3:14 I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, 15 so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Without question, this is the great mystery of our faithChrist was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations.  He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory. [NLT]

1 Timothy 3:14 I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, 15 so that if I don’t come for a while, you will know what kind of men you should choose as officers for the church of the living God, which contains and holds high the truth of God.  16 It is quite true that the way to live a godly life is not an easy matter.  But the answer lies in Christ, who came to earth as a man, was proved spotless and pure in his Spirit, was served by angels, was preached among the nations, was accepted by men everywhere, and was received up again to his glory in heaven. [TLB]

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I am writing these things so you will know how people ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.  Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness and faith.  The way to live a godly life is not an easy matter, but the answer lies in Christ.a

a The “read and ponder” method of personal study: read multiple versions of Scripture, highlight words and phrases from each, look up definitions of words as needed, ponder which mean the most to you and let the Word combined strengthen itself to become your personal truth.

The Third Chapter – 2 Thessalonians

TLB 3:1 Finally, dear brothers, as I come to the end of this letter, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be saved out of the clutches of evil men, for not everyone loves the Lord. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind. 4 And we trust the Lord that you are putting into practice the things we taught you, and that you always will. 5 May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and of the patience that comes from Christ.

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Believers are the focus group of Pauls appeal for prayer. “Pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be saved out of the clutches of evil men, for not everyone loves the Lord.”  

We have become a society of people who have made productivity a “little g” god.  A good portion of what follows Paul’s appeal for those prayers is his admonition to people of faith not to live in laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time.  That seems like an odd combination for us to find an application for life today.  

What if our laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time is really all about our choice to overlook prayer in favor of productivity?  Prayer is the quiet part of faith, often without recordable results. It’s also meant to be protection that keeps “us out of the clutches of evil men.”  We can clock our time in devotional study…√.  We can clock our time of service in the Lord’s name…√. We can clock our time of church participation…√.  Only the Lord can honestly clock the time we spend in prayer, “but the Lord is faithful.”

Maybe that is why Paul has chosen to remind me “not to live in laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time” and make sure prayer IS consciously a bigger and better part of my productivity.  Mea Culpa! 

The Third Chapter – 1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.[ESV]

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An unusual connection has been made between this Scripture and daily life because of Covid-19.  We’ve come to understand the risk that our faith can “be moved by these afflictions. [v3]”  We’ve all been encouraged to make purposeful contact with neighbors, friends and family to bless and comfort them so their faith might be a source of strength and blessing for them.  The surprise involved is that purpose has turned out to be a personal blessing as well.  I learned about the Greek word “allalon watching online church yesterdaya.  Allalon is the Greek word translated as “one another” in verse 12.  I also learned what a “mnemonic” is. A mnemonic is something in verbal form used to help remember something else.  If you look at “allalon” phonetically you might see “all alone” and therein lies the lesson

That one unfamiliar word has become the tool to remind me in an unusual way at just the right time of a truth I might have missed. It can’t be dismissed as coincidence. Isolation makes it seem we’re all alone but “allalon” confirms God has used that word intentionally to remind us of something completely opposite – “one another” – even in the midst of affliction. We are not “all alone.” Simply saying “I need to know you’re OK” is the reminder we give each other that faith is stronger than affliction.  The truth of “allelon” is the Lord’s assurance that affliction can move us to”increase and abound in love for one another”

a courtesy of Pastor Greg Long, Gracepoint Church, Sturgis, MI

The Third Chapter – Colossians

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory…16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

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Here’s a timely grammar lesson for 2020 courtesy of the Apostle Paul written during the first generation after Jesus, sometime in the 50s, while Paul was in prison.  His If/Then sentences present conditions/situations [the Ifs] and the resulting/expected outcomes [the Thens] that even the passage of time can’t diminish.

If – “you have been raised with Christ”
Then – “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right 
hand of God”
If – “you set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”
Then – “when Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”

⭐️∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞⭐️

If – this Word from the Apostle has found it’s life in you today
Then – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
❤️

The Third Chapter – Philippians

Philippians 3:1 ESV Finally, my brothers,[or brothers and sisters] rejoice in the Lord.  3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—…9…found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—…12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

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These are my highlights of words and phrases that caught my attention from the first 12 verses of Philippians 3 in the English Standard Version. Then, over multiple days I decided to take devotional reading a step further and highlight those same words or phrases in a couple other Bible versions that interested me. The object was to finally compare those highlighted phrases from each version side by side and see how they might enhance my response to what I’d read.  This is a long post but I wanted you to be able to see the process in its entirety.  It’s one “devoted” way the Word finds its “life” within you.

KJV 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord…3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh…9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

NIV 3:1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!…3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—…9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith…Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 

* Rejoice in the Lord [x2], rejoice in the Lord!
[note the emphasis of the “!”]
* We who are the circumcision [x2], we are the circumcision
[note the inclusive “we”]
* Worship by the Spirit of God, worship God in the spirit, serve God by his Spirit. [note the impact of “by/in” on “worship/serve“]
* Glory in Christ Jesus, rejoice in Christ Jesus, boast in Christ Jesus
[note how “in Christ” impacts response: “glory, rejoice and boast“]
* Put no confidence in the flesh [x2], have no confidence in the flesh
[note consider the difference between “put/have“]
* not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [x2], not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law
[note consider difference between “from/of” law on righteousness]
* through faith in Christ [x2], through the faith of Christ
[note the impact “of Christ” and “in Christ” on our faith]
* righteousness from God that depends on faith, righteousness which is of God by faith, righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith
[note “righteousness” “depends on/is of/comes from” God]
* I press on [x2], I follow after
[note the need to “press on” to order to submit and “follow after“]
* because Christ Jesus has made me his own, I am apprehended of
Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus took hold of me
[note who Christ Jesus has made his own/apprehended/took hold of]
ME!

The Third Chapter – Ephesians

Ephesians 3:1 RSV For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power. 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, 9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things; 10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

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Stewardship: Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for
the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.a

Stewardship is easily defined.  The mystery lies in the phrase that follows that word in this passage, “of God’s grace.” This great evangelist, held in such esteem by people of faith all these generations later, is reminding us grace is the mystery purposefully designed to encourage the diligence of people of faith to “see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[by] God who created all things.”  Don’t miss the footnote “in[by].  Prepositions show relationship.  “In” is about position and “by” is about closeness.  Paul [and the translators] have used those two letter words to emphasize this truth; the closest we will come to solving the mystery “of God’s grace” and our stewardship of it in this life is to recognize our position in God and stay close to Him through “the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:17-19 MSG “And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!
Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” MSG 3:17-19

aHolman Bible Dictionary

The Third Chapter – Galatians

Galatians 3:23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.  24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. NLT

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“Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law…until the way of faith was revealed.” Protective custody comes with a handy list of rules that are both restraint and relief.  Sometimes it’s a relief to have that list to check your spiritual position and at other times those rules only feel like a prison sentence.  

The way of faith has been revealed.  Restraint served it’s purpose and obeying rules did provide some relief and comfort, but…  We’ve been released!  Released from that protective custody for a greater purpose: to be “united with Christ,” and each other! 

Christ alone is our promise of blessing and redemption from a life sentence “under guard” to this sentence of life: “I have been crucified with Christ.a

a https://readandponder.com/2015/06/29/to-life-2/

The Third Chapter – 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 3:Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! 2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our[your] hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. 3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. NLT

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Stone is so enduringly permanent it’s surprising the truth of those letters carved on tablets of stone is lost.  But is it?  

The recent pandemic has tragically highlighted just how vulnerable life can be. That makes it equally surprising that God has now chosen to write the permanence of His truth in human hearts.  The letters of eternity and permanence no longer lie in impenetrable stone. God has rewritten His own truth in our/your heart.  That truth rewrites the story of a stubborn, stony hearta being replaced with a tender, responsive one able to feel, think, grow and replicate God’s own heart one to another.  “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”

aAnd I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. [Ezekiel 36:26]

The Third Chapter – 1 Corinthians

I Corinthians 3:7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building….21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.  NLT

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This image of how seeds sprout is a visual object lesson of the truth of this passage.  Growth begins with a small kernel of life locked within a hard outer shell.  You could be forgiven if you looked at that unsprouted seed and thought it was just a small pebble.  That would be a sensible conclusion because there are some things only life can confirm.  Without planting and water that is all that seed could ever be.

Paul describes the growth of life: “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” Growth reveals what was hidden in that hard shell is the power of life only God can release.  That broken shell will ultimately fall away as the “spout” grows but will always be the primary evidence that confirms God can produce new life from hard cases.

“And you are God’s field. You are God’s building…So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”  

The Third Chapter – Romans

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

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Paul is purposefully using a type of word play in much of this chapter that I didn’t include above.  His words are meant to shift the focus of familiar concepts and challenge thought processes about how we interact with God.  There were two things I read in preparing for this post that were helpful to me.  One was a line from The Message version of Romans 3; “Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.”  The second was from one of John Piper’s writings about this chapter where he referred to the Law as a track, not a ladder.  

Ladder-thinking regarding God, sin, obedience to the Law, faith and justification seems to be part of human nature.  I know my own tendency is to want a list to check items off so I can move on to the next rung.  Instead God has provided reality.  Life is filled with either/or’s, if/then’s and hide & seek’s. It’s like a track where the same laps must be repeated over and over in order to achieve the desired goal.  That is exactly why Paul’s challenge from Romans is so important today.   

• Sin hides us from God.
• The Law of self-preservation hides us from grace.
• Self-preservation hides us from obedience of the heart.
• Christ reveals the truth of the Law and obedience of the heart
• Obedience of the heart reveals faith
• Faith reveals grace
* Grace reveals justification
• Justification reveals God’s righteousness.

These realities are  a vital part of our relationship with the Sovereign God of the universe through Jesus Christ.  There is not a ladder, only a track.  Repeat laps as needed.