1 Timothy 3-4 B

I enjoyed Carly’s thoughts on chapter 3, so today I will focus on chapter 4.

In speaking to Timothy, his true child in the faith (1:2), Paul says:

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only a little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all man, especially for believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, Faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (4:7b-12)

This is a very important passage. It’s something we can’t just unpack today in one simple reading.

I think we get pretty caught up in eternity (ie. heaven or hell) and what we’ve got to believe to get here or there. We miss the wealth of Scripture when we don’t see the importance of application now.

There seems to be a way in which the Lord saves all mankind (v10) but especially saves believers. I assert that the way in which we accomplish a special salvation is in reaping the benefits of knowing Him now, in life. Godliness is profitable for all things!

The commands of God are healthy and thoroughly beneficial. Historically, the Jews survived numerous plagues unknowingly because of their application to the Mosaic Laws of diet and hygiene. I know I repeat this all the time, but God doesn’t give us commands to ruin our fun. He, as our Creator, knows the best way for us to live abundantly. This takes a measure of faith!

It’s not about age, in this case, either. Anyone who lives in submission to the instructions of God can be an example for others.

What will that look like for you? How can you be an example of love, faith and purity?

-Bethany

2 Thessalonians 2-3 B

“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (3:5)

Chapter two was doomsday and chapter three seemed a bit harsh. I grabbed on to this lovely verse near the middle.

I don’t always know what to do with Paul’s specific and rigid instructions . If I take it all literally, I conveniently know a church in Thessaloniki and I could barge in there and say, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either!” (3:10) but that would come across grossly insensitive because Greece has a 60% unemployment rate, with the unemployment for people 35 years and younger being 85%. Everyone is just out to coffee with their man bun in that city! It’s hard to know who is unwilling and who is unable.

That’s why I think 3:5 is a great supervising verse. Praying that the Lord direct us, is an excellent habit and place to start. Being directed into the love of God adds compassion and peels away pride. Being directed into the steadfastness of Christ produces patience and removes entitlement.

Ask to the Lord to direct you into these, so you can be a good example of hard work and encouragement. Don’t push people away, like they’re enemies (3:15), and don’t grow weary of doing good (3:13).

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” (3:16,18)

Yes, please!

-Bethany

1 Thessalonians 3-4 B

Upon the verified faithfulness of the Thessalonians, and the apparent fruit from serving God instead of idols, Paul reminds them of what a sanctified life looks like. Not because he was hearing a bad report, but most likely because he understands the temptation to default back to old habits.

The habits he addresses are as old as humanity’s struggle itself. The exile from Eden (Genesis 3) came with a new reality that work would be hard and so would childbearing. This evolved into most every pagan culture serving deities that promised success in business (Ba’al, Demeter) and fertility (Ashura, Artemis, Aphrodite). These worship practices were perverted and included a lot of shady practices and sexual corruption.

I think this helps frame the pairing of these two exhortations time and time again.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God… and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (4:3-5; 11-12)

This is an evidence of freedom; not sexually caught up, or financially bound. Jesus is making all things new and He started with us, giving us a New Life as New Creation. This was pivotal for the Greek Christians to understand, as it was 100% contrary to their culture.

How does this translate to your culture context? What measures do the people around you take to address the struggle with business and fertility? I think it’s important we think critically about this, so we can seek to find the way which Jesus leads us in freedom. What difference does this freedom make in your context?

-Bethany

Colossians 3-4 B

Carly’s application of 3:13 last time was excellent. Love can be work, but it can also be incredibly fruitful!

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” (3:22-25)

In everything, we’ve gotta keep the opinion of the LORD at the forefront of our minds.

I love that last line. “There is no partiality”. Our lives are full of partiality. Everything can be boiled down to a comparison, it seems. However, in light of the Word of the LORD, its good for me to remember to take responsibility for myself. In my frustration with someone lording something over me, do I turn around and do it to someone else?

That reminds me of the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 where a guy is forgiven an enormous debt to the king and then he goes and chokes out a guy who owes him money. So much of following Jesus circles back to “doing for others what you’d like done for you.” We will all be held accountable for our own actions and it’s not graded on a curve.

I know I’m someone who needs a lot of grace, so that should push me to be gracious. When I work for someone, I do it the way I think would glorify God and guess what? I get promoted a lot. Now, the world isn’t fair, so that’s not always going to be the case, but I think the point is to not get short sighted when it comes to circumstances, and always be short sighted when it comes to watching someone’s work.

The next verse in 4:1 is a warning for masters to remember they have a powerful boss too; and He’s been known to hear the cries of oppressed people. For those of us responsible for other people, this is a great “Fear of the LORD” moment.

What does this look like for you?

-Bethany

Philippians 3-4 B

“For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (4:2)

Always remember the power of our Salvation is the victory of Christ, who removed the sting/curse of death/sin; teaching us the way to live (2:5-7) and giving us newness by His Spirit. That is what differentiates His people from others: His transformation power.

This looks like the applications in chapter four: rejoicing always, being gentle, choosing prayer over anxiety, having peace and the perspective to be content in every circumstance.

It’s not about mustering the strength to police ourselves and others, it’s walking in the truth of the gospel. That’s why Paul encourages this:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (4:8)

Fill your life with truth. Seek it out. Study the Word. Don’t let fear or desperation become a motivator for any aspect of life. This is a great reminder for all of us.

-Bethany

Ephesians 5-6 B

The post I wrote last time about 3-4 were a good reminder to me about what the whole of Ephesians is about. Then Carly’s 5-6 was dynamite.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (6:12)

This is way too easy to forget. The natural world feels like it’s closing in on us and we have definitely turned on each other about it. Especially as westerners, we don’t put a lot of stock in the spiritual realm. I feel like that is changing a little, and it’s good.

I’ve been listening to a podcast called “Almost Heretical“, lately, and they address this in a really solid way; taking passages in the Old Testament that fly over our western heads and connecting the dots. I highly recommend it. They’re on iTunes. Start from the beginning!

Maybe it’s too late to hope there could be unity in the Body of Christ, as Jesus prayed in the garden (John 17), but maybe not. We can’t always change people’s minds or actions, but we can take responsibility for our own. We can be like Christ and absorb blows instead of retaliating. We can be patient, hopeful, and unconditionally loving, by the power of His Spirit alive within us. We can “pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (6:18)

Meditate on the armor of God.

  1. Belt of Truth – holding everything together
  2. Breastplate of Righteousness – protecting vital organs
  3. Shoes of Readiness – given by the of Gospel of Peace
  4. Shield of Faith – extinguishing flaming enemy arrows
  5. Helmet of Salvation – protecting thoughts
  6. Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God

What difference would it make if we put them on today?

-Bethany

Ephesians 1-2 B

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself as the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into the holy temple of the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (2:19-22)

What I love about these first chapters of Ephesians, is that Paul is just stating facts and saying, “this is true in heaven, whether or not you see it here on earth.” This isn’t about how we feel things are going.

Even if all around, you see yourself being excluded from the family of God, I am telling you that you’re in it. Even if this wasn’t your story before, it is now. Even if you don’t always feel free from sin and temptation, you are. Even if it doesn’t look like an international tabernacle, it is.

These chapters are some of the richest in Paul’s letters, and anyone could easily (and have) spend months or years on them. We are breezing over a lot. These truths are important ifs to every subsequent then  in Christian practice.

What stands out about them to you today?

-Bethany