Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Matthew 6:5-13): I remember huge prayers circles during revivals at my childhood church. We circled around the pews along the perimeter of the sanctuary and held hands. As a little kid, listening to prayers go on and on was grueling. I think some of them just liked to hear themselves. I wonder if those prayers are pleasing to God? I am not much of a group prayer person. I just say what’s in my heart, but — guilty — I often thank and request more than praise. The prayer Jesus gave us here as an example is really short. I would assume long prayers are OK as long as it doesn’t go on and on repeating or if it’s just for attention-sake.
A. You’ve got the idea. Prayer should be about sharing our needs with God (including our feelings — God knows them anyway), and being open to what He desires to tell each of us. There’s no need for it to be either purposefully longwinded — though it if happens to be, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like saying the words more or saying more makes God listen “better.” As Jesus said, He knows our needs, but ultimately, prayer is about aligning our will with God, and addressing both what is on our heart and on God’s heart together.
O. (6:16-18): I am sure we have talked about fasting before. I’ll save Rob the repetition. I googled fasting and came up with this informative article: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/prayerandcounseling/intercession/hickey_prayerfasting06a.aspx
Q. (6:25-34): Food doesn’t seem very important to God and Jesus. Humans think of it constantly. It’s hard not to. What are you going to give the kids for breakfast, what to pack them for lunch, what to make for the family for a nice warm meal? And, keep sugar down, protein, fiber and veggies up and try to save money too. Is the food pyramid unnecessary? The Bible says not to worry about food. Backing up to the verse previous verse where it says one cannot serve God and money. If you have been reading this blog, you know that my husband retired from the military and started a new business and I have been a stay-at-home mom since my first child was born 8 ½ years ago. I have applied at 8 various retail places, but no one wants to hire me because I made too much at my previous job and I don’t want to work on Sundays. (I haven’t been looking a whole lot lately, because I’ve been busy and I haven’t received any direction on it from God. Right now, this blog is my job, which I enjoy) Thus, money has been tight. We’ll get to the first week of our monthly retirement check and have to watch our money. But, it hasn’t all been bad, in fact it’s been a little liberating. I don’t have to have the cupboards stocked, my kids have a lot of play time together because they are not in any extra-curricular activities and we talk to God a lot more than we used to. I have a ways to go, but turning my life over to him is hard, but very fulfilling. You?
A. Your thoughts on money as it relates to your walk with God are quite interesting, and I’m glad you are on a journey of exploration for what God desires you and your family to do next. As to your assertion about God’s concern about food, I would make two responses. The largest point Jesus is trying to make here, and also in the wilderness, is that food ISN’T everything. There are more important things in life than food, though it is certainly important. But if you constantly dwell on not having enough food — or the wrong kind of food, or whatever — you miss the point Jesus is sharing with us. God will provide for our needs, even if not in the quantity — monetary or otherwise — that we might desire. We must hold to our faith, and trust that God will provide. To do otherwise will likely make us ungrateful for what God HAS provided.
The other thing is that I would disagree with your assessment of God/Jesus not caring about food. The Gospels contain numerous stories told over broken bread, lessons based upon food, and great concern for feeding the people of God (the feeding of the 5000 is coming!) But again, the point is clear: food should not be what drives us, our faith in God should.
Q. (7:1-6): The first part is hard, but the more we live, the more we learn that judging is worthless. What good does it do? None. As far as what judging is, I think it’s putting your opinion on someone and pigeon-holing them to that characteristic you are judging. They are so much more than that. At a small group meeting, we were talking about homosexuality. The group leader said he had a gay friend who said he is labeled as “gay” and that the rest of his personality doesn’t matter to others. He said he wishes it wasn’t a defining characteristic of him. I can understand that. But, while maybe my best friend would be gay or an adulterer or whatever, I am not to judge him or her. However, that doesn’t mean that God approves of their sins, but he does accept them? And could you explain how to apply v. 6?
A. I knew a minister who said that we tend to treat sin like a creampuff, when it’s more like a rattlesnake. That is, sin is actually dangerous, if not always to our bodies, but it is poison to our souls. Should God “accept” one (or all) of His children playing with a poisonous viper that could kill them? As a parent, I wouldn’t! But here’s the thing: it is not our job to judge the hearts and actions of other people. That’s what these verses are about. The other thing that Christians tend to forget — especially now that there are more and more non-Christians out there in our post-Christian society — is that we cannot reasonably hold non-Christians to Christian standards of behavior. It’s a waste of time and counterproductive. THAT is what Jesus is talking about in verse 6 (he’s using crude language to do so, frankly): don’t waste your time giving holy, precious things (pearls) over to creatures that don’t even realize their value. The end result is going to be failure. That’s not to say we should lack a desire to TEACH Christian values to others, and proclaim the Gospel message, but it is wrong to HOLD OTHERS to our standards without them being aware of what they are or why we have them. That is what it means to give pearls to swine.
Q. (7:12): This is pretty much the new commandment that encompasses the Law of Moses. That, and the other more important one is “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,” right? Is there anything you would like to add?
A. It’s not new, but yes. As Jesus says, it is a summary of all that has come before. We will see this come up again, so let’s hold off on further discussion for right now.
O. (7:15-20): My daughter just got done reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in school. What a great book and movie. I have only watched the movie. This passage reminds me of the scene where the squirrels pin down Veruca Salt to see if she is a bad nut. Here’s a link: (don’t worry, the incinerator doesn’t come on) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmISVHxjcAI
Q. (7:21-23): I imagine that these are the people who looked like they had a great heart, or professed to, but were a bad nut. Now, they are begging God to save them. I have heard that if someone claims Jesus Christ on their deathbed, they will be saved. But not bad nuts who say they are willing to follow him once they see him?
A. As we discussed in previous days, it is very difficult to know about the afterlife decisions that God makes when it comes to our souls. All we can know for certain is what Jesus is telling us here: if the message of the Gospel never gets to your heart, and causes you to desire to change your actions and do what God desires for you, then I would be very concerned that your soul is in peril (I don’t want there to be any uncertainty about what I’m saying, and what I think Jesus means). If the Gospel has no effect on your heart, then I wonder if you understood the message at all! Those who understand the Gospel are those who desire each day to be more and more like God as seen in the person of Jesus, because He shows us the best of who we can be when we are in tune with our Creator. If we truly understand the Gospel, we cannot help but have it change us.
Q. (7:29): What does “real authority” mean here?
A. It refers to the way that Jesus (in yesterday’s reading) said “you have heard it said…” and then say, “…but I tell you.” The rabbis of Jesus’ day would never have done that, because they would have considered it adding to the Word of God, which they took very seriously. They spent all of their time interpreting the words that they already had (the OT), and would not have thought of speaking in such as manner as Jesus does here. That is the real authority Jesus presented, and clearly it got noticed.