Day 359 (Dec. 25): John encourages us to love one another as God commanded, everyone who believes Jesus is God’s son will be children of God also, Jesus proved He was God’s son by being baptized with water and shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus protects believers from the devil, avoid anything that can take God’s place in your heart, be leary of deceivers, welcome the traveling teachers

Merry Merry Christmas!  The king is born!  Or, was He born on this day?  Read to the end for a discussion.

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.

3 John 1:1-15

1 John 4:7-5:21

2 John 1:1-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 11-12): This verse reminds me of those people I meet that are just radiating with kindness.  I want to ask them if they are a Christian because I am very curious about that.  Is that OK to ask, or should I just assume they are Christian?

A. I can’t really see someone taking offense to the question, but I personally confess that I rarely ask people when I am similar circumstances.  Someone who is a true, confessing Christian should frankly be eager to tell you so.

Q. (5:6b): I am still foggy on what this means: “And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.”  Does that just mean that we know that Jesus is God’s Son and, when we are baptized we get the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said we would.  Therefore, His promise came true.  And the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus’ teaching because the Spirit shows us the right way to live, the same as Jesus did.  Thus, the spirit of Jesus (who taught us to be godly) still resides in us.

A. One of the things we established in Ephesians 1 is that the presence of the Spirit is the “mark” of our salvation, so in a sense, it is His presence that serves as a “testimony” about our faith in Christ.  He would not be present within us if we did not believe in God’s work in Christ, so His very presence testifies about what we believe.

Q. (5:16b): The sin that leads to death is denying that Jesus is the Son of God?  And, talking about praying for sinners, my daughter has started praying for Satan.  What do you say to that?  It actually stemmed from me because God says we are to love our enemies.

A. John tends to describe things in very strong black and white terms: you are either with God, or an antichrist — that sort of thing.  So it is little surprise that he would say that denying Jesus was the Son of God is a sin that leads to death.  As to your daughter’s action, I love her vision for praying for her enemies!

Q. (2 John 1:1): Is John singling out women believers?

A. Not really.  There is some speculation that 2 John is written to a particular woman, but the scholarly consensus is that the “women” represents a congregation or a particular church.  Revelation will repeatedly refer to congregations using feminine imagery, so it is hardly an uncommon thing for the NT (watch for the bride of Christ imagery).

O. (3 John 1:1-4): Growing up, I remember taking care of visiting evangelists and musicians that came to our church for a revival.  I think they stayed with us some, we fed them, had church dinners.  But now that I belong to a megachurch, there isn’t that sense of close-knit community.  I miss it!  But, as my life has changed from going to a small community to a big metropolis, we can still carve out ways to help others.  And, our church definitely supports missionaries who must travel abroad.

Q. Rob, since this is Christmas Day, can you explain if Christmas was the actual day Jesus was born?  I have heard studies where He was born in January.  Regardless, it’s a very important event to celebrate!  I think it’s interesting to hear how dates get set or rearranged in history.

A. The word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass,” or Christ’s coming or arrival.  In the old days, the celebrations were known as liturgical feasts or feast days, as they still are in the “high” churches.  The first indication of the Christ Mass in the Western Church dates to around 354 AD, but the Eastern Church (what we today call the big “o” Orthodox) had already tied the birth of Christ into one combined feast day known as Epiphany, which takes place on Jan 6th of each year.  The Western Church also recognizes Epiphany as the date of the Magi’s arrival (Matthew 2), obviously have a different date for Christmas.  (In passing reference, you get 12 days if you add the dates from Christmas, Dec 25th, to Epiphany, Jan 6th, which would be the 12 days of Christmas, in case you ever wondered).

Okay, now about that date.  Well, as you can clearly see from what we have already discussed, there was no consensus about the ACTUAL date of Jesus’ birth, because the Gospels do not tell us.  The OBSERVANCE of the birth is what takes place on Dec. 25, so it should not be understood that the liturgical churches have been saying Jesus was born on Dec. 25 for 1700 years … it hasn’t.  As to WHY Dec. 25 was selected, well, now we’re in deeper water.  There is some close proximity to what is called the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a major holiday for pagan culture, the dominant force in the world both Jesus and Christianity were “born” into.  So there is frequently discussed and “known” pseudo-knowledge that the 25th was selected to “replace” the feast of the Solstice, but I do not think this is actually what happened.  What caused it then?  Since that’s a long answer, I’m going to recommend you read an essay from a Catholic writer named Mark Shea (he’s a great writer and normally blogs here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/) on that very topic here: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2006/12/is-christmas-really-just-warmed-over.html

Hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.  Merry Christmas!

Day 358 (Dec. 24): God is light, live as Jesus did, love your brothers and sisters, remain faithful in what you have been taught from the beginning so you may inherit eternal life, the Holy Spirit teaches truth, eagerness to know who we will be when Jesus returns keeps us pure, if you live in Him you will not sin, leaving guilt behind we can go to Him with confidence that we will receive what we ask of Him, identifying false prophets

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.

John wrote his letters sometimes between the 60s and the 90s of the first century AD.

1 John 1-4:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 2:8, 3:6): The first of these verses says we all sin and if we say we don’t then we are calling God a liar.  But, 3:6 says that if we live in Him we won’t sin and anyone who keeps sinning does not know Him.  So, on the face of it, these sound a little contradictory.  But, I think what they say together is that we all have sin and have sin in us, but the more we live in the love of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit, the less likely we are to sin and more pure we become.

A. I’m not going to take credit for the effort, but I am glad to see that you are expanding your understanding of the depth of Scripture: not everything that SOUNDS like a contradiction is one.  I think that you are right about this reading, and that we can grow to be more like God (including sinning less — we are unlikely to stop sinning all together) over time.

Q. (3:21): Here, John says that feeling guilty is pretty much a sin.  It keeps us from feeling worthy of all the gifts He offers.

A. Guilt, while sometimes motivating, is ultimately not an emotion that brings us closer to God.  If we understand our worth comes from God and not from our actions, we will frankly be less likely to turn to our guilt instead of our God.

Q. Anything else, Rob?  Did you want to say anything about John himself?  I am curious about who he is.

A. Church tradition holds that the Apostle John is the writer of this letter, the one referred to as the “apostle Jesus loved.”  We do not know if this is true or not (he doesn’t identify himself), but it is quite clear if you examine the language of this letter that the writer of this letter also wrote the Gospel of John.  Compare John 1 and 1 John 1’s first few verses and you will see what I mean.

Day 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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.

Hebrews 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 299 (Oct. 26): Most important Commandments, Jesus questions religious leaders about Messiah, religious leaders known for pageantry not serving others, Jesus warns religious leaders, only one Father and one Teacher, Pharisees and teachers of religious law neglect justice, mercy and faith, widow’s offering is larger than that of the rich

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.

Mark 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:35-37

Matthew 22:41-46

Luke 20:41-44

Mark 12:38-40

Matthew 23:1-12

Luke 20:45-47

Matthew 23:13-39

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 21:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 12:31): I had always heard that loving God was the most important and then loving your neighbor was second.  Here it says they are equal.  Does the Bible say one is more important than the other anywhere?  It seems like they are almost one in the same.  If you love God you will likely love others.  If you love others, you probably have God in your heart.

A. No doubt Jesus desires us to love God first — we might call what He says 1 and 1a — but that, as you state, a true love for God will be manifest in a genuine love for others.

Q. (Matthew 22:34): Can you tell me again what the difference is between the Pharisees and Sadducees?

A. Sure.  First, members of BOTH of these parties made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so we might think of them as the two major “political” parties of the day.  The Sadducees were the more conservative of the two, and used the first five books of the OT (Genesis to Deuteronomy) as their primary guides for living.  They rejected much of the later OT writings (notably including writings about resurrection, which as we have discussed come from the later parts of the OT, hence their rejection of the doctrine).  The Sadducees were the primary members of the Priesthood, including Caiaphas who will be one of the central figures of the Passion story as High Priest.  Since they were the “official” leaders of the nation as the priests, the Sadducees worked with the Romans, which made them inferior in the eyes of others, including the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a different ruling party, and their primary concern was a noble one in theory: they desired for God to act on behalf of His people and cast off the Roman oppression (though they rejected overt action such as assassination that groups like the Zealots used).  They believed that if the people of the nation could become righteous enough by keeping the Law, they would “force God’s hand,” so to speak, and bring the Messiah into the world to conquer the Romans.  They were the teachers of the Law.  Since they did not see Jesus as being a leader capable of such a violent revolt, it is little surprise they rejected Him as the Messiah.  The Pharisees hoped to achieve this righteousness by means of legalism, including the use of many traditions that went well beyond the scope of the Law, as Jesus has been pointing out.  They would have been among the most powerful group in the nation, but in general, they would have been greatly disliked by the common Jews, who saw them as showy and flashy but ultimately not helpful.  The Pharisees would be the surviving party after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and their lineage carries on today in the writings of the Talmud, and the line of the Rabbis.

Q. (Mark 12:35-37, Matthew 22:41-46, Luke 20:41-44): I think I understand that Jesus is asking the “experts” on religious law how the Messiah can be the SON of David.  David would not refer to his son as “my lord.”  And that, tripped up the religious leaders?

A. Okay, so here’s what’s going on here: Jesus is mocking the religious leaders in what would have understood in a humorous way.  Jesus is using a quote from David in Psalm 110 (and assuming Davidic authorship, by the way) to say that David himself saw the Messiah as being more than a normal person.  David saw the Messiah as being divine, which is why he refers to Him as “his Lord.”  But everyone in that day knew that the Messiah was ALSO a son of David from his lineage.  So in posing the question in this way, unless the religious leaders of the day were willing to admit that the Messiah was indeed divine (something they rejected — they saw him as a chosen ruler by not divine), they COULD NOT answer His question.  If the person chosen as Messiah was merely a man, then the great King David would have no reason to call him Lord.  That, if you will, is the joke, but it was also a blistering critique by Jesus.

Q. (Mark 12:38-40): I am sure that many religious leaders are guilty of posturing today.  I remember my dad and some other elders of our church inviting our small-town preacher out to dinner.  They would get upset though, because the preacher never paid anything for the dinner.  We gave offering to the church and I guess my dad thought that that is the preacher’s wages and he should pay for his own dinner.  He and his family were extremely nice, but the preacher did have a slight attitude that he deserved to be taken care of.  So, they didn’t ask him to dinner every time.

A. As a person who has worked in ministry, I can honestly tell you that it is quite easy to let a sense of entitlement get a hold of you, and it is something you must make war against.  It is very difficult to remain humble in the midst of those circumstances, which to me makes it all the more important.

Q. (Matthew 23:8-9): Don’t Jews call their leaders “Rabbi” and Catholics call their priests “Father”?

A. Yes they do, though it’s worth mentioning that nothing Jesus says here would be recognized by Jews today — they wholly reject His teachings.  What Jesus is saying here is not to seek the title for the sake of pride (which was a major failing of the leadership), and I do not believe that Jesus is saying, “never have any titles”.  This is a verse about humility, and a reminder to keep in mind who is really in charge.

O. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4): I have read this or heard of this passage many times before.  But, now that I have read it after reading Matthew 23:12, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” this verse has a new meaning.  She was not only sacrificing more than the rich people, she will be exalted for it!  This verse sure is a game changer.