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 301 (Oct. 28): Be ready for Jesus’s second coming at all times, parable of ten bridesmaids, parable of three servants, Jesus will separate the righteous from evil, helping others helps Jesus

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 13:32-37

Matthew 24:36-51

Luke 21:34-38

Matthew 25:1-46

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 24:36-51): We have heard this same story before, I guess from another one of the gospels.  Any idea why it wasn’t put with the other one since this is a chronological Bible?

A. While we’ve heard some version of the material, that doesn’t mean that it was presented at the same time as Jesus’ other sermons or that that material was never repeated (an assumption many skeptics of the Bible simply ignore — Jesus likely taught similar sermons over and over again).  Matthew records that these verses are part of a larger narrative on being prepared for the Final Judgment, which is unique, and has not been presented in the Gospels before now.  That is most likely why some of the material that kind of sounds familiar from other Gospels is presented here as part of a narrative about being prepared.

Q. (Luke 21:34-38): Does this mean we aren’t supposed to let our guard down by hanging out with friends and having a couple of drinks?  Or, is this talking about boozing it up at a bar?  I would say that as long as God is with you and on your mind, you’re OK.  But if you let your morals go, then you risk letting God go and your salvation?

A. The Bible does not prescribe a life completely free of alcohol consumption, but it DOES say clearly that drunkenness is a sin.  Since there are many people who cannot handle the distinction between a couple of drinks and being blackout drunk (i.e. alcoholics), it might be better for those people to avoid consuming alcohol at all, since it tends to dull your wits.  Bad decisions come after consuming too much alcohol.

Q. (Matthew 25:14-30): We’ve seen this one before too.  I can get two different morals from this story.  One is that the master is literally giving talents.  The servants who use their talents and either expand on them or profit from them are rewarded.  Or, the servants who use their talents to bring more people to God will be rewarded.

A. As mentioned, it is possible that Jesus is repeating a story He has already told in this instance to make a point about using the gifts and abilities God has given us (including being given riches).  Either of your proposed “morals” are fine, but they BOTH require a level of discernment: you must determine what you feel God is calling you to do, and then to act on it.

Q. (Matthew 25:31-46): Jesus is talking about when we help others, we honor Him.  If we don’t do that — his will and the new covenant — it’s eternal time in the fire pit.  When we lived on Guam, a neighbor who was a Seventh Day Adventist told me that the Bible says that the eternal fire is really not eternal.  I have always pictured people — I guess it would be there souls? — burning forever and ever.  Rob, what knowledge do you have?

A. First, one quick note: the story of the Sheep and Goats does not say that it is actions ALONE that will get us into heaven or send us to hell.  Our actions are generally a tangible representation of what we believe (i.e. we don’t generally act in contrast to what we believe).  So if we have faith in Christ, and have been changed by His life and teachings, then the result of such thinking will most likely being a radical change in our actions.  We are much less likely to be selfish if we have truly internalized what Jesus has taught us.  So if we have faith in Him, our actions will likely change, which is tangibly proven by our daily interactions with others.

As to the reality of what hell is “like,” we only have bits and pieces to go on.  There are some contrasting images that appear contradictory at first look: we are told that hell is a place of darkness, but also of fire for example.  In Revelation, it will be described as a lake of fire — burning sulfur, which used to be known as brimstone, to be exact.  As we discussed at some point — I forget exactly where — when Jesus discussed what we call hell, He used images of a place called Gehenna, a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem that was once used for pagan child sacrifice.  So there are various ways that the reality of hell is described.  Personally, I agree with one part of what your neighbor has said, but it’s not the part you might think.  I believe that there will be an eternal separation of souls from God, and that while there will be no LITERAL fire there, the agony and anguish of regret at having missed out on God will be undeniable.  Note carefully: all the metaphors that Jesus used to speak about hell — and don’t miss that it is Jesus HIMSELF who teaches much of what we understand about hell! — have a literal point: they represent regret, suffering, and misery.  Hell is real, and it is a real danger to those who willfully turn from God — no one goes to hell by accident — it is willful action on our part to end up there.  We all know or have heard about people who say they want no part of God at all — that He is cruel, or unjust, or whatever.  And as a person who believes strongly in free will, I believe that God is willing to say, “I will not force you to be with me if that is what you desire.”  But surely those who make up their mind to act in defiance of God and choose their sin and selfishness will regret what they have done.  Such defiance often makes us blind to a way out, even if the lifeline is still offered.  C.S. Lewis once cleverly remarked that if hell is “locked,” then it is locked from the inside.  Something to think about…

Day 283 (Oct. 10): Jesus is the bread of life, disciples desert Jesus, Jesus teaches about inner purity

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 6:22-71

Mark 7:1-23

Matthew 15:1-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 6:37): What does Jesus mean by “those the Father has given me”?

A. It would appear to be saying those God has selected for salvation.  You can take it as a mark of predestination or not (I personally do not, but understand why people do), but the most important thing that both sides agree on is salvation comes from God’s actions, not ours.

Q. (6:41): I can imagine that these people think Jesus is telling wild stories because they know he is Joseph and Mary’s son.  So, we can see that they have to be hit on the head — meaning they have to be shocked by Jesus being crucified and resurrected — to acknowledge that Jesus is special.  You said a day or two back when Mary and her children came hollering for Jesus to come out and join them that they thought He was “losing” it.  I would think that Mary would be fully supporting Jesus because she knows how He came to be.  I would think that she would validate that Jesus was sent from heaven to those who thought He was delusional.

A. No one (even Jesus’ family) had any idea the steps that Jesus/God would take to have Him fulfill His role as Messiah and be “crowned” eternal King in a deadly ceremony (watch for coronation imagery in the crucifixion story).  Even if Mary obviously understood Jesus’ origins that would be no guarantee she would understand what God was doing in the long term.  Don’t worry, the family comes around!

Q. (6:46): I guess this means that no one has seen God in full form; He always appeared as an angel (but we don’t know what He looks like, so it could have been Him.)  Moses was with God on Mount Sinai and He saw Him in the burning bush, Jacob is thought to have wrestled with Him, Abraham saw Him.  But, if Jesus says that no one has seen God but Him, I would take His word for it and think that these other OT occurrences were not God himself.

A. I think Jesus means no one has seen the full deity of God, and it would be impossible for the finite to absorb the infinite.  We have encountered places where we have seen messengers, and glimpses of God, but never the whole Person.

Q. (6:52, 60): This is what you have said about the crucifixion making everything make sense?  Without the crucifixion and resurrection, none of Jesus talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood would make sense.  And, this is the answer to v. 60: Most will not understand nor accept who Jesus is until they see Him nailed to the cross.

A. Even then they won’t understand it.  Only after His resurrection will it become clear.

Q. (Mark 7:7): So, their laws, like hand washing, are not ordered by God.  But, because the priests hands had to be cleansed — washed — before making sacrifices, they made a law that everyone had to wash their hands before they ate.  Then, they put authority to it and made it an offense to eat with dirty hands.  When, it’s not even God’s law, but they get bent out of shape by the offenders.  Thus, they are losing site of God’s purpose.

A. They would not have called it law, they called it tradition as we see in this story.  But you’ve got the idea right: they adapted portions of the Law and expanded them in ways that God never intended.  In doing so, they stripped away the meaning that the sense of compassion central to the Law and just kept to manmade traditions.

Q. (Mark 7:15, 19): Jesus is addressing the “meat” and “kosher” rules here, right?  I don’t think he’s saying you can stuff your face with Little Debbies and be OK with it.  He is saying that the food laws about what animals you can and can’t eat are no longer an issue.

A. He is altering the course of subsequent Christian understanding about eating various foods.  It has nothing to do with what kind of food you choose (a radical break, frankly, from Jewish tradition), but rather was His way of addressing the more pertinent issue here, as Matthew emphasizes: the Pharisees were convinced that the most important issue was the WASHING.  This, as Jesus reminds them, has NOTHING to do with holiness, only man’s tradition.  I suspect that was what He was getting at, but in doing so, He demonstrated a first step in the move from legalism to freedom (something Paul will take up later).

Q. (Matthew 15:13): Jesus is talking about false prophets here when he says, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted?”

A. Nope, He’s talking about the religious leaders that are opposing Him here.  He correctly notes that their rule will soon be at an end (the city will be destroyed within a generation of Jesus’ death).  So in that regard, Jesus’ followers should follow what He is teaching them, rather than those who will soon lose their seat of power.

Q. (15:19): Rob, would you say that an accurate definition of defile means “being unworthy of God’s love”?  Notice that all the things listed here — evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander — are things that would hurt others physically and emotionally.  Thus, if you hurt others, you hurt God.  Another word for not having these sins is “pure at heart.”  That’s what I’m striving for, but wow, does it take some soul searching to get rid of some learned and innate thought processes, and focusing on God.  How many times have you said something negative about someone?  You don’t know their full story. God made them and He loves them just like He loves you.  So, what right do you have to say anything negative about anyone?  Besides, it’s His place to judge, not ours!  How many times have you took a trip down memory lane thinking about an old love.  That hurts your spouse.  Even if he or she doesn’t realize it, your thought processes are not engaged with him or her and you can start questioning your affections for him or her.  So, see it’s not just the murderers, thieves and liars, we all need to keep watch on our heart!

A. Even on our best day, we are unworthy of God’s love, but this does not prevent Him from choosing to love us.  I think defiling here means something more like, “choosing to go our own way, against the desires of God”.  Watch for the way that Jesus will pull together some of this language when we get to Luke 15.  But regardless of my semantic disagreement with you, I feel that you have soundly grasped the danger and inherent ugliness to many of our sins.  It is hard to change our ways: it is in our nature to keep going back and making bad decisions, but God has offered us a way out, and from there it is not just knowing the way out, but choosing to walk it.

Day 274 (Oct. 1): Jesus heals man who had been sick for 38 years, Jesus is the authority and the way to eternal life, Jewish leaders condemn Jesus for working on the Sabbath

Congrats!  We have reached the ¾ milestone.  And, the NT is just flying by with lots of joy filling every reading.  It’s hard for me to stop reading ahead!  (So, I am!)

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 5:1-47

Mark 2:23-28

Matthew 12:1-8

Luke 6:1-5

Mark 3:1-6

Matthew 12:9-14

Luke 6:6-11

Matthew 12:15-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 5:21-22): These verses are confusing to me.  What does it mean that Jesus gives life to anyone He wants.  And, in v. 22, it says that God does not judge.  Since when?  He judged in the OT.  Has Jesus’s birth changed that?

A. I am not fully conclusive on what He means, but it appears that Jesus is saying that it is the Son, rather than the Father, who judges the nations.  We will see more of this as we enter Holy Week, so hang on to these thoughts.  Jesus will claim that He, as Son, will be given the entire world to judge, so there’s something to this.  The answers will come.

O. (5:24): I’m writing this one down.

Q. (5:25, 27): Who is the “dead” that is talked about here?

A. Exactly who you think it is: the dead of all time.  The NT will paint imagery of the Final Judgment, in which the entire world — past, present, and future — will be judged.

Q. (5:25-30): We don’t have to talk about this now if there is a better time for it to come up.  We are talking about the dead rising and being given eternal life.  What a wonderful time that will be.  The manner to which one is put to rest has come up in conversation today.  I’m from a farming community in the Midwest where burial was the norm.  But, since I have left there, cremation is the major consensus.  I just wondered if the Bible addressed the subject.

A. It does not, and the reason for that will become clear as the story unfolds.  Let’s discuss this more around, say Matthew 25 and 1 Corinthians 15.

Q. (Mark 3:2): I assume that Jesus’s enemies here are the Jewish leaders.  Essentially, they are working also if they are “working” to uphold the Sabbath by watching out for others’ breaking the law.

A. You can see hints and a few examples of places where the religious authorities (Pharisees in particular — remember they sought salvation via following God’s law in a strict manner) just tie themselves in knots trying to keep the Sabbath.  But ultimately, they miss the point (as many do today): the Sabbath is the gift of rest, that God expects us to take.  It should be taken seriously as something good for us, but it should not be something that causes us mental difficulty or legalistic trouble.  As Jesus put it, it is a gift for man, not something that man is forced to do in order to keep a code.  The Pharisees had it completely backwards, and Jesus was perfectly willing to call them out on it.

Q. All of these healings and miracles that Jesus did are primarily to show God’s power and love in order to harvest more believers, right?

A. Yes, they are a testimony to His authority of life, disease, and nature itself.