Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

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 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: 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. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

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.