Day 361 (Dec. 27): All through John, Jesus wrote letters to churches in Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, heaven, Lamb opens the scrolls and breaks the seals

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.

Revelation 3-6:17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Relation 3:1-6): Sounds like most of Sardis has fallen, but Jesus is giving them a last warning/chance?  And those who have made the right choices are good to go.  I am starting to get a better understanding of the “chosen” issue.

A. When you say “most,” keep in mind that it means the congregation of Christians, not necessarily the entire city.  It appears that many in that congregation were falling away — we don’t know why — and Christ is calling them to renew their faith.

Q. (3:7-13): Sounds like Philadelphia is a great place to be.  They have done well and get to skip the testing for judgment?  V. 12 says that a new heaven will come down and Jesus will take on a new name?

A. Maybe.  The Greek can either mean, “keep you from [undergoing]” which would match your suggestion, but it might also mean “keep you through,” which would imply that they will not be left out of the trial period that is described in the rest of the story.  The new Heaven and the name of Jesus will come later in the story.

Q. I notice that each of these church letters end with the same words: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.  To me, this is just saying that we can all benefit from these teachings?

A. Yes, and Jesus spoke very similar words during His earthly ministry (Matthew 11:5, Mark 4:9).

Q. (3:14-22): Jesus is giving the church in Laodicea a charge to choose believing?

A. He is saying that they are tepid, or lukewarm: neither hot nor cold.  The explanation for the reference is quite clever: Laodicea was a wealthy city, and there were two sites close by that were considered “luxuries”: Hierapolis, famous for its hot springs, and Colossae (the same as the NT letter), which was famous for its cold, invigorating spring water.  People from Laodicea went to Hierapolis for “spa days” as we might refer to them, and vacationed in the summer in Colossae, and so they could enjoy both the hot and cold water as they wished.  But apparently, at one point, there was a project to pipe hot water into Laodicea from the hot springs, which they were able to make work — a feat of engineering at the time! — but the water lost its heat along the way.  The water that arrived was lukewarm, and was apparently nauseating to drink: so no one did — they spit it out.  So Jesus is saying that the community of Christians in this city was like the tepid water in the pipes — no one was “drinking” it, and that had to change.  And they needed to be desirable water — hot or cold.

Q. (4:5): What is the significance of the name “sevenfold Spirit of God”?

A. Seven is our watchword for fullness or completion.  This place is the dwelling of the very Shekinah glory of God.

Q. (4:6-8): Are these creatures the same ones that were in the OT?

A. These are the same beings referred to in Ezekiel 1 (they have only four wings in Ezekiel’s vision, we don’t know why John “gives” them 6).  Christian thought has these representing a class of angels known as Cherubim, which we know very little about.  But the most important thing to note here is that the four creatures speak of the Lamb, they reveal who He is.  Thus, it has become popular interpretation to understand the four creatures as representing the Four Gospels, and this influences Christian art and thought to this day.  If you’re wondering: Matthew is the Man, Mark is the Lion, Luke is the Bull, and John is the Eagle.  Thus, for example, if you visit St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice — or, much closer for you Floridians, Flagler Memorial Presbyterian in St. Augustine, which was modeled off of the original in Venice — I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Old City.  You will see lion imagery throughout the building.

Q. (6:1-17): What is the meaning of the different colored horses?

A. If you recall a while ago, we read about these same colors in Zechariah 1:8-17 and 6:1-8, so again, John is calling on our understanding of those visions to help him paint his vision here.  The four colors represent a sequence (these are the famous Four Horsemen): white represents rule and conquest (the white rider is some sort of ruler or leader of people, and is frequently seen as the Antichrist).  The red represents war and bloodshed. Black represents famine and plague — as a result of war or neglect, there is a shortage of food (frequently associated with times of war).  The prices given are 10 times the normal cost of wheat and barley.  The implication of the oil and wine is that since the trees that produce them have deeper roots, it will be more difficult to stop production of those items, and the black rider desires to control the distribution of these products to ensure maximum suffering, but also maximum profit!  War is so much fun for those who finance it!  (Sarcasm)  The Pail horse, representing the color of a corpse, represents the end of the sequence: massive death, and the rider of this infernal animal is the personification of death itself — what we would call the Grim Reaper.

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 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

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.

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

Day 346 (Dec. 12): James (Jesus’s brother) writes 12 tribes, get rid of human anger and accept the word in your heart, show no favoritism, faith without good deeds is dead, control your Christian tongue, true wisdom comes from God

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.

James 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. Just some background info, if it’s available: Do any of Jesus’s other brothers speak out for Him?  What were the “12 tribes” that James was talking about?  How did this letter get to them?

A. There is tradition, but not certainty, that the Epistle of Jude (coming soon!) is written by another of Jesus’ brothers — it’s the same name as Judas, so they changed it for obvious reasons.  James, the half brother of Jesus and Bishop of the church of Jerusalem (which will soon be destroyed), appears to be writing to Jewish believers, though it is possible he is using metaphor and refers to both Jews and Gentiles as being part of the “12 tribes”.  Jews of this era were spread over various cities, and any letter like this one would have been sent by messenger.  We do not know who the original readers were.

O. (James 1:2-4): James speaks the truth.  I think this means that the more we endure, the more spiritual we grow until we won’t need to improve much more, if any.

O. (1:14): I think it’s so interesting to point out that evil desires come from ourselves.  We must listen to the Spirit to guide us away from these thoughts or actions.

O. (James 2:10): So, I guess if we have one or two super small sinful issues, then we are not pure.  Purity is the whole shebang.

Q. (James 2:20): Also the other way around, right?  Good deeds without faith has no value to God, right?

A. James is talking about works that are of benefit to mankind, and a faith that is visible to others as a way of spreading the Gospel.  Only God can see our true faith, so in that sense, it does no good to those around us if only God can see it.

Day 345 (Dec. 11): Complaining and arguing leads to others criticism, Paul advocates Timothy and Epaphroditus, knowing Christ is priceless, stay true to the Lord ignoring enemies to the cross, don’t worry, just pray, a little sin is as big as lots of sins, faith without good deeds is dead, guard your tongue for it is a powerful tool, true wisdom comes from God

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.

Philippians 2:12-4:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Philippians 2:13): I never knew that God could give us the desire to please Him.  I thought that was a human ability.

A. All good things ultimately come from God, and the desire to please Him is a good thing.

O. (2:14): A hard one to do, but solid advice from Paul.  Bite your tongue has more uses than preventing you from saying something that might hurt someone, which I guess, in turn, ends up hurting you.  But also, complaining and criticizing damages character and people’s opinion of you.  When I go away from someone complaining, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  And, likewise, if I complain, I feel shame afterward.

Q. (4:3): What is the Book of Life?

A. The concept goes all the way back to Exodus 32 during Moses’ discussion with God after the golden calf incident.  Moses tells God that if He does not forgive the people’s sin, then he wants no part in God’s plan, and that God should blot him out of the “book” that God is writing.  God replies that it is not up to Moses who is included or not included in His book.  This exchange could mean several things, but the primary meaning that has come to be accepted is that it is the book of those who have a place in God’s Kingdom — the Book of Life.  We will see more references to this again, especially in Revelation, where it is referred to as the Lamb’s Book of Life in reference to Jesus.

O. (4:6-7): I wish I would always remember to ask for God’s help instead of stewing about issues.  It’s so wonderful to know that He truly wants to care for me.

Q. (4:12-13): Although I feel like Paul is boasting here, he always gives the glory to God, so it’s null and void.

A. He’s bragging about the one thing that he told others to boast about (1 Cor 1:31- let him who boasts boast about the Lord): his relationship with God, and how it provides him contentment even in the most dire of circumstances.  Don’t forget where Paul is when he writes this — under house arrest and expecting to be executed.  This is probably my favorite letter of Paul’s, because it creates such a contrast to the way that the world reacts to suffering and the way that Paul does. Paul says to take joy in suffering and to do so over and over (4:4)!  That is amazing to me.

Day 342 (Dec. 8): Let Spirit be your power source, husbands and wives should be in a relationship as Christ is with the church, children should honor their parents, parents should bring them up in the Lord, God rewards slaves and masters alike who are in the Spirit, Put on armor of God, Pray at all times, Tychicus is going to Ephesus to give report, Paul greets church in Colosse, Christ is image of God, Christ is supreme!

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.

Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians while imprisoned in Rome.  He sent the letter to Colosse with Onesimus and Tychicus (See Col. 4:7-9), who were also carrying the letter to Ephesians (see Eph. 6:21-22).

Colossians 1:1-23

Questions & Observations

O. (Ephesians 5:18b-19, 20): I would say this is a good charge to be playing Christian music at all times.  We have a great station in Orlando, Z88.3! On a different note, v. 20 answers something I brought up a long time ago, that about when you pray, you only have to say “in Jesus name” if you ask for something.  Here it says that you should also when you give thanks.  I just think it’s important to give glory to Him every chance you get.

Q. (5:20-33): Rob, it’s OK, I’m not on my women’s equality throne.  I used to cringe at this Scripture because I never wanted to be considered less than a man.  I think the bigger picture here is our relationship with Christ.  He is the one we need to respect, honor, obey, love, worship, etc.  And, he gives us love and blesses us in return.  He really does that without us doing our part.  Likewise, if wives respect, uphold and love their husbands, just as we should with Christ, our husbands will be better people, just as Christ is better if his believers are virtuous.  After all, together, we are His body.

V. 33 hits the core, I think, of what men and women struggle with in their relationships.  Men love themselves, i.e. can have egos.  If they love their wives to the same degree, they will have a loving relationship.  If they put themselves before their wives — note Christ washes the disciples feet and he endured a grueling crucifixion — they will likely have discord.  I have seen many relationships where if the man has a strong ego, the wife is usually quiet and obedient, not a light like God desires.  And, I think some wives may struggle with the respect virtue.  We have a mind of our own, and especially in modern times, we are nearly equal in prosperity.  So, when entering a marriage, you both have to think of each other and not make major decisions by yourself.  I struggle with this, as you can probably tell, because I didn’t marry until I was 31 and had my own ways.  I was always headstrong though.  Anyway, I think some decisions he makes are wrong, but I know that he is human.  Also, I have learned that if I don’t agree with him, I shouldn’t just be quiet.  I talk through it with him so then I have understanding of his thought process and then, I can fully respect him.  This scripture describes more of working together and submitting to one another — not that husbands dominate their wives — like v. 21 says.  Note that it says, “submit to one another.”  It doesn’t say just “women submit.”

A.  You’ve hit upon the key to this section at the end: the idea is mutual submission, and the husband leads in that he is the first to submit.  That, of course, does not make him perfect, but it certainly demolishes any foolishness about this being a “men should dominate their women and the women should just take it” kind of passage.  The man should lead the relationship (and the wife should follow) in his willingness to die for her- to be willing to die to his own desires (especially control over her).  Many times men mistake the meaning of this passage (as women do) and say things like, “she won’t submit”.  But that’s not what Paul says: he says she should submit- after YOU DIE TO YOURSELF!  That is radically different, and it is a shame to me that more people of both genders do not understand the true meaning of this passage.

O. (6:1-3): Note to parents that it says children “belong to the Lord.”  That means we should cherish them treat them with respect.  I have never heard v. 3 before.  I’ll have to read that to my children.  I have a great aunt who will be 104 in January.  I think she wishes she hadn’t been so obedient.  Just kidding.  She is lonely.  All her friends are gone.

Q. (6:5-9): Rob, here’s a good one for you.  Explain slavery in the pre-Civil War U.S. in regards to this Scripture.  The war ended slavery because the Union said slavery was bad.  Here, the Scriptures say is just a way of life.

A. Ok, here goes: the slavery system in the ancient world was a system of slave debt, which frequently ended in the freedom of the slave.  People were frequently sold into slavery to settle debts in lieu of going to prison- and this type of slavery was rarely for life.  Now this is to be contrasted with the life-long, horribly abusive slavery associated with the slaves who were kidnapped from Western Africa during the colonial period of the United States and the Caribbean.  Slavery within the colonial system was for life, with beatings, brandings, separation of families (something the Roman system would not have allowed), and, don’t forget, it would have been entered into via kidnapping.  A master could also hang or beat an American slave to death, something that would NEVER have been allowed, even in barbaric Rome.

 

Something important to note here is that, despite Paul’s writings, there were people on both sides of the colonies (England and America) that took up what they saw as God’s command to abolish a slavery system that was exploitive and not necessary any longer.  You can read about one of the most famous, an Englishman named William Wilberforce- his story is told in a fairly recent movie called Amazing Grace (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454776/?ref_=nv_sr_1) which I would highly recommend to learn more about the reasons behind the abolition movement.

O. (6:8-9): Again, I would like to point out that God says everyone is equal here, no matter if you are a bazilliionaire or impoverished.  Remember where we read in the OT about how the tables will be turned when everything comes to light.  The overbearing people — rich, powerful (if used in the wrong spirit) will be shadowed by those they dominated on earth.  I think that is so cool that we will see our reward.  The test is to stay humble and on the right path.

Q. (6:11): What is the God’s armor?

A. It is a series of reminders that Paul presents using the metaphor of a solider putting on his armor for battle.  Paul is providing a reminder that there are spiritual, not merely physical, dangers in the world.  The devil has you in his crosshairs, Paul is saying, so you need to be prepared to deal with the spiritual realities of the world that we cannot see.  His advice is to remember the ways that God has provided for our spiritual needs, from the Bible, to guidance for our faith, to instruction in righteousness, in order to stand against the devil’s actions, and not retreat.  He is telling his people to stand firm!

Q. (6:18): What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”?

A. I think he means using the Spirit to guide our prayers and give us insight into God’s will for us.

Q. (Colossians 1:22): There is so much depth to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  I have never thought of myself as holy and blameless, without fault.  That is hard to imagine/accept.

A. Well, if its any consolation to you, your blamelessness is not your doing, but rather God’s.  Amazing Grace indeed.

 

Day 341 (Dec. 7): Paul chosen to share Good News, Jews and Gentiles share equally in God’s inheritance, Paul prays for Spiritual empowering for Ephesus, church was made to act together and make up Christ’s body, church leaders are a gift from Jesus, throw away old sinful nature and put on new nature through Spirit, everything you say should be good and helpful, greed offers no place in heaven, live according to light within you

Only 24 days left to the end, but who’s counting, this is fun!

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.

Ephesians 3-5:14

Questions & Observations

I can’t help but comment about the amazing insight God has given Paul!

Q. (Ephesians 3:17): By Christ making His home in our bodies — this could mean both each individual and/or the church body (right?) — makes me think of that when one allows Christ in that we become like Christ giving grace to others.

A. I wouldn’t agree that Christ making a home in our bodies, via the Spiri, refers to the Church, but is referring to the individual Christian specifically.  The reason for this is the image of the Church united is the Body of Christ, not Christ within the body, if that makes sense.  But your last sentence is spot on.  We can become like Christ to others and share His grace with them.

O. (3:19): This verse fills my heart with pure joy as to how much He loves me and everyone else!

Q. (4:2): Once in a while I say something that I wonder if it was taken wrong by the other person.  I have had my “God filter” or Spirit Sensor on more and more.  But, once in a while, it’s not turned on all the way.  Most of the time, I immediately catch it and make sure they knew what I meant.  But, sometimes, I don’t.  It’s at these times that I pray that the other person is Christian, will know my true heart, know that I am human and forgive me.  This also makes me think of road rage.  So many people lose their cool behind the wheel.  I don’t know if this is a sign of having the Spirit or not, but we just need to always remember that we are not alone.  God/Jesus/Spirit knows our hearts.

A. He does indeed, and that, I think, provides a lot of insight into the grace He provides — He sees the damage and brokenness in each of our hearts, and is sympathetic to our plight.  His desire is to make us whole.

Q. (4:7-8): Are “gifts” referring to the talents we are given or referring to the gifts in v. 11 — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers?

A. Spiritual gifts.  (From Leigh An: I am a little cloudy on what a spiritual gift is, so I googled it.  There are lots of sources.  Here’s one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_gift

Q. (4:16): I just wondered about a symbolic relationship I had an epiphany about.  If together, we are Christ’s body and He had to sacrifice for us, would that be symbolic of us having to sacrifice ourselves (earthly desires) if we want to be a part of Christ’s body?  Also, I think this is a telling verse of how we should get rid of whatever is blocking us from working with others — pride, shyness, time — so we all can benefit from one another.  And, it gives glory to Jesus.

A. The longer we walk with God, the more we will see the need for self-sacrifice in each of our desires — both a desire to sacrifice on behalf of other people and the need to sacrifice our own desires and “die” to ourselves.  There is a reason the Church throughout history has associated Baptism with the idea of dying to self and rising to God, exactly as you have described it.

O. (4:29): “Let everything you say be good and helpful … ” is a tough one, but practice makes (nearly) perfect!

Q. (5:5-6): I have learned to be less and less greedy.  But what degree of greed is bad?  And, how do we measure greed?  For instance, if I would like my house to be decorated nicely — not over the top by any means, but just comfortable and inspiring for my family.  If we have plans to improve our yard, is that greed?  Many times I think it is because it’s of this world and it’s not helping others.  But, then God says two things: give 10 percent and give generously.  Should we enjoy some of the fruits of our labor, or is that greed?  Also, this verse has me a little concerned about my own salvation.  I worry that I’m not pure enough.  A trickle of impure thoughts can still go through my head.  I don’t know exactly what “impure” is referring to here.  I don’t have any immoral thoughts, but I can say that EVERY thought I have does not have the love of God in it.

A. Ok, first, your purity is the concern of Christ, not yours.  You do your part by having faith in Christ’s ability to work through you via the Spirit, and let God worry about the rest.  Remember that worry is NOT productive when it comes to our walk with God, so as much as you can, let doubts, especially about salvation, go — that’s God’s department.

Greed can be tricky to define, as it varies from person to person, but if we are faithful in our tithing and generous with our living, we should not be in danger.  One of the things that we can do is seek God’s council on what is greed in our hearts, and what is just proper provision for our own needs.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labor, but if we have made money ITSELF the aim, that is where greed slips in.  All of the deadly sins (sloth/laziness, wrath, envy, gluttony, lust, and pride are the other 6) are about abuse of good things.  Money, and the desire to have it, is not evil in and of itself, but when we make an idol out of our desire for money (when we trust IT more than we trust God), then we have slipped into the deadly sin of greed.  As we have mentioned in previous questions, the opposite of greed — as the Church has historically defined it — is self-sacrifice: when we give of ourselves with a clear heart, we are turning our back on being greedy.  I’m afraid I can’t give you any more specifics on your particular situation, you have to work the rest out with God.

Q. (5:13): Can “light” here refer to Jesus?

A. It refers to the light of the Gospel message and the power of God.

O. (5:8): I constantly think of examples in nature that model our relationship with God.  And, of course, I think He made them that way intentionally.  If we know God, we can constantly be reminded of Him when we look around us.  This verse talks about light v. darkness — polar opposites, so to speak.  For the most part, evil lurks in the dark, where light comes along and makes it visible.  And, good things come in the light.  Just think how a smile makes you feel instead of a frown; how light — makes me feel anyway — v. days and days of gloom.

Day 272 (Sept. 29): Jesus begins preaching, Jesus heals sick boy, Jesus calls on fishermen, Jesus cast out evil spirits, Jesus set on spreading the Word, crowds follow 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 1:14-15

Matthew 4:12-17

Luke 3:23a

John 4:46-54

Luke 4:16-30

Mark 1:16-20

Matthew 4:18-22

Mark 1:21-28

Luke 4:31-37

Mark 1:29-34

Matthew 8:14-17

Luke 4:38-41

Mark 1:35-39

Luke 4:42-44

Matthew 4:23-25

Questions & Observations

O. (Matthew 4:12-17): Rob, from this reading, I can better understand what you kept saying in the OT that those directions from God were specifically for the Israelites.  Here we see that one prophecy is true.  I know you also said we could apply them to our lives, if it fits.  But, here we see that the OT prophecies are fulfilled in the NT — just another avenue of validity to the Bible.

Q. (John 4:46-54):  This was the second.  The first was turning the water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-12):  I do notice that both of these accounts came from John.  Is that a pattern?

A.  Yes, John uses the miracles in his Gospel to point to the identity of Jesus as God in human form.  Because of that, the miracles he includes are very purposeful.  He will include 7 miracles, he calls them signs, (not counting the resurrection), which are accompanied by the so-called 7 “I AM” statements of Jesus about who He is, so watch for both of those in John’s Gospel.

Q. (Luke 4:16-30): This is a very revealing sentiment.  It does seem like those who you grow up around are not privy to what one is capable of.  They tend to be disbelieving and thus walk on their friend’s/family member’s ambition.  Is this what Jesus is talking about?  Any insight to the reason for oxymoronic tendency?

A. I think when you know someone’s history (as this whole town would have known Jesus’), you tend to, as you say, see what they are capable of — if it is radically different from what your previously thought about that person.  The people of Nazareth knew Jesus as a laborer/carpenter, and they knew His earthly father.  (Side note: Joseph is not mentioned again as a player in this story, so most scholars assume that he has died before Jesus begins His public ministry.)  Because they knew all this about Him (Nazareth was not a big city), it surely was strange to hear Him proclaim Himself as the one that Isaiah spoke of 800 years before Jesus read them.

Q. (Mark 1:16-20): Here Jesus doesn’t mean to throw our jobs away, right?  Just maybe if they are jobs that involve sin or maybe aren’t what one is being called to do?  This scripture is saying to throw your troubles, treasures and old ways aside and follow him.  Don’t hold on to what you are used to — the old ways — and ignore the Savior and righteous way that stands before you.  And, more importantly, it is saying that nothing is more important for these men (how about us?) than to bring others to God.  We don’t need fish, Jesus is our food.  This can serve as a test of faith for all of us, right?  I do notice that Jesus is not appealing to anyone (that we know of) to be his disciple who has wives and children at home.

And, we pick up two more disciples: James and John.  That makes six (Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathanael)

A. If you’re asking if God would NEVER ask us to give up our jobs to serve Him, well, He would, and He does.  But if you’re asking does He expect us to abandon our lives to follow Him, I would say that is not the standard.  Jesus called these men for a particular mission.  They would be responsible for learning from Him and changing the world after His resurrection.  Fishing would seem a lot less important at that point.

Q. (1:21-28): I would tend to think that drawing this evil spirit out had the purpose of showing that Jesus rules over evil.  I know there have been movies about evil spirits, demons and exorcisms, but I have not heard of any real ones in modern times.  Maybe there are.  But, I would think that the sole purpose of this demon being present would be to help Jesus establish his power and authority.

A. You’ve got the idea, but don’t forget Jesus’ love for the man himself, and the desire to see him freed from his bondage to this demon.

O. (Matthew 8:14-17): We are up to four-plus now: water to wine, heals government official’s son, cast out demons and now heals Simon’s mother-in-law and others that same night.

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Day 229 (Aug. 17): God walks Ezekiel through coming judgment, Ezekiel prophecies destruction from mountaintops, desolation of Israel, people will know God when they see devastation, idolatry in the temple, God spares the sorrowful and punishes the wicked

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.

Ezekiel 5-9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 5:1): Why does God call Ezekiel “Son of Man?”

A. I don’t have a great answer to this question since it is not a term God uses for people elsewhere, but we each understand God in our own personal ways, so this might be the way that God chose to speak to him.  The term is a reminder of Ezekiel’s humanity, in strong contrast to the transcendence of the Almighty.

Q. (5:1-4): Why use hairs?  We don’t know if this really happened, right?  Or, if God is saying this as a demonstration.

A. I see no reason to assume that it didn’t happen as God instructs Ezekiel — it is a demonstration of sorts — but I do not know why God instructs the use of hair.  It might be so that Ezekiel would stand out and be in a “state of mourning” for Jerusalem after he shaved his hair, as we have seen the use of shaving to signify grief in multiple OT locations.

Q. (8:1-18): This is a vision.  What is the purpose of the vision?  I am guessing it is to show Ezekiel why God is so mad at Judah’s leaders so he will be totally on board with God, especially given what God is asking him to do!

A. God is explaining to Ezekiel what exactly it is the people are guilty of, and how they will be punished for their sins as the vision continues in chapter 9.

Q. (9:1-11): This is a vision too?  Because I thought that armies from the north were going to destroy Jerusalem, not from six men with deadly weapons and a man dressed in linen.

A. This section is a vision, full of symbolism of things to come.  The Babylonian army destroys Jerusalem, but God is symbolizing judgment on the corrupt in Jerusalem via these angelic beings.  Note what God orders: that those who truly repent (the remnant) will be spared, and the rest are given the death sentence for their crimes.  It was surely a horrific scene for Ezekiel to watch unfold, but sadly the vision God paints is nothing compared to the famine within the besieged city that will lead many of Judeans to horrific acts such as cannibalism and other horrors.  God’s vision to Ezekiel is frankly more human than the real life story.

Day 220 (Aug. 8): False prophets and teachers are not spakeing for the Lord, mourning for Judah, no trust left between the people, weeping everywhere, bodies will be scattered, hypocrits will be revealed and punished, idolatry brings destruction, idolatry worshipers are foolish, God is the only Creator, destruction to all of Judah, Jeremiah prays for wrath for wicked, Judah’s broken covenant, God reassures Jeremiah of His protection

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.

Jeremiah 8:4-11:23

Questions & Observations

O. (Jeremiah 8:4-11): This whole passage put a thought in my head of how impressionable we are from our parents and teachers.  Family businesses, customs, recipes, beliefs and so many other things are handed down from generation to generation and they become so engrained in our minds that it’s hard to change them.  That is all great, unless someone is handing down the wrong information from generation to generation and never questions it or looks at the rulebook, the Bible.  What I’m saying is that we have a responsibility to check the rulebook and question what information we are being fed and then, what we hand down to our children.  I think, that, in part, is some of what’s happening here.  Remember when we went through the deluge of kings and many of them said that they were “evil in the Lord’s sight. (They) followed the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, continuing the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.”  So, what one teacher or parent does is extremely impressionable on children.  Two Sundays ago, the pastor was commenting on how people become what their parents envision.  His dad said he would be a great leader.  Now he is.  Not that you should determine what profession your kids will go into, rather teach them love and point out their talents that they may want to share with others.  And, question those practices that “are because they are and always have been.”  When my mom was here this last summer, she told me she thought it was a good idea for me to continue working at this preschool.  The school was great, but teaching is not a gift I have never had and probably never will.  So, I told her I was trying to follow God’s direction.  I must say though, it is not always easy to know where he is directing me.  He has shown me my talents, but I don’t have a clear way of using them.  (It just dawned on me that I am right now in this blog.  So I need to be patient and open my eyes to what he reveals to me.)

Q. (8:18-9:2): When I first read this I thought it somewhat mimics the feelings Jesus went through as he struggled to get the people, especially the church leaders, to follow Him.  Here, we are seeing God’s grief for His people.  Is he sad because he has lost so many people?  Is He angry or embarrassed because this nation who he is trying to make an example of is failing Him?  Regardless, we see His steadfast love for them.

A. I don’t think God feels embarrassment, because that would imply that He was ashamed of something, but I think that He is wholeheartedly expressing anger and sadness for the way that Israel’s sin has hurt the people.  It isn’t just the idolatry, it is the effect their sinfulness is having on their relationships with each other: their sin is leading to corruption of the leaders, exploitation of the people, and violence.  These are always the consequences of sin left to its own devices.  That, ultimately, is what God is upset about: the way the people’s sin is causing them to turn on their own people in order to get ahead.

O. (9:23-24): This is an unexpected nice little pearl in the midst of all this upheaval, bloodshed, destruction and rot.

23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.

24 But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

(And I say, AMEN!! I’m a big foe of boasting!)

Q. (9:25): God is talking about those who have the mark of the Lord, but are void of the Holy Spirit?

A. He is talking about people who have the “outer” marking of belonging to God (circumcision), but whose hearts are unchanged by their relationship with God.  This is a theme Jeremiah will continue to explore.  Also, Paul takes up a discussion of this theme in Romans chapter 2, so watch for that down the road.

Q. (10:23, 25, 11:4): Rob, I know you are a believer that we have free choice.  But, what do you say about Jeremiah’s statement in v. 23: I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.  We are not able to plan our own course.?  Yet, in v. 25, Jeremiah says, “Pour out your wrath … on the peoples that do not call upon your name,” which indicates these people have a choice.  V. 11:4 further hints at free choice when it says “If you obey me and do whatever I command you …” Is there any books you can recommend for the free-will vs. predestination debate?

A. There is ample evidence for both positions in the Bible, it is simply a matter of deciding how the theology of Predestination and Free Will “fit” into the greater story.  I’m not sure I could recommend a volume on both positions, but I would recommend the work of Roger E. Olson on Free Will Theology (also called Arminianism) and the works of Kenneth Stewart on Calvinism.

Q. (11:14): God has definitely counted past three with no response.  He’s done.  The Israelites have obviously not been reminded lately of the story of Noah and the Ark!  All the evil people died!

A. All of Judah will be punished, though not all of them will die.  You have seen in our reading that it is already happening.

Q. (11:21-23): I like these verses.  Jeremiah asks the Lord to get even.  He basically says, “don’t worry, they will pay.  That is my job as the great judge.”  I enjoy the ending, “I will bring disaster upon them when their time of punishment comes.”  God is gently telling Jeremiah that He will take care of them, but reminding Jeremiah that He is Lord and it will come when He’s ready, not Jeremiah.  So, don’t wait around for it.  Go on with your life.

A. It can be of great assurance to some people that there will be a reckoning in life.  There is an expectation among many of our most corrupt and wealthy today — sadly including clergy — that they can do whatever they want because they have the money and power to do so.  I’m thinking of those individuals who basically wrecked our economy and caused millions to lose their homes by recklessly playing the financial market in order to make a ton of money.  Jeremiah’s message rings for them as well: Beware!  Judgment is coming, and you will have to answer for what you have done.