Day 276 (Oct. 3): Pray from the heart, fast privately, store treasures in heaven, God will take care of your needs, do not judge others, prayers are answered, golden rule, few find gate to heaven, actions are telling of a person, true disciples, God is a solid foundation

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.

Matthew 6:5-7:6

Luke 6:37-42

Matthew 7:7-20

Luke 6:43-45

Matthew 7:21-29

Luke 6:46-49

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 6:5-13): I remember huge prayers circles during revivals at my childhood church.  We circled around the pews along the perimeter of the sanctuary and held hands.  As a little kid, listening to prayers go on and on was grueling.  I think some of them just liked to hear themselves.  I wonder if those prayers are pleasing to God?  I am not much of a group prayer person.  I just say what’s in my heart, but — guilty — I often thank and request more than praise.  The prayer Jesus gave us here as an example is really short.  I would assume long prayers are OK as long as it doesn’t go on and on repeating or if it’s just for attention-sake.

A. You’ve got the idea.  Prayer should be about sharing our needs with God (including our feelings — God knows them anyway), and being open to what He desires to tell each of us.  There’s no need for it to be either purposefully longwinded — though it if happens to be, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s not like saying the words more or saying more makes God listen “better.”  As Jesus said, He knows our needs, but ultimately, prayer is about aligning our will with God, and addressing both what is on our heart and on God’s heart together.

O. (6:16-18): I am sure we have talked about fasting before.  I’ll save Rob the repetition.  I googled fasting and came up with this informative article: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/prayerandcounseling/intercession/hickey_prayerfasting06a.aspx

Q. (6:25-34): Food doesn’t seem very important to God and Jesus.  Humans think of it constantly.  It’s hard not to.  What are you going to give the kids for breakfast, what to pack them for lunch, what to make for the family for a nice warm meal?  And, keep sugar down, protein, fiber and veggies up and try to save money too.  Is the food pyramid unnecessary?  The Bible says not to worry about food.  Backing up to the verse previous verse where it says one cannot serve God and money.  If you have been reading this blog, you know that my husband retired from the military and started a new business and I have been a stay-at-home mom since my first child was born 8 ½ years ago.  I have applied at 8 various retail places, but no one wants to hire me because I made too much at my previous job and I don’t want to work on Sundays.  (I haven’t been looking a whole lot lately, because I’ve been busy and I haven’t received any direction on it from God.  Right now, this blog is my job, which I enjoy) Thus, money has been tight.  We’ll get to the first week of our monthly retirement check and have to watch our money.  But, it hasn’t all been bad, in fact it’s been a little liberating.  I don’t have to have the cupboards stocked, my kids have a lot of play time together because they are not in any extra-curricular activities and we talk to God a lot more than we used to.  I have a ways to go, but turning my life over to him is hard, but very fulfilling.  You?

A. Your thoughts on money as it relates to your walk with God are quite interesting, and I’m glad you are on a journey of exploration for what God desires you and your family to do next.  As to your assertion about God’s concern about food, I would make two responses.  The largest point Jesus is trying to make here, and also in the wilderness, is that food ISN’T everything.  There are more important things in life than food, though it is certainly important.  But if you constantly dwell on not having enough food — or the wrong kind of food, or whatever — you miss the point Jesus is sharing with us.  God will provide for our needs, even if not in the quantity — monetary or otherwise — that we might desire.  We must hold to our faith, and trust that God will provide.  To do otherwise will likely make us ungrateful for what God HAS provided.

The other thing is that I would disagree with your assessment of God/Jesus not caring about food.  The Gospels contain numerous stories told over broken bread, lessons based upon food, and great concern for feeding the people of God (the feeding of the 5000 is coming!)  But again, the point is clear: food should not be what drives us, our faith in God should.

Q. (7:1-6): The first part is hard, but the more we live, the more we learn that judging is worthless.  What good does it do?  None.  As far as what judging is, I think it’s putting your opinion on someone and pigeon-holing them to that characteristic you are judging.  They are so much more than that.  At a small group meeting, we were talking about homosexuality.  The group leader said he had a gay friend who said he is labeled as “gay” and that the rest of his personality doesn’t matter to others.  He said he wishes it wasn’t a defining characteristic of him.  I can understand that.  But, while maybe my best friend would be gay or an adulterer or whatever, I am not to judge him or her.  However, that doesn’t mean that God approves of their sins, but he does accept them?  And could you explain how to apply v. 6?

A. I knew a minister who said that we tend to treat sin like a creampuff, when it’s more like a rattlesnake.  That is, sin is actually dangerous, if not always to our bodies, but it is poison to our souls.  Should God “accept” one (or all) of His children playing with a poisonous viper that could kill them?  As a parent, I wouldn’t!  But here’s the thing: it is not our job to judge the hearts and actions of other people.  That’s what these verses are about.  The other thing that Christians tend to forget — especially now that there are more and more non-Christians out there in our post-Christian society — is that we cannot reasonably hold non-Christians to Christian standards of behavior.  It’s a waste of time and counterproductive.  THAT is what Jesus is talking about in verse 6 (he’s using crude language to do so, frankly): don’t waste your time giving holy, precious things (pearls) over to creatures that don’t even realize their value.  The end result is going to be failure.  That’s not to say we should lack a desire to TEACH Christian values to others, and proclaim the Gospel message, but it is wrong to HOLD OTHERS to our standards without them being aware of what they are or why we have them.  That is what it means to give pearls to swine.

Q. (7:12): This is pretty much the new commandment that encompasses the Law of Moses.  That, and the other more important one is “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,” right?  Is there anything you would like to add?

A. It’s not new, but yes.  As Jesus says, it is a summary of all that has come before.  We will see this come up again, so let’s hold off on further discussion for right now.

O. (7:15-20): My daughter just got done reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in school.  What a great book and movie.  I have only watched the movie.  This passage reminds me of the scene where the squirrels pin down Veruca Salt to see if she is a bad nut.  Here’s a link: (don’t worry, the incinerator doesn’t come on) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmISVHxjcAI

Q. (7:21-23): I imagine that these are the people who looked like they had a great heart, or professed to, but were a bad nut.  Now, they are begging God to save them.  I have heard that if someone claims Jesus Christ on their deathbed, they will be saved.  But not bad nuts who say they are willing to follow him once they see him?

A. As we discussed in previous days, it is very difficult to know about the afterlife decisions that God makes when it comes to our souls.  All we can know for certain is what Jesus is telling us here: if the message of the Gospel never gets to your heart, and causes you to desire to change your actions and do what God desires for you, then I would be very concerned that your soul is in peril (I don’t want there to be any uncertainty about what I’m saying, and what I think Jesus means).  If the Gospel has no effect on your heart, then I wonder if you understood the message at all!  Those who understand the Gospel are those who desire each day to be more and more like God as seen in the person of Jesus, because He shows us the best of who we can be when we are in tune with our Creator.  If we truly understand the Gospel, we cannot help but have it change us.

Q. (7:29): What does “real authority” mean here?

A. It refers to the way that Jesus (in yesterday’s reading) said “you have heard it said…” and then say, “…but I tell you.”  The rabbis of Jesus’ day would never have done that, because they would have considered it adding to the Word of God, which they took very seriously.  They spent all of their time interpreting the words that they already had (the OT), and would not have thought of speaking in such as manner as Jesus does here.  That is the real authority Jesus presented, and clearly it got noticed.

Day 255 (Sept. 12): Zechariah’s vision of horses and chariots, Jeshua to serve as king and priest of Jerusalem, Tattenai and others question Temple’s reconstruction, King Darius approves rebuilding, Israelites ask to be released from fasting and mourning, God promises that Jerusalem will be a destination for surrounding nations to come to worship 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.

Zechariah 6:1-15

Ezra 5:3-17

Ezra 6:1-14a

Zechariah 7-8

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zechariah 6:6): What happened to the red horses stated in v. 2?

A. I’ve seen a couple of answers to this question, but honestly I don’t find them especially satisfactory.  It might be that the red horse (symbolizing war) didn’t need to go anywhere, as war was all around Israel and therefore there was no particular destination needed.  One commentary I looked at indicated that the red horses’ job might be to patrol the whole earth and therefore is not assigned a direction.  Like I said, meh: I don’t find either of those especially compelling.  So I would say that the “destination” for the red chariot is a mystery or unrevealed by Zechariah.

Q. (6:11): I thought you said that “Branch” was a name for the Messiah.  Here it’s used to say Jeshua.

A. Remember that Messiah or Christ simply means “anointed,” chosen by God.  So, in a sense, Jeshua (same name as Jesus please note, just in Aramaic instead of Greek.  Both names, along with “Joshua” in Hebrew, mean the same thing: the Lord saves) is chosen to fill the office of High Priest.  There are three offices in Judaism that were anointed, usually with olive oil: King, Priest, and Prophet.  And while Christ personifies the ultimate expression of each of these, that does not mean that others do not fill the office until His reign.  Jeshua is the High Priest before the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).

Q. (Ezra 5:3-17): Why were these leaders questioning the rebuilding of the Temple so much?  Did they feel threatened?

A. I am not sure.  They may have just been concerned about the potential threat to the empire, but they clearly gave the benefit of the doubt to the Jewish workers, as they did not stop them from working while they checked up on things.

Q. (6:6-8): I guess King Darius put Tattenai and company in their place, but why should they have to pay for the reconstruction?  They are to blame for the Temple becoming defiled?

A. No, they are not to blame, but are rather officials of Darius, and they were being given orders to use treasury money to pay for the efforts, since Darius controlled the area.  So in a sense, Darius is paying for the cost himself.

Q. (Zechariah 7:4-6): I like this message because whenever I hear someone brag about things they are doing for the Lord, I just wonder if they are doing them for the Lord or to get an “A” for good deeds.  If they are bragging, I wouldn’t think they would be doing it for God.

A. Amen.

Q. (8:1-23): There is so much energy in this reading.  I would have loved to have been there.  I’m just wondering what modern-day Jerusalem is like.  Is there any holiness left to it?  Do you have any knowledge of what state it’s in?

A. Alas, I know almost nothing about its present state, other than there are holy sites of three of the great monotheistic religions in the world there.  Pilgrims of each of these faiths journey to the Holy city every year, but sadly, I don’t know much.  Honestly, I could probably tell you more about what it WAS like than what it IS like.  I would, however, love to go and find out for myself.

Day 208 (July 27): Empty worship is false worship, sin separates from God, Justice comes from God not humans, evildoers will be dealt with, God’s words will give you words, all will see Jerusalem’s glory, tell everyone that the Savior is coming

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.

Isaiah 58-63

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 58:6-7): This fasting sounds much easier than not eating.  I don’t know if everyone who tries to fast goes cuckoo.  But, I do.  My blood sugar tanks and I can’t think straight until I get some good (healthy) food.  I know that’s not the point of these verses.  I’m just admiring them, because it would bring me much more happiness to help others than to be hungry.  And, more importantly it makes me happy to please God.  I think we have talked some about fasting.  But, I think we’ll talk more about it in the NT?  Speaking of helping others: I was helping a friend move tonight and it made me think about our movers.  Being in the Navy we have had three major moves.  So, we had some experience with movers.  They definitely work hard.  When we unpacked in Guam, the workers brought all of their lunch — and napped for 30 minutes afterward, I guess it’s a custom there, which actually makes a lot of sense.  The guys who unpacked our goods in Virginia asked for lunch.  We had never been told by the housing office to provide lunch.  We gave them a little leftover pizza we had, but we were kind of annoyed at the request.  Besides, we were busy with moving.  And, we know they were told to bring their own.  So, when we packed out the last time, I had inquired with other military families if they provided lunch for their movers.  They overwhelmingly said “yes.”  No, we weren’t expected to by the housing office, but these guys are working at lightening speed and trying to be careful and lifting a lot of very heavy stuff.  I think my friends said that if you treat them well, they’ll treat your stuff well.  So, that was my motivating thought.  But, then as we talked to them and asked them what they wanted to eat and drink, we joked and got to know them better.  We memorized their favorite drinks and got them at Sonic’s happy hour.  We had a great time with them over the three days it took to load the truck.  And, they truly did take care of our furniture.  But, that wasn’t the motivating feeling anymore.  It was that we were serving them.  And, they weren’t movers anymore, they were friends.  Besides, who is more important, the people or your stuff?  Can you imagine the people standing over them day after day scrutinizing their every move?  There are probably some who aren’t careful.  But, if you are kind to them, that’s showing them God’s love and it will reflect back.  My husband was sitting down with a couple of the packers over lunch and I think they were taken aback because they weren’t used to that.  But, when we found out their life stories, it was so rewarding.  They had been movers for a very long time, like 20 some years.  I can’t imagine working that hard for that long.  They drive across the country.  They hate working in the winter and unpacking when it’s freezing.  Talk about serving others!

A. What a fascinating story about the importance of fellowship and getting to know people.  It is easy to see why Jesus spent so much of His earthly ministry during service via meals.  You bring up a good point about fasting, and we will indeed talk about it in the NT, but Jesus makes a keen observation about fasting in the Gospels: the fasting is for afterwards.  We will learn what that means in due time.

Q. (58:10): When it says, “feed the hungry and help those in trouble.”  Besides the literal meaning, can the words have a loose meaning like use your talents to help others?  I have another thought on this too.  So many people think about climbing the ladder or checking off items on their bucket list.  But, what we should really do is know what the Bible says to know what God expects of us — that is the true road to happiness anyway — and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance on what His plan is for us.  Is that accurate?

A. Yes, I would say that’s accurate.  First of all, though, don’t ignore the legitimate need of feeding those around us: many people do not have enough food to be comfortable, and feel a great sense of shame in asking others, including their church, for assistance.  So oftentimes the issue goes unaddressed.  The Spirit can indeed be a useful guide in helping to “find” those who really do need food but do not desire to be found.  Beyond that, however, caring for the needs of a neighbor is a blank slate: you can do with it as you desire, or as you feel God leading you.

Q. (58:13): Is this just for the Israelites because of the NT’s New Covenant or should we, today, follow this advice?  Occasionally, I get “lazy” on a Sunday and “skip” church.  Of course, I feel the guilt, mostly because I worry about what my husband thinks of me playing hooky.  It’s mostly because I have been so swamped in the week and I just need a day or a morning to sleep in — and God happens to be the one that I choose to delete from my week.  Is that bad?  (Doesn’t happen often!)  Also, I feel guilty for daydreaming during songs or group prayer at church.  I feel bad to be in prayer and I’m not focused.  When I pray by myself, I am normally very focused.

A. However we interpret it — Jews maintain the Sabbath is Saturday, Christians Sunday — the Sabbath is a gift to mankind and needs to be respected.  Christians are not “required” to, in the legalistic sense of the word, but I know from personal experience that if I skip a day of rest (note the irony of that statement, and also the way you phrased your question: you described being “lazy” on the Sabbath and not going to church), I am the one who suffers.  Our lives were given to us by God to be in a certain rhythm: six days of work, and a day of rest.  We like to think of ourselves as being “better” than this requirement because we take “two” days off from work, but many times our weekends are no less busy than our weekdays.  We rarely take time to be relaxed and enjoy God and family, but I think we all would be better off if we carved out a full day (or as close as we can manage) to do so.  It is not a requirement: it is wisdom from God that few people ever see!

O. (59:9): I like this verse: There is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living.  That means we need to look to God for justice and the right ways to live.  We do not have it among ourselves.  Therefore, goodness comes from God.

Q. (59:21): “My Spirit will not leave them and neither will these words I have given you.  They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children …”  This verse is directed to Israel, but is it applicable for us?  I would think the verse means that He will give us the right words to say if we are walking with Him.  It’s like when you are thinking of something to say and you have: Option A) what your brain would think to say, and Option B) words that God puts on your lips — what I call my “God filter.”  Now that I understand more and more how I should walk with God, I don’t have to think as much about what the proper thing to say is, it’s just appears on my lips.  I think “why didn’t I think of that?”  I know the words are not my own, but I sound so much wiser.  Thank you, God!

A. Very interesting thoughts.  Though it will feel foreign to us — we tend to read the Bible as “insiders” — we as Christians should pay the closest attention to what Isaiah (and other prophets) are saying about God’s movement to OTHER NATIONS.  We are not of the tribe of Israel, so the verses about foreigners in the house of God is much more applicable to us than any verse about the word of God about Israel.  At this moment, the other nations of the world are on the “outside” looking in, but all that is about to change in the NT.

Q. (60:8-9): How does word get out about Jerusalem’s restoration?  I would think it would take awhile.

A. I think the answer to that will present itself, so let’s let the story unfold.

Q. (60): I am amazed that God is giving Israel all of this glory in light of all their disobedience and idol worship.  Vs. 19-22 sound like heaven, especially in the last line that says “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”  Or, is it just talking about the restored Jerusalem?

A. It is talking about the Eternal Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God.  It is a vision of the final restoration of all things that centers around a renewed Jerusalem that will be God’s personal dwelling.

Q. (62:8): The thought of God handing over Jerusalem, the city of the beloved David, to enemies seems ruthless.  But, with all of the disobedience and defiance, they had it coming.  I bet it was harder on God than on them.

A. I will bet you are right.

Q. (63:1-6): I’m not sure what Isaiah is describing here.

A. Isaiah is using the image of winepress — a place where grapes are trampled and crushed to cause fermentation and make wine — and a warrior, God, who has tread the winepress of His wrath.  Note the color imagery: when you worked a winepress of what we call “red” grapes — which are really purple — you end up covered in purple/bluish pigment from the grapes.  In this image, the Warrior is covered in red (blood) from having crushed the enemies of God in the winepress of wrath.  This is actually the inspiring image and scripture for the first few lines of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written during the U.S. Civil War.

Q. (63:7): This sounds like a proper prayer.  At Summit Orlando, we had a sermon on how to pray.  I still have the postcard that gives the directions, although I haven’t followed it even half-heartedly … yet.  But, I think it gives us a guide to build a prayer and enter God’s presence respectfully.  It’s in four parts.  But, the card doesn’t tell me if I read down or left to right, so I’m not sure of the order of the second and third part.  But, here it goes:

1) Adoration: God, I worship you because you are … (Psalm 8, 19, 23, 46, 95, 100, 148, Luke 1:46-55, 68-79.

2) Confession: I need Your forgiveness for … I need Your strength to overcome …  (Psalm 103:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

3) Thanksgiving: Thank You, God, for Your blessings.  I am so grateful for … (Psalm 103:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Luke 17:11-19)

4) Supplication: God, I know that no request is too big for You to handle or too small for you to care about.  I lift up these needs to You, trusting in Your plan … (Philippians 4:6, James 1:5, 4:2, 1 Peter 5:7).

So many times, I just jump to 4 if I need help.  That should be the last thing to include and know that You are asking, God is hearing and He does have a plan which will likely not be the same plan you have.  It will be better and like a surprise.  We seem to magically get money in the mail when we are wondering how we will pay insurance or something like that.  We look at it and just well up with tears.  It’s fun to see how God is going to surprise us.

A. You’ve got the order right: we begin with adoring who God is, confessing our sin, giving thanks for what He has done, and then asking Him to supply our needs.  This is hardly a “hard and fast” role, and our prayer lives should be conversational in nature, but I find that this method is useful for helping me keep “first things first”: God is the beginning of my prayer life, not my own needs.