Day 321 (Nov. 17): Paul gives strong advice to the Thessalonica church, Paul encourages church to remain steadfast in the midst of persecution, Jesus’ second coming, Jesus will take down leaders and man of ‘lawlessness,’ Paul warns against being idle, God gives peace at all times, Gallio stands up for Paul, Paul returns to Antioch of Syria

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.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

2 Thessalonians 1-3:18

Acts 18:4-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22): Paul says a lot here.  Are these instructions concrete?  I would think they would be goals.  V. 16: I can’t imagine being joyful all the time.  We all have some low times.  It does seem like some people are much more joyful than others.  V. 18 says to be thankful in all circumstances.  I’m working on that one.  I must say, it would be very hard to thank God in some situations.  I know if you have faith, that whatever seemed so bad will have a reason. V. 22: I would think this means to stay away from evil for yourself.  If we are to reach some sinners, we must brush up to evil.

A. I think Paul is speaking of the position we should be desiring.  We should desire to joyful all the time, for that means that we are able to handle any circumstance.  Paul, like Jesus before him, was no stranger to sin, and surely recommends spreading the gospel among sinners while not sinning yourself.

Q. (2 Thessalonians 1:8): This verse makes it sound like believers will not be judged, only those who don’t follow Jesus.

A. Let’s hold onto this one until we get to Romans.

Q. (1:11-12): So, the church in Thessalonica is being persecuted by whom?  Paul is telling them in these two verses that their good works will bring glory to God.  Of course, God loves people standing up for Him.  However, this does not save a person, right?  People are saved by faith alone?

A. It is likely that the church there (and other places) was persecuted by Jews and Roman authorities, but it was probably not consistent.  The story Acts tells us of Jason being dragged before the civil authorities is probably a good telling example.  What the writers of our readings have been pointing to is the idea that being persecuted offers you the opportunity to test your own heart: are you strong enough to preach the gospel even in the midst of persecution?  As you suggest, this action will not save us, but this level of bravery is surely the sign of a true believer, whose faith WILL save them.

Q. (2:1-12): I was talking to a friend about the horror of the end of days that the pastor at our former church was preaching on.  It was absolutely horrific.  My friend said that she hoped she was in the grave when “the days” come.  I’m with her.  Is it bad to hope that we don’t have to face it?  We have no idea who the “man of lawlessness” is in v. 3?  V. 11 says that God caused them to be greatly deceived, but from the context, I would guess that it means more like God showed them the choice to be saved, but they rejected it.  And because they refused to go “good,” God allows them to be condemned.  What do you say to this, Rob?

A. I see nothing wrong with not wanting to face a time of trial or deal with difficult times, but understand that this may be GOD’S desire for us!  We must be willing to answer the call, even to preach in the midst of difficult times.  As to who the “man” is, this is an image of the anti-Christ, which we will see again in John’s writings and in Revelation.  This is an image of the supreme human evil — but not Satan — who puts himself directly in opposition to the work of Christ (hence “anti”).  There are tons of ideas out there about who this man is (some, for example, say it is Obama, which is just ridiculous), but I’m not going to offer much in the way of speculation except to say that we as believers will know him when we see him.  I, like you, hope that I never have to worry about it at all!

Q. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15): This is a hard passage.  Sometimes I feel lazy, but I have never thought about being lazy in the spirit, which I think this verse addresses both — lazy in spirit and lazy in earning money.  I feel guilty when I am.  Most of us have down times, I think.  Maybe we are supposed to fight them as hard as possible?  Also, when you try to encourage someone to not be lazy, that’s a little touchy too without offending them.  Maybe instead of addressing their laziness, they could be invited to partake in something that would make them more active.  Here’s a kid’s song I love: http://sovereigngracemusic.bandcamp.com/track/lazy-bones  It has motivated me many times!  That CD is awesome even if you don’t have kids!

A. Sloth, or laziness, is one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” — though I would quickly add that there is no particular “list” of them in the Bible — and it is a slow poison to the soul, which is why we are compelled to fight it in ourselves and make war against it when we see it in others.  Your suggestions are good ones.

Q. Paul had so much energy to devote to spreading God’s word.  He likely went by foot and by boat.  I don’t know if the disciples and other teachers of the gospel had any other means of transportation, like a horse?  If you google “map of Paul’s journeys” you will see what a vast territory he covered and how big of an influence he was on spreading the gospel.  I notice on these maps that Asia is where modern-day Turkey is, which I thought was more of where Israel was in Bible times.  Why is it labeled Asia, when Asia is much farther to the east?

A. Well, the region you refer to is called Asia Minor, and it is indeed part of Asia, not Europe, depending upon who you ask.  I suppose that the disciples could have had horses or other transport animals, but most of what the record tells us is that they traveled by foot.

Day 318 (Nov. 14): Faith in Jesus took the place of the old laws, baptism makes all equal through Christ, Paul is concerned with church in Galatia listening to false teachers, Abraham’s two children illustrate the old and new law, there is freedom in Christ, let the Holy Spirit guide you, help your friends but stay strong to their sinful temptations, circumcision is old law, debate over circumcision requirement

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.

Galatians 3:24-6:18

Acts 15:1-21

Questions & Observations

O. (Galatians 3:27): I like this verse saying that we are all equal in God’s eyes.  Those Christians who don’t treat each other equally have obviously not read this verse!

Q. (4:8-20): I guess the church of Galatia was holding on to the laws and not dropping them to follow Jesus’ teachings?

A. It appears that they were being influenced by some sort of Jewish group that was attempting to convert the Galatian Christians into becoming their disciples, and much of their religion consisted of legalistic following of the Law, which is why Paul takes such great pains to say, “we are under the Law no longer.”

Q. (4:21-31): I love how Jesus, Paul and the disciples use the Old Testament prophecies and stories to tie to the New Testament stories and characters.  It’s so wonderful how they are intertwined.  The NT supports the OT and makes it legit.  The Bible is undeniably irrefutable!

A. I am glad you are seeing how all of the “pieces” are coming together.  Paul is deeply versed in the OT, and will quote from it frequently in his letters.

O. (5:19-21): I’m guilty of a few of these categories.  But, I’m working on them.  Knowing that I believe in Jesus and that pleases Him gives me much comfort.  But, I’m with the group of people that are on the right path to freedom of shame through Christ.  I have dabbled in the darker side in my younger days, but I believe that because I proclaimed Jesus when I was in the 4th Grade and was baptized, that the Holy Spirit has been with me and steered me away from going too far into the “dark.”  I don’t think I realized the depths of baptism then, but I feel blessed to have had parents and grandparents who steered me in the right direction until the Holy Spirit took over.

O. (5:22-23): I first heard these “fruits” from volunteering for my daughters’ Sunday school class.  If you have kids, this is a good one to show them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDNvUOZRFxs

O. (5:26): Jealousy is a tough one for me to overcome, but I’ve made big gains.  I notice that jealousy can cause self-defeating behaviors.  My friends’ kids are doing all of these after-school activities.  We aren’t yet.  We are waiting for God to give us the signal (money, however one teacher wants to barter baby sitting with us!) or not.  But, instead of highlighting what we don’t do as a family, I am finding a lot of joy in what we do do together.  My kids play together and have so much fun discovering the outdoors together, creating books, making me a jewelry box full of necklaces, etc.  It makes me feel fulfilled just thinking of my girls.  When I get jealous and think of the things others are doing that we are not, I feel a weird, bad feeling of shame and darkness.  Let it go!  I also think of keeping up with the neighbors and the bucket list of things I would like to do.  But then, I think about how short our life here is compared to eternity.  Which is better, to make sure life on earth is the best it can be or make sure you are on the path to life everlasting.  I think the latter will take care of the former.

Q. (6:8-10): I hear Paul here saying that we need to watch our own work, but then, as Christians, we need be there for each other in community.

A. Yes, both are important.  We must be watchful of our brothers and sisters in Christ (something, frankly, we as individualistic Americans have a huge problem with).  But Paul’s advice comes with a warning: be careful that you do not fall into the same traps as the friend you are helping!

Q. (6:17): Is this is where Paul mentions that he has some battle wounds from being stoned, but he didn’t die?

A. I don’t know specifically, but if he did indeed survive a stoning, he surely had scars from it.  As I mentioned, it won’t be the last time he gets banged up.

Q. (6:11-18): I know a lot of folks still choose to circumcise their baby boys.  After reading this text, I don’t think God cares one way or another if they are circumcised.  Personally, I think it is a fairly brutal practice.  Even God sounds like he thinks it’s barbaric now.  Maybe he chose this to set Israel apart because no one else would want to copy it.  If God chose an easy way to set them apart, others could easily copy it.  I think the Jewish community still practice this as a religious custom because they think it is a still a sign of the Jewish community?  I wonder if God would get upset with this since in the New Testament he adamentally says that Jesus is the way to eternal life, not circumcision or any other Law of Moses.

A. While it is by no means a requirement, many Christians still use the ritual of circumcision (Jews call it a bris) to honor God and show that their child is set apart as Jewish children were.  One must be careful in reading too much into what Paul is saying- Paul is referring to ADULT believers, not babies, in his discussion of the ritual, and that certainly makes a big difference in how the ritual is considered, wouldn’t you agree?
Personally, I do not believe that many Christians are under the impression that their children MUST be circumcised to be saved, and that it is a decision that they make in an effort to honor God.  It is a decision that is made with the freedom that God has given us in Christ, and beyond that, it is a parental choice.  Many do see it as “barbaric”, but many others see it as doing their best to honor the best traditions handed down from generations of Jews AND Christians.

Q. (Acts 15:1-21): I see the apostles are gaining respect among the church.  You said in a recent reading that the old school leaders go to the wayside as the Christian leaders begin to gain respect.

A. Something like that.  What I meant was with Acts specifically: the Apostles (Peter in particular) were the central figures of the first half of the book, but that Paul and his companions (Luke, Barnabas, etc.) will become the central figures in this second half as we read on.  The center point of the growing church will no longer be Jerusalem (I don’t think it is even mentioned again after this meeting), but rather Antioch, which is at the center of the Jewish/Gentile crossroads leading into Asia Minor and Europe.  We’re going on a road trip!

Day 317 (Nov. 13): Paul and Barnabus strengthen churches in several cities, Paul and Barnabus return to start of their trip, Paul’s letter is a pep talk to Christians, Paul proclaims his words come from above, Paul says his role is to preach to Gentiles, Paul confronts Peter for finding favor with Jews by following law of Moses, Holy Spirit is with believers not obeyers of the law, belief in Jesus Christ gives us freedom

48 days to go!

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.

Acts 14:21-28

Galatians 1-3:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 14:21-28): The disciples knew they had to go to the synagogues to straighten out the mindset of those worshippers from the ways of the priests and some of the ways of the OT that Jesus’ crucifixion had abolished?  Also, to me this passage reminds me of modern-day missionaries.  They travel and then come back to a home church or supporting church and report their work.

A. Paul and his companions are no longer preaching in the synagogues, but to communities of Christians throughout this region.  This is especially true if you consider that Paul is transitioning from preaching to the Jews to preaching to the Gentiles.  But, yes, you have the idea for what Paul and his men are doing: they are entering an area that has a “foot hold” community, and working to strengthen it by whatever means are needed.

O. (Galatians 1:4): I am understanding more about our time on earth.  It was hard for me grasp that Satan was ruler of the earth.  But, now that I know that, I understand so much more.  I understand why there is a constant struggle to proclaim God/Jesus/Holy Spirit to this world that is flooded with evil.  I understand why evil is a constant temptation.  We are surrounded by it.  There is really no temptation to be good.  Good is good.  And then, there’s the feeling of not belonging to this evil world.  So many people just seem to go with the flow.  They don’t really seem overly happy, but that’s their world.  As a believer, I never really feel like this is it.  My family is awesome, but my home is nothing that I would say I’m completely comfortable in.  And, maybe that’s good because, ultimately, I don’t belong in this world.  I love the song by Building 429, that sum’s up this feeling http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=KPK7ZPNX  I encourage you to listen to it, if you haven’t already.  I’m not home yet!

Q. (Galatians 1:23-24): In his early life, Paul persecuted Christians.  But, God used Paul as a vehicle to show that even the worst offender of Christianity now believes and is a teacher to spread the Good News.  So, I have a modern question about the former co-founder and minister of the church Rob and I attend.  Our former teaching pastor had been raised in the church, the son of a prominent mega church pastor.  He was an amazing speaker.  But, he fell to sin.  The papers reported all kinds of things and we didn’t know if they were truth or lies.  But, I myself, prayed for the goodness with in him to come out and return to his family and hopefully the public. He was such a leader and had been the vehicle for so many to attend our church.  (I know God had a hand in this.  Our church has lost about a 1,000, but maybe it needed to regroup.  I, myself, was watching the pastor’s performance more than taking the message in.  Now I remember more of the sermons with the two new pastors.)  I had been praying for him to just be OK and find his path in faith for God.  My prayers were answered when I saw him in church several weeks in a row, 10-11 months or so after he resigned.  What bravery that would have taken for him!  It was just nice to see that he was ok.  My question is, biblically, could he come back to have a role in the church?

A. Forgiveness and reconciliation are cornerstones of any church, including ours, so I think there is always an opportunity for that to occur, and I think it should.  As to whether this minister can again lead, well, that is (mercifully) a decision that I do not have to make, and I would not envy anyone who does.  That, I think, will be up to God.

Q. (Galatians 2:6): Here, Paul says that God has no favorites among leaders.  In choosing a church, my husband and I have always listened to the sermon as a first base for choosing one.  We tried several churches.  I love so many things about our church, which has an attendance of about 3,500.  But, I grew up in a small-town church where everyone knew each other.  There were quarterly potlucks where we all knew who made what.  Most everyone chipped in on every mission of the church, which was a much smaller scope than the church I belong to now.  I love the beliefs of Summit and the missions.  I do long for that church body where it’s easy to know everyone.  However, when I have attended smaller churches, I feel like the quality of the message is missing.  Thus, the bigger churches bring in bigger crowds because the pastors are better deliverers.  But, I struggle with wanting that sense of community and having an awesome sermon.  I have heard that no church is perfect.  I have talked with others who say the same thing: that they miss the community aspect of the church they grew up in.  I don’t know if you want to address that subject, Rob.  But, back to the verse: what Paul is saying here is that God doesn’t care who the more popular leaders are, just that they are doing their job of spreading God’s Word?

A. There are always tradeoffs made between community and effectiveness of the message.  A church with only 100 members — which, is actually the average size of an American church, and has been for decades — can provide many services and has a sense of community that is frankly lost among larger churches like ours.  Mega churches are capable of having a bigger impact on the community and world at large, and I believe that there are many “pros” to this type of model.  One of the things I learned about in seminary, however, is that a church that is determined to reach “mega” status must be willing to make sacrifices, especially when it comes to pastoral role in the worshipping community.  It is not a coincidence that our church has no pastor of visitation (something that has frankly never pleased me): the leadership has the expectation that the body itself will do visitation.  The pastoral role is reserved for casting vision, leading outreach, and running the “business” side of a church.  That is THE only way for a church to reach mega status — if its leadership is consumed with caring for the congregation, it simply will not happen.  I will leave it to you to decide what type of community you value.

As to what Paul is talking about, he is basically saying that God does not play favorites, and that He calls many people with many gifts to be His hands and feet in the world.  So it has nothing to do with how people view the “popularity contest,” and everything to do with how the Spirit guides and provides gifts for His workers in the Church.

Q. (Galatians 2:11-21): So, remember when I said that I wondered if the disciples could keep on the right path, given they have the Great Commission amongst all of the dissent in the world?  At first, I was going to say, “ha ha, told you so.”  But, that doesn’t give me a good feeling.  That’s not very Christian.  I am not surprised that one of them has tripped up.  But, I think what is more important to point out is that Paul was there to point it out and hopefully (we’ll have to wait and see) set Peter straight.  A lot of churches push accountability partners among their leaders and even among all Christian men.  Women could use it to keep those rambling pessimistic mindsets at bay.

A. No doubt that the early Church had its problems, but as Paul mentions, these men and women of God spoke up to address many of these issues.  Paul will have much more to say about the various problems of the early community in his various letters.

Q. (Galatians 3:15-23): This is confusing to ponder, but makes sense after you untangle it in your head.  Pretty amazing!

A. Paul will use this type of rhetorical style throughout his letters, so I would recommend getting used to it.  His letter to the Romans is full of discourses like this that run for several chapters.  But I agree, his point is pretty clear (and amazing) as long as you read the passage a few times.