Day 365 (Dec. 31): Praise the Lord for avenging the murder and suffering of His servants, rider on white horse calls to army to go against John, thousand years in waiting, defeat of Satan, final judgment, a new Jerusalem, Jesus 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.

From Leigh An: Today, we come to the end of our journey through the Bible.  I, for one, have learned so much and can honestly say that this is the best thing I have ever done.  I have a much better grasp of who I am and what this life is all about.  One year to study the whole Bible is not enough for me.  I understand most of the big picture points of the Bible, but I want to understand more of even the little stuff.  The Bible-in-a-year project is done today, but there are more ideas culminating, so be on the lookout.  Our time-frame is uncertain.  Only God will tell us that.  Just check back in periodically to see what we are up to.  But, we will take a pretty long break to rest, regroup, plan and study.  Thanks for joining us.  Happy New Year!

From Rob: I am greatly pleased by how well this project has turned out, so thanks a lot for being a part of the journey.  I hope that my answers were helpful, and that God was able to speak into your life as we walked through the Bible together.  He certainly has spoken into mine.  This is the first time I have read the Bible cover to cover.  I had read probably 95% of it at some point, mostly in seminary, but to tackle it bit by bit, day by day, was a worthy challenge, and I am glad that we were able to complete it as a joint project.  To me, there is no more worthwhile investment then learning about and consuming what God’s Word has for us. It bears the words of Truth and salvation that cannot be found anywhere else, and I praise God for His blessing to His people in all times and places.  I pray that you will keep reading, and that by doing so you can walk the path that leads to life eternal.  May God bless your journey!

Revelation 19-22:21

Questions & Observations

Q. I should have asked this already, but I didn’t.  Why is John having a vision about Babylon when the end of days is yet to come and Babylon is not around anymore?  (Go to Wikipedia.com and search Babylon for a nice bit of history and a modern photo of her remnants.)

A. There are two assumptions that you are making here that need to be corrected: as we discussed, the woman is Rome, not Babylon, which does still exist, and is now the center of the Christian world, at least for the billion or so Roman Catholics.  But the larger issue is that we must understand that what John has been doing is casting a vision to give comfort to those who are followers of God.  Even if Rome did not exist today, there is no less comfort in the message of Revelation, and that message is that God is victorious because of what He has done through Jesus Christ.  The message is meant to be encouragement to the faithful, not to say “where” such events will take place.  I simply wouldn’t read this section of the book like that.

Q. (Revelation 19:9-10): This passage puts believers on an even playing field with angels.  I would say these believers are holy.

A. Angels and men are both created beings so in that sense, they are on a level playing field.

Q. (19:11): Is Jesus the rider on the white horse?

A. He’s the One.  Max Lucado makes an interesting observation about this description in his book, When Christ Comes — which I highly recommend for anyone interested in End Times studies, it is very approachable.  Lucado walks us through the entire text of Revelation, and notes that everyone is wearing white…except Jesus.  The Rider on this horse has a robe dipped in blood, and the reason for this is important to understand: He has switched clothes with all those who believe in Him.  They are given the white robe that He rightly deserves, and He wears the robe of their sin and punishment.  What an amazing image!

Q. (19:15): Maybe the “sharp sword” here is Scripture?

A. The sword represents divine judgment, which is spoken from His mouth.

Q. (19:19-21): The beast is the devil?  There have been several beasts mentioned though.  So, how about the false prophet?  Who is he/she?  And, what about the antichrist.  Do we know any more particulars about him?

A. No, there are two beasts and one dragon.  The first beast is the Antichrist (the one out of the sea), and the second beast is those who lead the worship of the first beast (basically representing the worship of men, especially Emperors as was common in the Roman world).  The dragon is Satan.  The word antichrist gets tossed around a lot related to this book, but I would point out that the word is not used a single time in this entire book.  We have very limited knowledge about who this person is/will be, but we know that his actions will lead many to stray from God, so our world already has plenty of antichrists today.  I can’t really say if there will be THE one true, Antichrist, but if there is one, he will be a powerful leader and ruler of many.  But what motivates him will not be God, but God’s enemy.

Q. (20:1-6): So we can assume that these 1,000 years will really happen.   Everything God says — and he’s speaking through John here — is true.  Another question about the already dead: do their whole bodies die, even their Spirit?  Do they just hang out?  And, are they dead with no sense at all or are their spirits lingering?  Is it wrong to hope that I’m already dead and don’t have to witness that wrath.  I guess it’s not a big deal to witness it as long as I hold firm my beliefs.

A. 1,000 years is symbolic of the completion of a task or trial, so there is no reason to assume that we will be waiting around for a literal thousand-year period.  It sounds boring, as you say.  Having said that, there are various interpretations of the book (I frankly don’t put much stock in them, but they are out there), and several of the divisions between them focus in on how to interpret the thousand-year period.

Q. Other questions I missed asking in the same passage: This passage seems to be more believable, especially in comparison to the beasts, dragons, etc.  That means the act of doing something is easier than doing it begrudgingly.  My only guess is because it could erase the generations and generations of teaching kids bad things.

A. Chapter 20 as a whole is not about motivation, or begrudging action, but rather God symbolically setting things to rights.  And while it contains less vivid imagery (though the dragon is still there), the actions are no less symbolic.  How else could “death” and “the grave” be thrown into hell?  This is symbolic language for saying that these things will be removed from the world to come — the Second Coming is the end of death, and there will no longer be a grave to hold the dead, for there will be no dead.

Q. (Revelation 20:7-10): Burning sulfur has been used a lot when referring to the fiery furnace, any significance to that?  And, is the fiery lake for all unbelievers or just the devil, the beast and a false prophet?

A. 20:15 tells us plainly that those who do not belong to God — their names are not in His book — are cast into the lake of fire.  We can go into lots of ideas about what this means, but the bottom line, for me, is that there is a reality that God will judge us according to our actions, and those who do not have the grace of Jesus to turn to could be in very serious trouble.  Brimstone (the old word for sulfur) was frequently found among hot springs and volcanoes in that part of the world, so the idea of burning sulfur came to be associated with judgment.  To add insult to injury, brimstone smells awful, which is part of the reason that it was so noticeable in hot places.

Q. (20:13): What is meant by “death” and “grave”?

A. The reality of death and the “holding place” of those who have died.  Both of them will pass away in the world to come.

Q. (21:10): Jerusalem is the metaphorical city for heaven? Does it say anywhere in the Bible that these “metaphors” are intentional?

A. Heaven should be understood as the place where God dwells, as well as the place where those who serve Him live as well.  So in this vision of the coming kingdom, the dead do not float up to the clouds and get their wings and harps as we so frequently see heaven depicted, but that there is a new union of heaven and earth not seen since…the Garden.  It is not a coincidence that the Tree of Life makes its return in this story (22:2): the right relationship between God and man has been restored, and God can give man the privilege of living forever without worrying about the separation.  The separation of death and sin is gone.  So Revelation shows us that the end result of Jesus’ work is NOT us going to heaven, but rather heaving COMING TO US!  Right relationship is restored by God’s actions in Jesus for those who believe.  It is an amazing passage, one of my favorites.

Q. (22:21): The Bible usually mentions God’s grace not Jesus’s.  Why is that?

A. God is the one word we can use for all three Persons of the Trinity.  There is no need to refer to the grace of the Spirit or Jesus or the Father when one can simply refer to it as God’s grace.

And with that, I am signing off…

Day 363 (Dec. 29): Two witnesses take on devil and win through resurrection, seventh trumpet blast brings Ark of Covenant to life, woman takes on dragon, beast speaks blasphemies against God, three angels shout praises to 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.

Revelation 11-14:20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Revelation 11:2): Is there anything significant about 42 months?

A. There are several numbers used in this section of the reading that all mean the same thing: 42 months, 1,260 days, and time, times, and half a time all indicate the same time period: 3½ years.  Part of the significance comes from this being exactly half of seven (which you will recall symbolizes completeness), so 3½ represents incompleteness, an uncompleted work, and chaos.  As always, there is an exact OT reference to what John is describing: in Daniel 7:25, the story speaks of God’s holy people being tormented by evil ones for this exact time frame, as part of a seven year cycle.

Q. (11:15): Any idea what “world” is referring to?  Earth?  Heaven?

A. It refers to the earth.  John has repeatedly spoken in his other volumes about not loving “the world,” by which he means the evil, sin and corruption of our planet — not hating the earth itself.

Q. (11:16): Just wondering if the 24 elders — and is there significance to 24 — is the Bible’s Hall of Fame, like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, etc.  Or, 24 is 2×12 — 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles — one of each of Abraham’s sons and the 12 disciples?

A. The last one.  There is some speculation that if this is John the Apostle writing this work (as is tradition), then the elder talking to him throughout this vision is himself as one of the 24 elders, if that makes any sense.  It is a vision after all.

Q. Why all these dragons and beasts?  Why not a man dressed in red with a pitchfork?

A. Dragons are scarier.  🙂

Q. (12:10): “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth” makes me wonder that if Lucifer became extremely jealous of God naming Jesus his Son and that’s what fueled his anger and got him kicked out of heaven.  Just wondering.

A. I do not think Satan’s sin is jealousy, but rather pride.  He sees himself as superior to God, and desires to have God’s seat.  That, by the way, is why pride is often considered to be the “father” of all sin.  All sin, whether the decision to dishonor marriage vows, to worship other gods, to steal, to lie, or to kill, is ultimately to say to God, “I think my way is better than your way and I am in charge of my life.”  THAT is pride through and through.  To me, that is part of what makes the message of the Gospel so scandalous: it says that we are not alright on our own, and that we have truly messed things up when we go our own, prideful way.

Q. (12:17): Is the devil privy to all of this end-of-days info?  If so, I would think that he would give up.  But, maybe God keeps them going because the devil does help weed out those who are noncommittal.

A. Evil can always rationalize its own existence.  There’s a scene in a movie called the Devil’s Advocate — which I am NOT recommending — in which Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, playing the devil, discuss what the Bible says.  Reeves tells Satan, “in the Bible you lose” to which Pacino replies, “well consider your source.”  I think that conveys the sense of pride and ambition that characterizes the real Satan: he refuses to admit that he will lose, and can justify all day long his reasons for defying God.

Q. (12:18): Can you tell us anything about what this number of the beast is, Rob?

A.  You bet I can.  The number 666 — which in some texts reads 616 — is probably a multi-leveled analogy.  First, the number 6 itself, represents mankind (having been made on the sixth day), and also represent incompleteness or imperfection, in contrast to 7.  Thus you have imperfection times three.  The text tells us that the number is man’s.

The number itself is acquired by converting various letter systems into numbers based upon their order in our alphabet- for example the name “Ada” in English would be “6”, 1+4+1.  The key for the Hebrew alphabet (22 letters, no vowels), is that after you count to 10, the next number is not 11, but 20, and then after 100, 200.  It breaks down as follows:

Aleph = 1, Beth = 2, Gimel = 3, Dalet = 4, He = 5, Vav = 6, Zayin = 7, Cheth = 8, Teth = 9, Yodh = 10, Kaph = 20, Lamed = 30, Mem = 40, Nun = 50, Samekh = 60, Ayin = 70, Pe = 80, Tsadhe = 90, Koph = 100, Resh = 200, Shin = 300, Tav = 400.

The most common interpretation of the two numbers is that the represent the Emperor Nero, who is famous to this day for his brutal persecution of Christians.  He was a “beast” if ever there was one.  If we convert his name using the numbers above, the name “Neron Caesar” (translated name) in Hebrew (which would normally be read right to left) would read: (take my word for it) Nun, Resh, Vav, Nun, Koph, Samekh, Resh.  This would give you 50+200+6+50+100+60+200= 666.  (There are similar versions using the Greek alphabet, but I’ll skip those for now).  Anyway, as today, Neron was more commonly called Nero, and we would drop the second 50, giving us 616.  No other major figure for the period gives us both numbers, but people in every era have used different numerical systems to identify their own beasts.  The Reformers used Roman numerals to identify the Pope of the time as the beast.  Anyway, there’s a lot of other theories out there about what the number means, but that’s my favorite.

Q. (13:8): Rob, I know we have discussed this before.  Do you remember where?  Back to the “being chosen” readings: Why do we have to live out our lives if it is or isn’t in the Book of Life?

A. Because we don’t know whose name is written there.  There is a sense in the NT, in Paul’s letters especially, that the Christian life is a race that must be completed, and that, I think, goes a long way to giving a sense of the ultimate question: Can we be faithful to the end.  Only those who can — as this book repeatedly attests — has their name written in the book.

Q. (14:1-5): Is the “special offering” the purest believers?  These believers were the best the earth could offer God, so they were a precious personal offering to God?

A. It is probably something like that, but I am not completely sure.

Q. (14:13b): I never have read anything about the Spirit actually talking to someone.

A. While we have not seen the actual action of talking on the part of the Spirit, one of the things the NT informs us is that the role of the Spirit is to “speak” to our heart and mind and remind us of the teachings of Christ.  So in that sense, His primary role is “speaking.”

Day 337 (Dec. 3): Paul tells his story to crowd but is rebuked, Paul tells of Roman citizenship to thwart lashing, Paul goes before high council, Jews conspirte to kill Paul, Paul is sent to Caesarea

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 21:37-23:35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 22:3, 22:25): Paul said he was from Tarsus, but then he says he was born in Rome.  These two places are far apart aren’t they?

A. Ha!  Being a Roman citizen is not the same as being BORN in Rome.  A Roman citizenship could be granted in any province of the Empire — including Tarsus, where Paul is from — and it would mean that Paul’s family was wealthy and influential.  It basically means that Paul was an official citizen of the Roman Empire, which put him squarely under the protection of the commander and governor.  Paul is pulling out his “trump card” here in order to “move up the ladder” and witness to those in authority.

Q. (22:22-23): I guess the crowd didn’t like Paul’s story?

A. Nope, they did not, but it won’t matter.

Q. (23:6): This is the first time I’ve heard Paul call himself a Pharisee.  Why did he do that?

A. Because he was one — he will talk about it more in Philippians — but he did so in this case to divide Sadducee and Pharisee in order to, again, avoid trouble and remove himself from the situation.  He’s clever in that way.

Day 336 (Dec. 2): Paul meets the Ephesian elders and tells of his looming persecution, Paul says he has done all he can for the church, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, Paul is warned of his persecution, Paul is arrested and endures violent crowd

Countdown: 29 days

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 20:13-21:36

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 20:21): The charge is so easy and clear, but it gets lost so often because of human characteristics of pride, jealousy and greed.  I’m sure there are more.

Q. (Acts 20:26, 21:4): Paul has used every moment of his new life — not when he persecuted Christians — to reach as many people as possible to tell them the Good News so they would follow God.  So, now he has put the responsibility of their salvation in their hands, saying he has done everything possible to save them.  And, he is telling them that this is their last chance to listen to him since he knows he will be persecuted in Jerusalem.  But, why can’t Paul be protected from this persecution by the Holy Spirit telling him to go elsewhere?  Jesus already died on the cross, why does Paul need to die a martyr’s death?  This leads me to the next question in v. 21:4.  Why would the Holy Spirit tell the believers to plead with Paul not to go to Jerusalem when the Spirit is guiding Paul there?  Is it that they were told his fate by the Holy Spirit so that’s why they don’t want him to go — not really that the Spirit TOLD them to keep Paul from going to Jerusalem?

A. This scene points to some important issues, so let’s clear some things up.  The Spirit is using the prophets along the way to warn Paul about what fate will befall him, but NOT to keep him from going — 20:22 tells us plainly that the Spirit is compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem, though he will be captured.  Now there are several reasons for this, but the major one that is worth noting is what God will do THROUGH Paul while he is captured. You will see how this happens as we continue reading Acts and in his so-called “Prison letters” — Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Now I understand the question at the heart of what you’re asking: why does Paul have to die if Jesus already died.  Well, the answer is…he’s not dead yet, and God will use Paul in powerful ways before he dies.  Paul has no interest in “dodging” suffering: he desires to be used for the Glory of God, and if that is the way God desires to use him, then Paul is ready.  Note what happened with the Jailer back in Acts 16: Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, but God used this beating and imprisonment to proclaim a message of salvation to the Jailer and his whole family- something that NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED without Paul and Silas being in prison.  It is our nature — especially modern society — to try our best to dodge and avoid pain and suffering as much as possible, but God has always used pain and suffering to accomplish his ends, including the death of his followers.  While it can be uncomfortable to hear about, we must understand that it was through suffering that God used Jesus to change EVERYTHING for us!  God brings light out of the darkest places, if we will but follow and have faith.

Day 327 (Nov. 23): Collecting money for Jerusalem, greetings from Paul, riot in Ephesus, Paul goes to Macedonia and Greece, God’s good news, God’s anger against sin and notably homosexuality

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 Corinthians 16:1-24

Acts 19:21-20:6

Romans 1:1-32

Questions & Observations

O. Paul is such a perfect role model!  He has taken his charge from God seriously, and not faltered.

Q. (1 Corinthians 16:21): Did Paul use a scribe to write his letters?  I just don’t know why he makes it a point to say he is signing his letters in his own handwriting.

A. Yes, Paul used a scribe — he won’t always leave his signature at the end — to write his letters.  It was common practice in the day to have the “genuine” signature of the true author of the letter.  We don’t really know why he did this, but one theory is that his writing hand was injured in his various traumas, and he is “signing” the letter with his non-writing hand, which is why the letters are so big.

Q. (Acts 19:23): What does “the Way” mean here?

A. That is the way that Luke refers to the Gospel, it was the primary way that the early believers referred to the message of Christianity.  Remember that this is the way that Jesus himself referred to Himself in John 14:6, so it is little surprise that the earliest believers took up this way of referring to their message.

O. (Romans 1:8:17): Paul is really great at building awesome, genuine rapport with whomever he visits or writes.

Q. (1:18-32): God is obviously against homosexuality.  He says in v. 26 that homosexuality is not the “natural way to have sex.”  Could we apply this to other subjects, like food, in particular?  Artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and GMOs are not natural.  I would think that God would not be to keen on those either.  You?  I know the Bible says to not worry about what we will eat, but I think It means “clean” and “unclean” food, not food that comes from a lab.

A. Paul is definitely condemning homosexual conduct (remember that being attracted to people of the same sex is NOT a sin, just acting on it!).  This type of conduct would have been commonplace in Rome at this time, and would have involved exploitation of young men by older men (you don’t want to know the details), and public bath houses (only for men) that frequently involved sex.  As to the other “unnatural” things like food or dyes, since those things did not exist at the time, I have a suspicion that Paul did not have such things in mind.  We might think of such regulations as being wise, but Paul is describing sin, and I would stop short of eating artificial foods as being a sinful action.

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.