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 360a (Dec. 26): Jude’s letter is similar to Peter’s second letter, beware of false teachers, remain strong in the faith as you did from the beginning, Jesus appears to John holding seven stars (angels of the seven churches) and standing amidst seven gold lampstands, church of Ephesus is told to return the strong faith they had in the beginning, church in Smyrna told of impending suffering but a reward comes afterward, Pergamum church is told to rid itself of evil teaching, and church of Thyatira is warned of Jezebel’s sexual promiscuity but tells others to hold true to their faith because they will get authority of the Father to rule

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.

The letter from Jude addresses many of the same concerns as Peter’s second letter, which suggests that the two letters were written at about the same time and to the same churches.

Jude 1:1-25

We are here at the last book of the Bible.  You did it!  This is a book like no other book in the Bible which can be quite confusing, so Rob offered up an introduction to Revelations.  It’s the next blog dated Day 360b.  Thanks, Rob!

Revelation 1-2:29

John wrote Revelation from the Island of Patmos, where he was exiled “for preaching the word of God and for (his) testimony about Jesus” (1:9).  This occurred either during the mid-60s, during Nero’s reign and before the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jude 1:1): Jude was Jesus’s brother too, right?

A. Jesus had a brother named Jude (also known as Judas, but not the fallen apostle), and tradition holds that this is the writer of this brief epistle.

Q. (Revelations 1:4): What is “sevenfold Spirit”?  What is the significance of seven spirits, seven stars, seven lampstands, and seven churches?

A. The number seven represents completeness, so the usage of seven is used here to have a double meaning.  It represents the presence of the seven churches — which they would have considered to each have a lampstand, a symbol of the power of God and a guardian angel — that the letter is written to, but also the seven represents the ENTIRE eternal Church body.  John is cleverly using a well-known image of the seven days taken to complete Creation (there are many similar OT images in Revelation, as we shall see) for his own purposes.  The more OT you know, the easier it is to unravel many of the mysteries of Revelation.

Q. (1:20): So, we have seen quite a change in God’s people.  The Israelite’s started out with Abraham, grew and grew to a large nation, then salvation was shared with the Gentiles and now God addresses the churches.  The “church” seems like an establishment that God wants us to make.  It’s a model of how we can all work as one for a greater good.

A. The local community church is, to mince no words, the center of God’s plan for the salvation of the ENTIRE WORLD!  So it is not really shocking that the Spirit, through John, writes to both encourage and correct congregations of this day.

Q. (2:13): Can you explain Satan’s “throne” being in Pergamum?

A. We don’t exactly know, but there are a few theories.  The most common theory is that it refers to one of the many pagan temples located in the city — most likely the massive temple to the God Jupiter/Zeus.  It was also a major “hub” of that portion of the Roman Empire, and many important rulings were issued from there, making it a “throne” area of this enemy of the Church, the Empire itself.  A throne would be a place of comfort for a “king,” in this case Satan, so another theory is that John is referring to the city being a place of comfort for the enemy king, Satan himself.  Any of those, or some combination of all of them, is probably what John has in mind.  It is a symbolic image, like many we will see in this text.  Keep reading this section for more!

Q. (2:17): What’s the white stone?

A. In the ancient world, a white stone was often “issued” as a ticket for an important event, such as a festival or wedding.  Thus, Jesus giving a person a stone with a name (likely engraved) on it should be understood as that person being invited to the ultimate celebration: His wedding (more to come on this).

Q. (2:20): Didn’t we read about another Jezebel who was a king’s wife in the OT?  Any similarities between her and this one?

A. Yes we did.  Jezebel was a great enemy of the true people of God in the OT, and so John is using her name symbolically — a running theme here — to describe a woman in the congregation who is leading people away from the true path, as Jezebel did centuries ago.  One of the recurring themes here is in this type of cryptic literature — the genre is called apocalyptic — is that the author wants to keep the true meaning of what he is saying hidden from outsiders.  So by repeatedly using names and symbols of the OT, which Jews and Christians would have been familiar with but most Greeks and Romans would not have, he can convey clear imagery to those in the “know,” but outsiders are not clear on the meaning.  It’s the ultimate in “insider” writing.

Q. (2:26): What is special about Thyatira?  Is it because those who are strong-willed enough to resist Jezebel deserve a reward?  I have thought a lot lately about how strong sexual desire is — I think probably more among men — and the reason for it.  Maybe a very hard test?  Manlihood, or to show one’s success, is a strong desire, so for men to give that up and submit to God would be a big obstacle to overcome and worth a reward?  (If you haven’t watched the movie Flywheel, it is a good movie about a man giving up his proudful manlihood and control and giving his life to God.)

A. The rewards that you see for each of the churches — there are four more to come — are speaking of the general “rewards” of being faithful to Christ, and I do not believe that there are particular rewards that will not be given to others.  It is simply a way to keep from repeating himself.

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 340 (Dec. 6): Paul and shipwrecked passengers on Malta, Paul unharmed by poisonous snake, Paul heals sick on Malta, ship arrives in Rome, Paul preaches under guard, Paul says salvation offered to Gentiles, Paul writes to Ephesus church, Paul prays for spiritual wisdom for Ephesus, we are saved through Christ (God’s gift of grace) alone, believers united as Christ’s body

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 28

Ephesians 1-2

Questions & Observations

Intriguing read today, eh?

Q. (Acts 28:25): Paul is talking to Romans here.  Did Romans come from Israelite ancestry?

A. No, but there was a sizable population of Jews living in Rome at this time.  That’s whom he is meeting with.

Q. (Ephesians 1:5): Why did God want us anyway?  He created us so we could share his kingdom with Him?

A. God was certainly under no obligation to work out salvation on our behalf, but did so out of His great love for each and every one of us — that’s the central message of John 3:16.

Q. (1:14): I still have trouble with not knowing why God seeks praise.  The only thing I can think of is that it keeps us focused on Him.  Also, if we are created in God’s image and He seeks praise, that tells us where we get it from?

A. As I mentioned in the previous question, God’s love and desire for relationship with humanity is a the heart of the Gospel, and part of that relationship is worship.  In times when we rightly see God for who He truly is (the central aim of true worship), we rightly praise Him for His mighty deeds for both His chosen people (Israel) and for each of us who are Gentiles.  God desires our focus, and I think that this is one of the central ways that we can grow closer to Him.  That is why I believe God requires our worship.

Q. (1:23): The church can mean a group of people who meet to worship Him and do His work, or it can mean the group of all believers as a whole, right? I think here it means the latter?

A. It means both (we sometimes use the big “C” when we refer to the eternal Church).  1:23 refers to the eternal entity of the Body of Christ — the Church for all time in every age.

Q. (2:5-10): Some revelations here!!!  It says it well and gives me some internal light that God’s willingness to let His most beloved pay for our sins and that he purchased us through is love that we could be sitting with Jesus beside God, our Father.  Grace (both Rob and I have girls named Grace) is the ultimate gift!  There is no greater!  I never thought too about salvation being something that is not to be boasted about.  It was a gift from God, we have nothing to do with it.

A. That’s not quite right: we have a role to play: we must believe.  The part that Paul wants to be clear is that we can’t brag about OUR role in the actions that brought about salvation to the world.

Q. (2:18): This verse is proof of the Trinity: 3 separate beings/spirits, but working as one.

A. Yes, each Person of the Godhead has their own role to play, and it is amazing to see them work in tandem to complete the task of salvation.

Day 338 (Dec. 4): Paul appears before Felix for questioning, Felix keeps Paul in prison to remain in good standing with Jews, Festus replaces Felix and hears Paul’s case, Paul appeals to have his case decided by emperor, King Agrippa listens to Paul’s case, leaders decide Paul is innocent

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 24-26:32

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 24:1-27): Felix sounds conflicted between wanting to accept the Way and remaining in favor with the Jews.

A. I don’t think he is interested in becoming a Christian — he’s just aware of the movement — but he is indeed being a politician regarding currying the Jews’ favor.  The region was rife with revolutionaries who will seek to violently overthrow Roman rule in a few years, so Felix is certainly interested in looking good to his boss, the emperor, by keeping the peace in a lawless area.

Q. (25:1-22): I think it’s interesting to see politics play into justice the same way it can today.  They are tempted by what would seem right and make their lives better vs. doing what is right by the court law.

A. It’s a unique story in the NT, that is for sure.

Q. (Acts 25:23-26:32): So the last line was a surprise.  Paul appealed to Caesar for his defense because, as a Roman citizen, he has the right to, right?  But, now since he appealed to him he is required to go even if the Jews find him innocent?  There must be a reason that he has to go to Rome.  Time will tell, right?

A. Paul did so intentionally in order to have the chance to proclaim the Gospel, just as he did here.  We will indeed see how this goes…

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 331 (Nov. 27): Paul looks to Gentiles salvation to make Israelites jealous, God’s mercy is for everyone, treat everyone with the love of Christ, respect authority, clothe yourself in Jesus and resist evil desires, steer away from criticism, do not cause others to stumble in their faith, respect authority,

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.

Romans 11-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Romans 11:1-24): There are several questions I have in this passage.  Here are the questions:

1) Vs. 5-6.  I’m not sure what Paul is describing here.

A. Paul is saying that even among the remnant of His faithful people, they were saved by His grace, not their own actions.  That’s all.

2) V. 7: My understanding of this is that some Israelites remained faithful to God — they didn’t worship idols — and because of their loyalty, they are chosen.  And, God hardened the hearts of those that were not faithful to further divide the good from the bad, which would bring Him glory — just like he did with Pharaoh.  Those with hardened hearts take the role of the bad guys and kind of “push the envelope” of God’s plan a little farther into action so that his faithful will see His glory.

A. Yes, that sounds right, though I admit it sounds a little “off” to our modern ears.

3) V. 12, 15: Why would the world be better when the Israelites finally accept Jesus as their savior.  Is this still valid with Jews today?  And, v. 15 is the same idea?

A. That’s a mystery I don’t really have a good answer for, but yes, verse 15 reinforces the same idea.

4) V. 16b: So people can be saved just because they belong to a family whose leaders are faithful to God?

A. No.  They have the POTENTIAL to be saved because God is faithful to the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that does not ultimately help the individual.

O. (12:15): I have always taken notice of popularity contests: who people choose to attach themselves to based on the others’ status — popularity, wealth, personality, goodness, badness.  I had a friend where we used to live who I think has a great soul.  But, every time a situation came up where she had two groups of friends going to the same event — notably fireworks kicking off the Christmas season — she would choose one group over us and another family.  I don’t know why we couldn’t just all hang out together.  We all knew one another.  Anyway, it was awkward.  She kept us hanging saying that she may meet us there.  But, she would show up with the other group and barely give us the time of day if she saw us.  To her defense, it is hard to know whether to invite people from different branches of your life to the same function.  There can be that awkwardness.  But, I think it’s short-lived.  Like Paul says here: We all live in harmony and we are to enjoy everyone’s company.

Q. (13:1-7): I think we talked about this in the OT.  I understand this passage in the context of the times of the OT, but I have a hard time with accepting that authority shouldn’t be questioned in our government.  After all, that’s why the Pilgrims left England because they were not allowed to worship God the way they wanted.  So, I would say that they didn’t have respect for their leaders.

A. I think what you’ve done is provide the exception that proves the rule.  In many cases, Christians today (Americans in particular) have a “persecuted” mindset, and part of it has to do with the government.  Now there are some threats to religious liberty out there, but there is no active persecution of Christians today in this country that in any way compares to what was happening with the Puritans/Pilgrims (Happy Thanksgiving!) or, frankly, what is taking place in more than 50 countries around the world today including China and North Korea.  Unless we are under a TRUE threat, Paul desires that we submit to the authorities above us.  Don’t take that to mean, however, that we must AGREE with them, or that we cannot act in a peaceful manner to change the law.  I see nothing against these actions in what Paul is saying.

O. (14:1-23): Wow, there’s a lot said here.  1) Mind your own beeswax (look up the origins of this saying for some humorous theories).  2) God doesn’t care what we eat.  But, if one cares what he/she eats, then they need to stand firm on their convictions.  3) And, if one does not believe in the same way, they should not cause a rift and eat according to the other’s wishes.  V. 17 sums it up: For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Basically, love one another.  Another verse says to not act like you know everything, making others feel inferior or irritated.  We do not lift up God by lifting up ourselves and putting others down.  Together, we are all integral to completing the body of Christ, so we should treat each other with love.

O. (15:22b-23): Wow, this speaks to me.  My hubby can basically eat anything and not have any side effects.  Me, I’m another story.  I became a vegan in college because I had a VERY liberal Political Science professor who showed my class a movie about the meat industry in America.  I think a lot of it has been fixed now, but I’m sure a lot still goes on. Anyway, after I saw the film, I tried to eat a Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon on it.  I couldn’t do it, so I subconsciously became a vegan.  Now, though, I can no longer have all the soy I want.  I switched to almond milk because soy milk started tearing me up.  I started to notice that my brain felt heavy and cloudy after coffee, chocolate — basically, caffeine.  Now, I’m starting to give credit to that feeling I have.  Now I notice it after a lot of processed foods, which I’m an avid eater of protein bars for lunch.  But, whenever it’s brought up in conversation, there is this awkward feeling like me or whomever is telling their diet tales is trying to affect the others.  Long ago, I made a decision to try to not make others feel weird around me being a vegan and it’s worked well.  However, several of my friends have gone gluten free and say they feel more alive because of it.  I feel pressure to try it.  But, giving up bread is not something I want to do to solve my dietary issues.  But, now that I’m paying attention to what gives me that feeling, I can hopefully figure it out.  I give the Holy Spirit the credit for helping me realize what foods are good and bad for my body.

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 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.

Day 316 (Nov. 12) Angel aids Paul in escaping from prison, God strikes dead Herod Agrippa for taking glory, Barnabas and Paul preach together in Cyprus and Paphos, Paul accuses governor’s sorcerer, governor became believer, Paul preaches at Antioch of Pisidia’s synagogue, Paul intrigues Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas ran from Antioch of Pisidia to Iconium where they were run from town also, Paul heals crippled man in Lystra, Paul stoned but didn’t die

Only 49 days to the end!

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 12:6-14:20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 12:6-19): Whether Peter was rescued for his own faith or because he had people praying for him or both, I think we can take from this scene, the results that can be realized through group prayer.  Rob, can you tell us of any verses where God or Jesus is telling us to pray together?

A. Actually, that is not a topic that Jesus really addressed outside of Matthew 18:19-20, which says that He is there in our midst when we gather and will give us what we seek, which is certainly applicable here.  It is the other works of the NT that will have more to say about this topic, so keep watching.

Q. (Acts 13:3): Also, can you tell us more about the “laying of hands.”

A. Sure: it was a way for a community to pray for a person.  The person prayed for would sit or stand in the midst of a group, and the group would place hands upon that person as they prayed — something many churches still do today.  It is frankly nothing especially complicated, but is merely a method of community praying.

Q. (Acts 13:9): I always thought that Saul became Paul after his transformation to Christianity.  But, as I googled it and referred to Wikipedia, I see that Saul is his Jewish name and Paul is his Roman name.  It says that he used Paul to put those to whom he was preaching at ease.

A. It is a common assumption that Saul’s name change to Paul was divinely inspired, the way that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, but that is not the case.  You have the right information on what Paul was doing, using his name to make the people more open to his message.  This will not be the last time that Paul will take advantage of his dual life.  Paul was a devout Jew in his former life as Saul, which helps him address Jews with authority, as he will do in Philippians.  And he will also pull out his Roman citizenship — something quite valuable in his day — when necessary as well to get out of trouble.  No doubt about it Paul is resourceful.

Q. (Acts 13:48): What does the author mean here when he says, “and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.”  This makes it sound like the Kingdom of God uses predestination.

A. There is certainly some role of selection in the Kingdom, but once again I would point out: we do not know what is the criteria that makes a person “selected”.  It’s very possible that it is faith in God that makes one selected.

Q. (Acts 14:19-20): Is there any point worth mentioning about Paul being stoned, but not dead?

A. I guess what happened is that the people assumed he was dead, but he was not.  This verse is part of the reason that many scholars think that Paul was disfigured by this incident and the others to come — it will not be his last brush with trouble — but it certainly gave him a powerful witness.