Day 348 (Dec. 14): Leaders in the church should be righteous men, be weary of those who make up ungodly rules, Paul tells Timothy to stay on path to salvation, respect elders, widows and slaves, those who long to be rich fall to destruction

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 Timothy 3-6:10

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Timothy 3:1-13): What are the duties of elders and deacons?  These positions haven’t been discussed before to my knowledge.  But, it’s common sense to know that the church has people organizing it and upholding its values.  Also, the footnote on v. 3:11 says “women deacons” instead of wives.  Can women take the role of pastor, elder, deacon, etc. in a church, according to the Bible?  I know some denominations do allow women and some don’t.  We just read in yesterday’s reading (1 Timothy 2:12) where women are not to have authority over men.

A. The NT writings recognize 3 major offices (there’s another, but its not clearly defined): bishop, pastor/elder, and deacon.  Bishop came to mean the leader of a particular church, pastor/elder a leader within the community with preaching responsibilities, and the deacon is generally accepted to be a “lower level” of service (deacon means servant).  The catch is that the NT DOES NOT define the roles of these offices, only their qualifications, as we see in this passage.  So various churches have taken this information and interpreted it in various ways — some denominations ordain these offices, while some see them as lay positions.  Some denominations do not have a bishop at all (they tend to be autonomous denominations such as Baptists, who do not have a ruling body).  In my background church, the United Methodist, the church has the three offices, all ordained positions: the Bishop is the presiding member of a section of the US (Florida for instances), and the Elder and Deacons are ordained ministers that serve in the various churches.  You must be ordained as an elder to be a head pastor.

That serves as a transition point to your other question: can women serve as leaders in the church?  As I answered yesterday, that depends on who you ask: the UM church happily ordains women as elders, while the Southern Baptist Convention would not.  The interpretation of verses such as the ones for this section would come into play as well: Baptists would disagree that the verse you mentioned refers to female deacons, because they don’t have female deacons, while other denominations who do ordain women have their own reasons for doing so.  So my answer yesterday hasn’t changed: whether women can serve in church leadership depends on who you ask the question.

Q. (3:16): What does “vindicated by the Spirit” mean?

A. He was shown to have been correct about proclaiming Himself Messiah when He conquered death by the power of the Spirit.

Q. (4:4): We always say that God created everything.  But, did He?  How about, glass, plastics, rubber, computers, electronics, silly puddy J?  I agree that everything God created is good (well, I really don’t understand mosquitos, gnats, sharks, skunks, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) but I do question if synthetic things are all good.

A. If you remember the Genesis story, one of the first things God did with Adam was involve him in the process of naming creation — that is, he was given a role to play in God’s creation story.  That role continues to this day: part of the way that God created us in His image was to make us creative, and all that has followed in the course of human history is the story of how we have both failed and succeeded to honor that image within us.  God may not have made the synthetic things, but He made us to be creative and we did so.  With synthetic creations in particular, I see both benefit and drawback in what we have made: we have great benefit to the church in the internet and the ability to share stories and information, but I don’t think I have to try very hard for you to see the downsides of such technology (pornography, hate sites, etc.).  Technology always serves to fill both the good and evil roles within our world, just as the capacity for good and evil reside within each of us.

Q. (5:3-4): There are a lot of older folks in nursing homes.  Does this mean that the families of these elders have failed them?  I know many older parents don’t want to be a burden on their kids.  To me, families are supposed to take care of one another.  Today, though, families are separated by thousands of miles and even different countries making it hard to take care of the elderly.  If there is a will, there is a way.

A. No doubt some people should be convicted by these words and see ways that they have failed their elderly family members, but Paul is describing the situation in a very different world.  First, the human lifespan is way beyond what would’ve been considered “old” back then, and some elderly people have no other way of surviving outside of intense care that often cannot be provided by family.  We certainly have an obligation to do all that we can for our parents in particular (since honoring our parents honors God), but I would not take these verses as being “law” about the ways that we should be forced to take care of elderly family members.  If the Spirit convicts you, though, you should listen — I was convicted that I haven’t called my elderly grandmother in a while, and need to do so.

Q. (5:5): The church I grew up in was in a small town of around 1,000 people.  Every time I went back there were fewer people, but the back pews were filled with widows.  Is there something to say about the older you get the closer you get to God?

A. I guess you could say that you are more set in your ways and unlikely to change.  Besides, in many cases, the elderly have no one left to depend on besides God, and many of them know that the “meeting” is coming soon.

Q. (5:20): What does reprimand mean here?  I remember watching a news report about a guy who took the Bible and twisted it to where parents are super harsh on their children and they would quote the Bible.  It had a following and there was a girl who died because her parents either starved her or left her out in the cold for punishment — I don’t remember which or if it was both.  This verse could be used as a pass for some churches to physically punish someone.

A. That is not what is being described, and what you are describing is a terrible, tragic abuse of power in a way that does NOT honor God.  What Paul is describing is the public proclamation of unrepentant sin, which was a pattern in church “justice” for centuries.  Frankly, I feel that, while it can make us uncomfortable, it is something that is greatly missed in churches that do not use it (some still do, including some megachurches).  It is very difficult to have a coherent, growing congregation if there is unrepentant sin in your midst.  We must do all we can to help protect that community, Paul is saying, including the act of public shaming to bring people back to God, or remove them from the community.

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 290 (Oct. 17): Those who are “ready” for Jesus’s return will be rewarded, the call to follow Jesus causes division, barren fig tree parable, Jesus rebuked for healing on Sabbath, parable of mustard seed, Jesus heals blind man, spiritual blindness

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.

Luke 12:35-13:21

John 9:1-41

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 12:35-36): Why a master and a wedding feast?  The person waiting is a servant, I guess, getting a dinner party ready?

A. Not in this story.  This is the master returning home FROM a party.  In the ancient world, banquets and wedding feasts could literally go for days and weeks.  Thus, a master who was returning home would not be able to tell his servants exactly WHEN he was going to come home.  That is the idea behind what Jesus is telling the people in this story: you’re not going to know the hour of the return.

Q. (12:42-48): After reading this several times, I take it that Jesus means that all of those who proclaim him and are ready in Spirit to welcome Him will be rewarded.  Those who think they’ll “get their act together” and follow Him later will … not be rewarded.  Servant means believer/follower?  Then, v. 48, says that the more Jesus/God has entrusted us with His flock, the more He expects.

A. Yes, I would say you’ve judged correctly.

Q. (12:49-53): Why would Jesus want to cause division?

A. The call to follow Jesus is a radical one, by its very nature.  It is difficult to think of a stronger contrast between men and women who are powerfully following after the Gospel and those who see it as foolishness (as many today do).  So Jesus is not necessarily interesting in CAUSING division, but division is a natural by-product of the message that He has come to proclaim.  We will see this type of division come to its zenith in Matthew 25 with the story of the sheep and goats, so watch for that during Holy Week.

Q. (12:56): Just an interesting point … I always think of the kajillions of things that God could control.  Here, it sounds like the weather just goes on it’s own because the people can monitor it with close speculation.  So, it sounds like to me, God created nature, but it’s on its own unless God chooses to use it for a lesson or reward.

A. The normal way I have heard such things explained is that God established the “laws” of the universe, including for our world.  God certainly has the ability to supersede these laws, but generally chooses not to except for the reasons you mentioned.  So we can study the way that God made the world — what we would call Science, even if you don’t think there is a Creator behind it — which is what the people in Jesus’ story are doing.

Q. (13:1-5): I don’t understand quite what’s going on in this Scripture, but I think I get from it that the people who Pilate murdered were not the worst of sinners.  So, unless they/we repent, we will face the same fate, or worse.

A. It fits under a notion that we have talked about a few times, when you asked me about “good people,” and my reply was basically to say, “there’s no such thing.”  What Jesus is sharing here is we are all deserving of death for our sins, but God spares us in His mercy, and we are not called to judgment for our actions — which the grace of Jesus would cover, but still… .  But even if God chooses NOT to call us into judgment, that does not mean that, on our own, we are undeserving of God declaring that our time is up.  It’s a tough message, no doubt about it, but notice what Jesus is doing: trying to convict people and lead them to repentance.

Q. (13:10-13): This Scripture just reminds me (I’m not saying that Jesus is like them) of the healings I’ve seen on TV where an evangelist will be on stage and start healing people.  They may fall on the floor or whatever.  Can anyone now say they can heal in the name of Jesus?  I would think it would be just for those Jesus had chosen to be in His inner circle.  But, the one man who the disciples didn’t recognize and was healing in the name of Jesus, Jesus was OK with that.

A. I do not put much stock in such efforts: many of those individuals are snake oil salesmen who are just trying to get wealthy, and they do no honor to the Gospel.  Honestly, I am of two minds about your question: I have no doubt that God is capable of using His people today to heal, but I have never witnesses such a thing personally (its not a miracle for nothing — they are rare!)

My big concern is this: imagine the potential for abuse in a person such as your TV preacher were able to heal just by calling on Jesus.  It is nearly unfathomable!  Such a power could be — and frankly would be, knowing human nature — completely exploited for personal gain and fame, and the power of God would be completely forgotten.  It is a sad fact about human nature (see question above) that such and ability would wind up generating fame and wealth for the person rather than glory to God.  Now, let me repeat: God is capable of doing whatever He pleases, but I have not seen a lot of evidence that God DESIRES to provide healing in this way, and clearly the reasons I have mentioned have something to do with that in my opinion.  We will see more about such issues as healing and raising the dead as we get a little deeper into the story, and especially into the story of the early church, so hang in there for more.

O. (13:18-19): Yesterday a friend called in the morning to talk because she was upset.  She called me because she knew I would have good answers on showing grace.  Let me tell you, that is a compliment, but I must say that I struggle with it too.  But, I have been working on it, mostly as a result of reading the Scripture for this blog.  So, I have seen this verse at work. What I have been sifting through this year in the Bible helped me help her.  Jesus used me as an avenue to communicate His love and grace.  I’m so glad she called!  And thus, the “harvest” gets larger!

Q. (John 9:3): I used to think that this kind of structure God has built was not fair at all.  I felt like we are puppets in His world helping His story come true.  Well, we are like that in a way, except we are much more than puppets.  We are His children who He loves very much.  Everything He does is orchestrating our lives so we can live with Him in heaven.  Yes, we have difficulties, but those can just serves as tests to see if we can be faithful.  They are opportunities to be humble, to show that we are not in control.  And, if we believe in Jesus and let Him take over, we will live fulfilled lives all the way to heaven.  Question: I still don’t understand God’s reason for mentally handicapped.

A. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about that.  But I know that there are families that have been so blessed by the joy that a child with, say, Down’s syndrome brings to the family, even if the “side effect” is mental retardation.  I have read stories of the way that special needs children have become cherished members of families and communities, and that many are blown away by their faith in Christ.  It certainly sounds like God can have a myriad of “reasons” for the mentally handicapped: they are still His children, and I suspect that God finds very special ways to communicate to them and through them.

For example, try this one (I confess, I wept a little): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christophers/2012/05/what-down-syndrome-taught-one-mother-about-brokenness-beauty-and-perfection/

Q. (9:16): Jesus is not setting aside the Sabbath for complete rest, but if He didn’t heal people who ask to be healed and have faith in Him, he wouldn’t have peace of mind, i.e. peace.  And, maybe the healing gives Him rest.  It would certainly ease the hearts of the ones He was healing.  But, I think the main point is that the Commandment of “Love one another” outweighs keeping the Sabbath.  And, if you don’t help people because it’s the Sabbath, you are disobeying God’s commandment and causing the person to continue their pain.  That doesn’t sound loving.

A. Amen sister!