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 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.

Day 312 (Nov. 8): Peter heals lame beggar, Peter preaches about Jesus, council tries to hush Peter and John, disciples pray for courage, believers become a community sharing wealth and possessions, Ananias and Sapphira try to cheat eh church, disciples heal many, disciples imprisoned but escape, disciples flogged but continued to preach about Jesus!

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 3-5:42

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 3:22): Why did Moses refer to Jesus as a Prophet instead of the Messiah?

A. Remember that Messiah is a title that means “anointed” or “chosen,” and one of the OT offices that was anointed was the office of Prophet (the others are King and Priest, more on those later).  So when Moses refers to the One who is coming as a Prophet, he is not referring to Jesus incorrectly, but merely describing a single aspect of His ministry- that of being THE Prophet who will bring His people back to God.

Q. (Acts 4:8-11): I love how the Holy Spirit takes over Peter’s speech here.  I have heard other people say how sometimes when talking to someone about God that they can’t believe what comes out of their mouth.  They felt the Holy Spirit control their speech.

A. That is certainly the implication of what Jesus advised His followers during the Last Supper — sometimes if we act in boldness to proclaim His truth, we never know the ways that God might show up via the Spirit.

Q. (Acts 5:1-11): Would it have been a big deal for Ananias and Sapphira to keep some of the money anyway?  I take it that it’s just because they lied about giving the full amount to the apostles when they didn’t?

A. I think the deceit is certainly the big deal — they were attempting to show off to the community, while keeping some of the money to themselves.  And this is exactly what Peter says: you could have kept some of the money, but you chose to lie about it.

Q. (Acts 5:15): How could Peter’s shadow heal people?  Peter seems to be taking a lead position with the disciples.

A. I have no idea.  And yes, Peter will be the primary focus of Acts for the first half of the story, and then someone else will take over.

Q. (Acts 5:31): How do the people know that God put Jesus at His right hand?  Through the apostles teaching?

A. Peter is not necessarily referring to an ACTUAL throne, but rather that Jesus is in the place of honor, as we have discussed.  The right hand was a trusted advisor who had the “ear” of the King.

Q. (Acts 5:33-41): If the Jewish leaders accepted Gamaliel’s advice, why did they flog the disciples?  I guess flogging is OK, but death is not?

A. I think they were looking for a way to take out their jealous feelings, and perhaps make one more attempt to push the disciples into silence.  Fat chance.

Day 300 (Oct. 27): Jesus foretells the future destruction and suffering, Jesus second coming will be obvious,

Can you believe it?  We have made it to the 300th day of this year-long journey.  And, the best is at the last.  We are seeing what Jesus was like and how He wants us to be to become the Kingdom of God.  If this is your first time, visiting this blog, welcome.  At BibleBum, 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. Enjoy!

Mark 13:1-23

Matthew 24:1-25

Luke 21:5-24

Mark 13:24-31

Matthew 24:26-35

Luke 21:25-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 13:14-23, Matthew 24:1-25, Luke 21:5-24): So, I think that the sacrilegious object in v. 14 is Satan?  Rob, I know you can explain what is going on here much better than I could?  It sounds like Satan comes to test us before Jesus gathers His followers.  The false messiahs and false prophets come from Satan?

After reading all of these versions of the same story, I have more questions.  These accounts are written like they are for Judea only, when the end of the earth would be who knows when and for all people, right?  And, how are we to know who is a false prophet if they can do great signs?

A. So there are several things going on here, and I will try to sort them out.  One of the most important things to understand is that when Jesus refers to the “last days,” He is not speaking strictly to the end of the earth.  To Him (as best we can interpret it, frankly these verses are not always clear), the Last Days began with His incarnation (or He might mean His resurrection), but either way, they refer to more than just the last few days of the planet as we would likely describe it.  Jesus means that the Last Days will continue UNTIL His Second Coming … to be discussed frequently in future readings.

Now one of the things that Jesus tells us will happen — and did in 70 AD — is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus (who would later become Emperor).  Note what Mark tells us in 13:30: this will take place within a generation, which as we have come to see in our readings, a “generation” means 40 years.  We are around 30 AD now (33 AD is the most commonly given date for Jesus’ passion), so that means Jesus is EXACTLY right about how long it will be before this sign is fulfilled.

Jesus speaks of other things as well, especially as it relates to the coming persecution of the early Church, which we will read about, and the way that the persecution will be used to spread the Gospel message.  Jesus begins to talk about the Second Coming, mostly by noting that it will not be like His “first coming”.  What He means is that in His Second Coming, everyone will know about it — in the same way we know that when we see vultures we know something is dead, there is no missing the sign).  Jesus will continue to discuss His Second Coming in the next sections of the reading, so let’s see how He tells us more about what is to come.

Q. (Mark 13:30-31) Rob, please explain these verses if you can.

A. Just as I mentioned in the last question, these verses are split among the two topics Jesus is discussing: the destruction of Jerusalem is coming within the generation, and that in the end, all things but Christ’s rule will pass away.  We just don’t know when!  As we keep reading, this will become clearer.

Day 299 (Oct. 26): Most important Commandments, Jesus questions religious leaders about Messiah, religious leaders known for pageantry not serving others, Jesus warns religious leaders, only one Father and one Teacher, Pharisees and teachers of religious law neglect justice, mercy and faith, widow’s offering is larger than that of the rich

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.

Mark 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

Mark 12:35-37

Matthew 22:41-46

Luke 20:41-44

Mark 12:38-40

Matthew 23:1-12

Luke 20:45-47

Matthew 23:13-39

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 21:1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 12:31): I had always heard that loving God was the most important and then loving your neighbor was second.  Here it says they are equal.  Does the Bible say one is more important than the other anywhere?  It seems like they are almost one in the same.  If you love God you will likely love others.  If you love others, you probably have God in your heart.

A. No doubt Jesus desires us to love God first — we might call what He says 1 and 1a — but that, as you state, a true love for God will be manifest in a genuine love for others.

Q. (Matthew 22:34): Can you tell me again what the difference is between the Pharisees and Sadducees?

A. Sure.  First, members of BOTH of these parties made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so we might think of them as the two major “political” parties of the day.  The Sadducees were the more conservative of the two, and used the first five books of the OT (Genesis to Deuteronomy) as their primary guides for living.  They rejected much of the later OT writings (notably including writings about resurrection, which as we have discussed come from the later parts of the OT, hence their rejection of the doctrine).  The Sadducees were the primary members of the Priesthood, including Caiaphas who will be one of the central figures of the Passion story as High Priest.  Since they were the “official” leaders of the nation as the priests, the Sadducees worked with the Romans, which made them inferior in the eyes of others, including the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a different ruling party, and their primary concern was a noble one in theory: they desired for God to act on behalf of His people and cast off the Roman oppression (though they rejected overt action such as assassination that groups like the Zealots used).  They believed that if the people of the nation could become righteous enough by keeping the Law, they would “force God’s hand,” so to speak, and bring the Messiah into the world to conquer the Romans.  They were the teachers of the Law.  Since they did not see Jesus as being a leader capable of such a violent revolt, it is little surprise they rejected Him as the Messiah.  The Pharisees hoped to achieve this righteousness by means of legalism, including the use of many traditions that went well beyond the scope of the Law, as Jesus has been pointing out.  They would have been among the most powerful group in the nation, but in general, they would have been greatly disliked by the common Jews, who saw them as showy and flashy but ultimately not helpful.  The Pharisees would be the surviving party after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and their lineage carries on today in the writings of the Talmud, and the line of the Rabbis.

Q. (Mark 12:35-37, Matthew 22:41-46, Luke 20:41-44): I think I understand that Jesus is asking the “experts” on religious law how the Messiah can be the SON of David.  David would not refer to his son as “my lord.”  And that, tripped up the religious leaders?

A. Okay, so here’s what’s going on here: Jesus is mocking the religious leaders in what would have understood in a humorous way.  Jesus is using a quote from David in Psalm 110 (and assuming Davidic authorship, by the way) to say that David himself saw the Messiah as being more than a normal person.  David saw the Messiah as being divine, which is why he refers to Him as “his Lord.”  But everyone in that day knew that the Messiah was ALSO a son of David from his lineage.  So in posing the question in this way, unless the religious leaders of the day were willing to admit that the Messiah was indeed divine (something they rejected — they saw him as a chosen ruler by not divine), they COULD NOT answer His question.  If the person chosen as Messiah was merely a man, then the great King David would have no reason to call him Lord.  That, if you will, is the joke, but it was also a blistering critique by Jesus.

Q. (Mark 12:38-40): I am sure that many religious leaders are guilty of posturing today.  I remember my dad and some other elders of our church inviting our small-town preacher out to dinner.  They would get upset though, because the preacher never paid anything for the dinner.  We gave offering to the church and I guess my dad thought that that is the preacher’s wages and he should pay for his own dinner.  He and his family were extremely nice, but the preacher did have a slight attitude that he deserved to be taken care of.  So, they didn’t ask him to dinner every time.

A. As a person who has worked in ministry, I can honestly tell you that it is quite easy to let a sense of entitlement get a hold of you, and it is something you must make war against.  It is very difficult to remain humble in the midst of those circumstances, which to me makes it all the more important.

Q. (Matthew 23:8-9): Don’t Jews call their leaders “Rabbi” and Catholics call their priests “Father”?

A. Yes they do, though it’s worth mentioning that nothing Jesus says here would be recognized by Jews today — they wholly reject His teachings.  What Jesus is saying here is not to seek the title for the sake of pride (which was a major failing of the leadership), and I do not believe that Jesus is saying, “never have any titles”.  This is a verse about humility, and a reminder to keep in mind who is really in charge.

O. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4): I have read this or heard of this passage many times before.  But, now that I have read it after reading Matthew 23:12, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” this verse has a new meaning.  She was not only sacrificing more than the rich people, she will be exalted for it!  This verse sure is a game changer.

Day 287 (Oct. 14): Jesus stays back from festival, cost of following Jesus, Jesus goes to festival and teaches, Pharisees are stirred by mystery of Jesus, Jesus promises living water, disbelief as to who Jesus is, adulterous woman provides lesson for all sinners, the Light of the world

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

John 7:1-9

Luke 9:51-56

Matthew 8:18-22

Luke 9:57-62

John 7:10-53

 [The most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11.]

John 8:1-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 7:3): Any idea if this is His biological brothers talking or His disciples?

A. His human half brothers.

Q. (Luke 9:57-62): So basically if you “sign on” to follow Jesus, but have any doubts, you aren’t worthy of being one of his disciples?

A. I would read it more like, “if you prioritize the things of this world before the Kingdom of God, you’ve missed the boat.”

Q. (John 7:10-24): Any idea why Jesus told his brothers that he wouldn’t go with them to Jerusalem but decided to go by himself?  Then, he goes secretly, but starts preaching.

A. Jesus did not attend the festival as a pilgrim (as His brothers did), but rather as a prophet who brought a message of God to the corrupt religious leaders who needed to hear of God’s judgment.

Q. (7:28): Jesus was sent to earth as a human.  I wonder why God chose this avenue.  Since the people know where he came from, it’s very difficult for them to believe in Him.  Did God purposely make Jesus hard for the people to believe?

A. We are still early in the story, so hang in there.  Things will really ramp up with who Jesus claims to be as we enter Holy Week.  Also note that it will be the mission of the Disciples to go to all of these villages (including Galilee) to proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The clarity is coming.

Q. (7:37-39): Is anyone who believes in God and Jesus supposed to be blessed with the Spirit?

A. Yes.  Acts 2 will lay out the details.

Q. (John 8:1-11): I love this “look in the mirror” story.  Why was Jesus writing in the dirt?  Was it just a way for Him to think by using some time up?

A. Since no one knows what Jesus was writing, it is impossible to know what His writing means.  I suspect He was doing so to demonstrate that the crowd was not going to rattle him, even in the midst of the trap.

Q. (8:4): I notice that the teachers of religious law and Pharisees addressed Jesus as “teacher.”  Why do they call Him teacher when they think He’s a fake?

A. Jesus is respected as a Rabbi, and Rabbis frequently had disagreements, so it isn’t that much of a stretch.  The leaders may also be doing so because Jesus followers in the crowd do so: they are doing it out of mock respect.

Day 286 (Oct. 13): Jesus heals possessed boy, Jesus predicts His death, Jesus obediently pays temple tax, become humble as a child, Jesus OK with people healing in His name, parable of lost sheep, how to handle offenses, parable of unforgiving debtor

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.

Mark 9:14-29

Matthew 17:14-20

Luke 9:37-43

Mark 9:30-32

Matthew 17:22-23

Luke 9:43b-45

Matthew 17:24-27

Mark 9:33-37

Matthew 18:1-6

Luke 9:46-48

Mark 9:38-41

Luke 9:49-50

Mark 9:42-50

Matthew 18:7-10

Matthew 18:12-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 9:19,29, Matthew 17:20): So the disciples couldn’t heal the boy.  I see conflicting reasons why in Mark and Matthew.  They both say, “You faithless and corrupt people!” making me rationalize that the disciples were not full of faith so they could not heal the boy.  But then, Mark 9:29 said that the evil spirit could have only been cast out by prayer.  Jesus said it like it’s a lesson that they hadn’t covered yet.  So, I don’t know which is correct — lack of faith or naiveté?  And, in both versions, why does Jesus address the disciples in a condescending tone?

A. Personally, I’ve always connected with the version that says their lack of prayer was the error.  Imagine trying to deal with a real life demon without consulting God and perhaps you can get an idea of why Jesus was so frustrated.  Be careful about reading condescension into the text: we have no way of knowing HOW Jesus said these words, so what you’re actually doing is assuming Jesus was being condescending.  As to the lack of faith issue: I don’t really know what that has to do with the situation (that too, might have something to do with prayer or lack thereof), but it appears that the disciples felt they were ready for the big leagues and Jesus was surely frustrated that they failed.  Training ordinary people to change the world can be hard.

Q. (Matthew 17:20): Rob, I have to say that a lot of these readings today are tidbits of information.  It’s hard to absorb the enormity of these little pearls of info that are life-changing, if you can do them.  For example, I believe that prayer and talking to God is genuine.  But, it’s hard to believe that I could move a mountain at my command.  I believe that I can move more important things than a mountain.  Is that what this is referring to?  Something that may seem impossible like softening a hard-hearted person can happen if you believe God will do it for you.

A. Jesus here is unlikely to be referring to literal mountains (as you ascertain), but rather saying that the way to remove obstacles is to have the faith to ask God in prayer.  Quality, not quantity.

Q. (Luke 9:44): Why does Jesus call Himself “Son of Man?”

A. Jesus is using this title as a reference to the person referred to in Daniel 7:13 and 14 as the one who is chosen by the Ancient of Days (God the Father) to be an eternal ruler.  If you read these verses, you get a sense of the understanding Jesus had of Himself, but by using a title that had a more implicit claim to power (as opposed to referring to Himself as Messiah), we, I think, catch a glimpse of Jesus humility and desire to not be thought of publicly as the Messiah at this point.

Q. (Luke 9:45): Why would his disciples be afraid to talk to Jesus about anything?

A. I can’t help you there.  They weren’t able to overcome their fear yet, and it’s not the last time that fear will get them in trouble.

Q. (Matthew 17:24-27): I don’t understand what we are supposed to learn from this story.

A. Jesus is cleverly remarking that HE is the true King of the Temple, and that the religious leaders who control it are not the true rulers.  A king would never tax his own family, but rather his conquered subjects.  Jesus is basically saying that Peter — and presumably the other disciples as well — are not subject to such a tax because they belong to the household of the true King: God.  But, He basically agrees to pay the tax out of respect for those in authority and to not give offense.  There will be plenty of time to offend the rulers of the Temple later.

O. (Mark 9:36-37, Matthew 18:5-6): I am tested on this issue when I am driving my daughter and one other child to school.  I call a lot of people “dudes” whether they are dudes or dudettes telling them gently (not) to move along.  I have thought about the love I am not displaying when I do this and what I am teaching the little ears and eyes in the back seat.  So my “dudes” are more reigned in.  They need to be gone from my heart too.  I’m the “dude” for not leaving on time!

Q. (Mark 9:38-41): So, Jesus isn’t worried about imposters here?  I’m not sure what to take from this passage.

A. What we should take away from it is that Jesus appears to have a much bigger view of what makes someone His disciple then His disciples do.  Jesus tells us that the man could not do what he is doing without genuine faith in Him.

O. (Mark 9:48): If maggots and burning wouldn’t steer you away from evil, I don’t know what would.  I had never heard there are maggots there.

Q. (Mark 9:49-50): My daughter’s school had a “giving” day called SALT where each grade did a huge service project.  My younger child packed shoeboxes of fun stuff for Haiti orphans.  My older child packed meals for 10,000.  This is all wonderful.  But how does salt translate into living peacefully with one another.  It doesn’t say what the qualities of salt are.

A. In Jesus’ ministry, salt appears to imply the presence of a genuine faith in Him, and that this faith should be the basis of a loving relationship with those around you.  Salt, in the ancient world, was used for all kinds of things, including being the one of the only ways to preserve food.  It was very valuable stuff, such that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with it — it’s where our word “salary” comes from, and also where the expression “worth his salt” comes from.  The only problem: it wasn’t pure, like the table salt we use today (they had no way to make it that way in the ancient world).  So what they called “salt” was usually a mix of various ingredients (often harvested from near the Dead or Salt Sea), and over time, this mixture would lose its salty flavor.  Jesus is thus telling us that faith in Him is what gives the “flavor” to our walk with God (an uncommon metaphor, but you get the idea), and if the flavor is lost, then the rest is worthless.

Q. (Matthew 18:7-10): Is this literal?  Or would it be more like if I am reading inappropriate stuff that I should throw it away?

A. Jesus is definitely using hyperbole here (though some throughout the history of the Church have taken His commands literally) in order to help us understand the severity of our sin and the effect that it can have on others.

O. (Matthew 18:18): It seems like I’ve seen this subject already, but don’t remember the answer.   : )

Q. (Matthew 18:19-20): Is this because God wants us to live in community, thus if two or more people were working on a job, it brings others together.  Good times to share about how God is working in your life.

A. In ways that are difficult to understand, Jesus appears to be saying that His spirit will be with those who gather in His name.  I confess I have long wondered about the meaning of this verse, but it’s an intriguing promise.

O. (Matthew 18:34-35): Good incentive to follow Jesus!

Day 285 (Oct. 12): Jesus heals blind man, Jesus asks who people think He is, Jesus foretells His death, three disciples see Jesus glowing alongside Elijah and Moses

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.

Mark 8:22-30

Matthew 16:13-20

Luke 9:18-20

Mark 8:31-9:1

Matthew 16:21-28

Luke 9:21-27

Mark 9:2-13

Matthew 17:1-13

Luke 9:28-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 8:26): Why did Jesus tell the healed man to not go back to the village on his way home?

A. It is most likely because it would not have been possible for him to keep his healing a secret, which keeps with our secret Messiah theme of Mark.  Symbolically (something I’m sure not lost on the writer), it can be interpreted as saying, “there is no going back the way you came.”

Q. (Mark 8:27): Why does Jesus keep asking his disciples who others believe He is?

A. Keep?  As far as I know, He only did it once, but it is simply recorded three times.  As to why He is asking, my suspicion is His desire to help His disciples see a crucial issue: it does not matter what the crowd sees and believes, what matters is what YOU believe.

Q. (Matthew 16:15-20): Why is Jesus calling Peter the “Rock” and what is Jesus talking about when He says that the church will be built on him?

A. Well, the most obvious answer is that Peter (Petros in Greek) means “rock” —  it was a new name or nickname Jesus gave to Simon when He called Peter into service.  Peter/Simon will be the true leader of the Apostles after Jesus’ death and resurrection, so it will truly be upon the rock — Peter himself — that the foundations of the new church will be laid.

Roman Catholics go a step further, and make the argument that what Jesus is telling Peter is that he is to be the head of the church for all time, and that he is to pass his power down via succession to men after him.  Since Peter ends up in Rome — more on that later — he is known as the first Bishop of Rome.  Today, that same position goes by a different title, but it is still the same office: Papas or Pope, the single leader of the one billion Catholics worldwide.  The Papal office makes the claim that there is unbroken succession between the man sitting in the Bishop’s seat now, Francis I, and Peter himself, 2000 years ago.  Other branches of Christianity — notably the Orthodox church — reject this position, and the role of the Bishop of Rome has literally divided the Church for more than a thousand years.  Protestants, of course, have their own reasons for rejecting the Papal office, and generally acknowledge Peter as being gifted with only the first, not eternal, leadership of the Church on Earth.

Q. (Mark 8:34): The Israelites wouldn’t know what “take up your cross” means.  Can you explain this?

A. Oh yes they would.  There are several reasons for that.  First, crucifixion was not originally a Roman punishment: it had its origins in the Middle East around the time the Jews were in exile.  The Persians and Medians both practiced a form of crucifixion, and it is likely many Jews died this way.  But it was the Romans who PERFECTED the art of the slow and torturous death upon a cross in the manner we see Jesus crucified in.  But, very sadly, the Romans crucified Jews for centuries before Jesus came onto the scene.  Very often — as Jesus will — the victims were forced to carry their cross as part of a shaming ceremony to the place of their execution.  Around 88 BC (so we’re in the vicinity of Jesus’ lifetime), more than 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Romans.  The execution line stretched for hundreds of yards, and it was surely a gruesome display.  The reason?  A powerful warning to any who would undermine Rome: this can happen to you.  In Jesus’ day, it was a common place punishment for criminals and those who chose to undermine the state.  Know about “taking up a cross”?  It was probably a weekly occurrence.

Q. (Mark 8:36): Name that tune!  V. 36 is a popular song right now on the radio.  Anyone want to find the song and then we’ll see what we can do.  Do the people have any concept of soul?

A. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coHKdhAZ9hU

Here’s the song, good one.  Most Jews in Jesus’ day believed in some sort of state of immortality, and that God would raise them to new life on the last day.

Q. (Matthew 16:27-28): I thought Jesus was our savior and God was our creator.

A. Jesus is our savior, but He is also going to be the Judge of all humanity.  This is one of the most common refrains of the NT: Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Q. (Luke 9:26): So, we are not to be ashamed of God.  That can be a tough one until you understand the importance of life.  There are a lot of people out there who go to church, but won’t pray.

A. Prayer is certainly important, but ultimately Jesus desires us to be changed by His efforts, and prayer is only one avenue of it (albeit an important one).  The question we have to ask ourselves is “are others capable of seeing the work God is doing in my life, or not?”  If we are making an intentional effort to conceal our faith, well, then I’d say Jesus’ warning is a stern one.

Q. (Mark 9:2-13): Is it important who Jesus revealed His secret too?

A. If you mean is there something significant about Peter, James, and John, then yes.  They are Jesus’ inner inner circle, if that makes sense.  They are the three men, even among His apostles, that are closest to Him, and will most closely share His journey.

O: (Matthew 17:5-6): This is an incredible time.  God has known all along that He was going to sacrifice His son and now after hundreds or thousands of years, he finally has to go through with it.

Q. (Matthew 17:12): Have we read anything about Elijah returning?

A. Yes.  We read about his parents and his birth in Luke 1, John talks about him in John 1, and Jesus is talking about him here.  We addressed who Elijah is — not a reincarnation of the man himself, but the voice of a Prophet — a few days ago, but I can’t remember the reference.

Day 271 (Sept. 28): Nicodemus questions Jesus about being born again, John the Baptist exalts Jesus, Jesus lights up lives of Samaritan village

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.

John 3:1-36

John 4:1-45

Questions & Observations

Q. (John 3:1-22): Nicodemus acknowledges Jesus’s power and comes to Him to seek answers about being born again.  I don’t understand why Jesus answers in riddles instead of more directly.  Is it that Jesus knows Nicodemus’s heart, so He knows He will not understand baptism and getting to heaven?  How could Nicodemus understand baptism when it is a fairly new concept (except for you explaining how the priests were cleansed with water in the OT)?

A. I honestly have no idea why Jesus answered in the way He did, but apparently it was what Nicodemus needed to hear.  Our former pastor, Isaac, once gave a sermon about this encounter where he noted that Nicodemus probably went away from this encounter with more questions than answers.  But since he had this personal encounter with Jesus, the questions faded in significance.  He has met the Man, and so the questions no longer mattered.

I think the baptism question is understood as being something that was fairly new, but not brand new — John may have been doing it for some time before this encounter, and as I mentioned, this tradition is grounded in the priestly washing and ritual cleansing ceremonies of the Jewish faith.

Q. (John 3:16): This is probably the most recited verse in the Bible.  And, simply put, is beautiful and direct.  So, if you believe that Jesus is God’s son and our Savior, then you will live eternally.  But, in 3:5, Jesus says that we must be “born again” if we ever want to see the kingdom of heaven.  So, baptism has two purposes: to repent and wash away your sins and to receive the Spirit.  But also, when I was baptized, I was asked if I believed that Jesus was God’s son.  This is why they ask that, because you won’t receive the Spirit if you don’t believe in Jesus?  Since I was baptized so young, I often wonder if I was of the right, mature mind to do so.  I do feel the Spirit in me, but not all the time.  Many times my personality dominates, but the Spirit is getting stronger.  Like I said before, I never had that “wow” moment when Jesus came into my life.  It just seems like He was always there because I grew up going to church every Sunday.  I was 9 or 10 years old when I was baptized. I worry that my baptism wasn’t “official” in God’s eyes.

Then, there is the question about all those people who are good people, but have had little or no exposure to Jesus.  Will they be saved?  There are so many topics to discuss on baptism.

A. Wow, that was a mouthful.  Let’s untangle one of your famous 10 question questions!  (I kid!)  While baptism is an important part of the act of becoming a Christian, it is NOT what saves us: only the blood of Jesus does that, at least that’s my understanding of baptism and atonement.  Baptism is a public declaration that one has decided to follow Christ, but it does not do anything to change our state in God’s “eyes”: it is our faith in Christ that changes our standing, not immersion in water.  That’s why the questions and public declarations are so important: THEY (representing your faith) are the true mark of salvation, and what allows for the presence of the Holy Spirit to enter into our hearts.  So with that understanding, I think it is safe to say I feel no worry about your baptism being “official” to God — it ultimately matters far less than your heart and desire to be like Christ RIGHT NOW.

Alright, we’re heading for some pretty deep water in the “what about people who are good but don’t know Jesus” issue, one that has no simple answer.  I call this the “Gandhi Scenario,” since he is the most common “good person” named when this issue comes up.  I’m going to tell you my opinion, but since we’re dealing with issues of salvation and afterlife, I really can’t say I’m any sort of expert.

First, as the OT has long established, there are no “good people.”  Every human who has lived from Adam and Eve on down has chosen the path of sin and turned away from God.  So trying to say that there’s “good” people out there who just haven’t heard the Gospel is stacking the deck on this question.  It simply doesn’t in any way match what Scripture tells us (take for example, Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 6:13, and Psalm 14:1-3).  One of the central understandings needed to fully grasp Christianity is the gravity of our situation: we think of ourselves (and others) as good people who just need a little “help,” but the reality the Bible points to is that we are impossibly corrupt people who have hearts of stone and no desire to follow after God!  None!  It is not simply that we want help but can’t get it, it is that we flatly REJECT the very notion that we need God’s help.  The ship is going down, and we say, “I’m fine on my own” to the person (Jesus) offering us a lifejacket.  THAT is our reality, so let’s dispense with this “good person” nonsense.  We can see this truth in the people that others have throughout the generations seen as the most holy or righteous: these individuals (I’m thinking of Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi just as two examples) are quick to say they see the corruption in their own souls, and no matter how “holy” the world sees them, the rightly see themselves as not measuring up to God’s perfect standard without His help.  So even the people who others would declare, “that’s a perfect, holy, good person” would turn and quickly say, “not compared to Christ, I’m not.  I’m hopeless without Him.”

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s address the major issue here: the necessity of having to have the Gospel preached to you in order for you to have salvation.  To be honest, this question has at its heart a core of distrust in God.  If we learned anything in the OT, it is that God is the Being who can be trusted.  As you noted, this verse (John 3:16) is everywhere, and it declares God’s everlasting love for not just His people, but the entire world — past, present, and future.  That doesn’t mean that God will ignore or not punish our sin, but that in the midst of all else, Scripture declares a love of God for His creation.  So it seems incredibly unlikely to me that God would declare eternal damnation upon a soul simply because that person never got to hear about Jesus.  Can we see God saying, “well, I’d love to admit you into heaven [we’ll deal with THAT misconception another day], but you never heard about my Son, so you’re out of luck.  Say Hi to the devil for me.”  Honestly, does that sound like the logic of God?  It certainly doesn’t to me.  In my opinion, each of us will be held responsible for acting on the information we know, not on the information that we don’t.  This is the same way I resolve all sorts of sticky issues that non-believes like to throw at Christians: what about the mentally handicapped?  What about infants who die?  What about Gandhi? Etc.  God is just, as He proved to Abraham — the Lord of all earth will do what is right (Genesis 18:25).

One more thing: just because I have made the above statement (God will do what is right) does NOT mean that I am convinced that all will be saved (a position known as Universalism).  I am simply stating that when all is said and done, each of us will know that God has done what is right and just in each of our eyes.  We will not be able to cry out to God, “it isn’t fair!”: God will have made all things right, and justice will be done.  Count on it.

O. (4:1): At many, many points in the NT, Jesus is concerned about crowds.  Here, we see that Jesus is getting a lot of attention and so He flees.  In a previous Bible study looking at the book of Mark, we discussed reasons that Jesus would have steered away from crowds: the larger the crowd, the angrier the Pharisees became; He tried to reach those in the countryside away from the larger cities; and Jesus needed to rest and the crowds wouldn’t let him.  I think the first reason was the dominant one in the study.  I just found another reason in the next day’s reading (Mark 1:38-39): he moved on to spread the word.  Upon going to my thinking spot (lol, can you tell my daughter has read A.A. Milne?), I can see where Jesus would speak and do a miracle or two, then his work was done there.  The people either accepted or proclaimed Him or they didn’t.  If they didn’t join in, staying there would only breed more rejection and then his life would be in danger.  So, why not spread the news in other places and harvest more believers!

O. (4:15): I never thought about the very nature of water before and how good it feels to the human body.  Swimming, drinking, bathing, splashing it on my face is all so refreshing.  There is nothing like it.  Then, to think Jesus is all that for eternity.  Nice symbolism.  Our bodies are made up of 70-some percent water.  Jesus should be more than that.  Just think how refreshing water is and then how refreshed Jesus can make us.

Q. (John 4:34-38): So, I understand that Jesus is finishing the work of God here.  God’s work is giving the people His Word and now His Son.  Jesus’s end of it is to spread the Word, be a live demonstration of God’s promises making more believers to the Kingdom of Heaven?  Although, we are nowhere near the awesomeness of Jesus, we are supposed to take His example and apply it to our own lives.  I do struggle with hearing God.  I listen for Him, but many times I do what I think is right in His eyes.  I have the Word to guide me and the Spirit, but many times I don’t know whether to take Road A or Road B.  Specifically, I have plans to expand this blog into something else.  It just popped into my head once when I was with my daughter and we immediately started brainstorming.  I assume this idea and some others that are related to it are from the Spirit.  But, since we are scraping by financially — God is providing what we need when we need it — I keep feeling the guilt for not bringing home a paycheck.  My brain says to keep charging ahead and I pray that my husband’s business will start earning more money (which it is picking up).  The waiting is so hard!

Back to the scripture.  I love how it says that some may plant, but He sends us to harvest things that we have not planted.  And we will all come together to gather the harvest (people brought to eternal life).  I like the picture painted here of God’s people working as one, all enjoying the harvest, not one taking credit for his/her work.

A.  Me too.  This is one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible (John 4).  Watch for other references to Samaria and Samaritans in the coming days, and let’s talk about who they were at a future date.

Day 268 (Sept. 25): Elizabeth’s baby jumps at Mary’s voice, Mary’s song of praise, birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah’s prophecy, Jesus’s birth, angels appear to shepherds, Jesus dedicated, Simeon’s prophecy, Anna’s prophecy

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 1:39-80

Matthew 1:18-25

Luke 2:1-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 1:67-80): So God must have spoken to Zechariah about who his son was and about for whom his son was preparing the way.  How did John know all about Jesus?

A. Maybe, but it doesn’t say that explicitly.  The Spirit was surely at work in this prophecy, one way or another.  You mean how did the baby inside Elizabeth know about the baby inside Mary?  I have no idea, but it appears there was some form of connection between them.

Q. (Luke 1:80): Why did John live in the wilderness?

A. There are multiple reasons possible, but there’s no evidence either way.  He might have done so to be part of the Essene community we mentioned yesterday, which operated outside of standard Jewish society.  He might have been something of a hermit who sought to escape society and be united with God.  It might just have been where he was comfortable, or perhaps God called him to this spot.  But that location will come into play in our story soon.

O. (2:7): Woohoo!

Q. (2:7, 12): I notice that Luke says twice that Jesus is wrapped snugly in strips of cloth.  Why would “snugly” be important?

A. I have no clue.  I have never seen it rendered that way, and there is no answer in the Greek (see for yourself: http://biblehub.com/text/luke/2-7.htm), so the translators are probably just using that phrasing so that the audience can follow the exact same phrase given to the shepherds later in the story.

Q. (2:9): I wonder why God chose to inform the shepherds of Jesus’s birth.  Why not the priests or just townspeople?

A. That is certainly a question that has perplexed Biblical scholars for ages.  God comes to those whose hearts are open to receive Him.  He also seems to favor the least and the last, and these shepherds would have been at the bottom of Jewish society.  The answer might also lie in what they were doing: keeping sheep, and lambs specifically.  The pastures outside of Bethlehem were the main area for raising the lambs that would be used in sacrifices at Passover.  That would certainly be in keeping with what Jesus was to us: the Lamb of God sacrificed in our place.  Perhaps that has something to do with it.

Q. (2:19): What does it mean by “Mary kept all these things in her heart?”  Just Jesus being born and all the glory around it?

A. This is one of the lines that has me convinced that Luke interviewed Mary as part of his process of compiling this gospel.  Other translations render this “treasured,” which I think hits the nail on the head: Mary was completely blessed and overwhelmed by what was happening, including how greatly that God had blessed her.

Q. (2:25-35): What is the purpose of Simeon — just to validate who Jesus is?

A. Once again, likely a story included because Luke asked Mary about the story of Jesus being presented in the Temple.  Don’t forget Luke is the outsiders’ Gospel.  The story of an old man and a prophetess (Anna, my oldest daughter’s middle name, means “a gracious woman”), rather than, say, the High Priest speaking this prophecy would certainly point to God using those outside the religious establishment to bless Mary and Joseph.  Note what Simeon is saying: that this child will reunite Jew and Gentile, and provide salvation to the whole world, not just Israel.  That is an amazing thought, and sure worth including!