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 294 (Oct. 21): Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus explains God’s intentions on marriage, Jesus welcomes the children, rich man has difficulty letting go of possessions

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 18:9-14

Mark 10:1-31

Matthew 19:16-30

Luke 18:18-30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 18:9-14): I take it from this scripture, that none of us are better than the other.  As soon as you think you are doing well by yourself because of yourself, you become less dependent upon God, which pulls you farther away from Him.

A. The issue here is not the being “better” or worse (and you’ve got that right, by the way).  The issue is pride and contempt: the Pharisee holds those around him in contempt, and sees himself as superior.

Q. (Mark 10:5-12, Matthew 19:9): I don’t understand what “a concession to your hard hearts” means.  Also, here the Bible says that couples should not get divorced.  It’s a sin.  But, I take it’s a forgivable sin? Divorcees can still be saved, right?  Isn’t it Catholics who deny divorcees from some customs?  I didn’t think they will marry anyone who is divorced.  Also, Matthew says it’s OK to divorce if a spouse has an affair?

A. There’s a line between what God desires for us, and what God permits, and this is a clear case of a line given.  God allows divorce under certain circumstances, but His IDEAL is that there would not be divorce.  As we have mentioned, any sin can be forgiven, and this one is certainly included.  It is not the policy of some churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, to permit divorce routinely, because they see it as a separating of what God Himself joined, for better or worse, I guess.

Day 289 (Oct. 16): Jesus casts out demons, Jesus defeats devil accusations, sign of Jonah, receiving the light, Jesus confronts Pharisees, warning against hypocrisy, fear God, parable of bountiful farmer, Jesus says to not worry about everyday matters, store treasures in heaven

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 11:14-12:34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 11:16): This verse makes me think of a question I’ve had.  It seems that somewhere I have read where you are not to test God.  I have a friend who is a strong Christian but believes that rules don’t have to be followed to the “T” — not really God’s rules, but just everyday rules that have little authority.  Her philosophy is to do first and ask forgiveness later.  I think that many rules are put there for a reason, usually involving some wisdom in making them.  On a bigger scale, I have read somewhere but don’t remember where, where we are not to put God to the test.  This is sort of what’s going on in this verse.

A. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 to the Devil in Matthew 4 — that’s the verse you’re thinking of.  As to being a rule follower, part of the choice we have thanks to the freedom offered to us in the Gospels is the freedom of choice when it comes to laws and rules that do not affect our relationship with God.  But the Bible has much to say about following the rules AND rulers, so watch for that in our NT letters.

Q. (11:21-23): I remember talking about how good rules over evil.  I like that discussion.  Rob, do you remember what day that was?  My husband was working on his Bible Study Fellowship homework and read where if you are not with God, then Satan rules over you.  Is Luke 11:23 a verse that supports that?

A. We addressed that question Oct. 5.  The only thing I would add to that discussion is the reason that good wins out over evil in the end is because good (that is God) is willing to do what evil will not, including make sacrifices on behalf of others in a way that evil does not.  Good conquers all because it is willing to go further than evil: evil tends to make us inwardly focused, but good makes us “others focused”.  That is why God, or Good, or Love, wins.

We do not know the extent that Satan is allowed to “rule” over anyone, but Satan is referred to ask the ruler of this world, so you can draw your own conclusions from there.  Certainly not being with Christ leaves one vulnerable to such attacks, as the poor person from the next section (24-26).  The moral of the parable, by the way, is don’t leave your “house” empty: fill your mind and heart with the Gospel, and the demon has nowhere to go!

Q. (11:24-26): We have seen this passage in another Gospel.  I don’t get it at all.  What is the message in it?

A. Yes, it was in Matthew 12.  The point of the parable is, as I shared in the last question, that you can’t just “cast out the demons” of your life and expect to be all right on your own.  You must FILL your mind and heart with something new in order for the process of change to take place.  That’s what He’s talking about: it’s a direct attack against the idea that He is “powered” by demonic forced, rather than God.

O. (11:33-36): Watching movies — video games too — is such a mainstream activity that I usually don’t feel bad for watching the ones I watch.  I am not into “guy” movies — no blood and guts, shooting scenes, all that stuff.  I like adventure and comedies.  But, of course, there are elements to many movies that don’t feel like I’m using my “light” very well.  Our daughter’s class is scheduled to see the play, “Jackie and Me” at the local children’s theater.  The theater notified the school that it has some racial language in it.  They sent us a couple pages of the script so we would be aware of what they were seeing and can opt out if we choose.  My husband and I read it and there was just so much hate and a scary scene that would have given me nightmares as a kid.  I think it’s very important that we teach the past so we won’t repeat and have knowledge of what people went through and how horribly rude and evil people can be.  But, I don’t think this play would be a “light” for a third grader.  Many parents feel different than we do.  I don’t know if there is a right and wrong to this subject or if we just chalk it up to difference of opinion and tolerance and celebrate that we are all different.

Q. (11:37-54): What a stressful dinner!  At first, I thought “all of this over not washing your hands.”  What is the big deal anyway?  It’s great idea to wash your hands before you eat.  But then, I realized that Jesus just used it to make a point.  They get so bent out of shape over the breaking of their “own” laws, like washing hands, yet they are so corrupt in so many ways — making up their own laws, not helping the needy, taking more than they should, etc — that Jesus chose this meal to make a point of it.

A. The only thing I would add is that the Pharisees are not washing their hands out of sanitation practice (as we have established, there was no such thing then), but rather as a burdensome ritual.

Q. (12:1): Why does Jesus refer to the Pharisees corruption as “yeast”?

A. A little goes a long way.  It was Jewish ritual — then and now — to sweep the house for yeast around Passover before making the unleavened bread.  Why?  Because if there is even a tiny trace of yeast, it can ruin a batch of bread (if you want the bread without leavening).  That’s what Jesus is concerned about: the religious leaders’ “taint,” for lack of a better word, which can ruin people.

O. (12:11-12): I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of hours I have wasted worrying or thinking about what I was going to do or say.  It causes internal turmoil, depression and sleepless nights.  Now I know that Jesus is saying, “I’ll take it for you.  Go on, give it to me.”  I have handed Him a lot, so I’m considerably more mellow — internally and externally (my friends all say I’m mellow.  My mom knows better. J)  Now, I look back at things I stress over and wonder why on earth I didn’t give those cares to Jesus.  My best friend was wrestling with a subject with her husband.  She was stressing over it.  We don’t get the chance to talk very often, but I checked back in with her a few weeks later to see how it was going.  She said, “Jesus told me, ‘I got this one.’”  She had totally dismissed the subject.  It’s so cool what the Trinity can do for us!

Q. (12:13-21, 33-34): How about if you have some extra stuff or maybe lots of money, but have a great relationship with God?  There are many evangelists who I’m sure are very wealthy.  God has rewarded them with prosperity or should they be sharing with the less fortunate?  I’m thinking you will say that God would guide each person, if he or she were to ask Him, as to what He expects of them.  Hard to say, right?  Does v. 33 answer this for us?  Love v. 34.  That’s one to write down!

A. Don’t forget Jesus’ warning that you cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), but this does not mean they are mutually exclusive.  What really got the man in trouble was his greed and lack of consideration of others.  If you are granted money by God (however much), then God expects you to be generous with it — that’s a big way we can store up treasure in heaven as Jesus tells us.  It is also helpful to remember that all we have belongs to God in the end: these things belong to God because WE belong to God.  When we have that mentality, we are much more likely to be generous with what we have, and to be able to use our monetary earnings to bless others, rather than build comfort for ourselves.  (Leigh An: This reminds me of the song on the radio about not being from this earth, place or something like that.  Rob, really painted the “big picture” here.  Awesome answer!)

Day 276 (Oct. 3): Pray from the heart, fast privately, store treasures in heaven, God will take care of your needs, do not judge others, prayers are answered, golden rule, few find gate to heaven, actions are telling of a person, true disciples, God is a solid foundation

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.

Matthew 6:5-7:6

Luke 6:37-42

Matthew 7:7-20

Luke 6:43-45

Matthew 7:21-29

Luke 6:46-49

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 6:5-13): I remember huge prayers circles during revivals at my childhood church.  We circled around the pews along the perimeter of the sanctuary and held hands.  As a little kid, listening to prayers go on and on was grueling.  I think some of them just liked to hear themselves.  I wonder if those prayers are pleasing to God?  I am not much of a group prayer person.  I just say what’s in my heart, but — guilty — I often thank and request more than praise.  The prayer Jesus gave us here as an example is really short.  I would assume long prayers are OK as long as it doesn’t go on and on repeating or if it’s just for attention-sake.

A. You’ve got the idea.  Prayer should be about sharing our needs with God (including our feelings — God knows them anyway), and being open to what He desires to tell each of us.  There’s no need for it to be either purposefully longwinded — though it if happens to be, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s not like saying the words more or saying more makes God listen “better.”  As Jesus said, He knows our needs, but ultimately, prayer is about aligning our will with God, and addressing both what is on our heart and on God’s heart together.

O. (6:16-18): I am sure we have talked about fasting before.  I’ll save Rob the repetition.  I googled fasting and came up with this informative article: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/prayerandcounseling/intercession/hickey_prayerfasting06a.aspx

Q. (6:25-34): Food doesn’t seem very important to God and Jesus.  Humans think of it constantly.  It’s hard not to.  What are you going to give the kids for breakfast, what to pack them for lunch, what to make for the family for a nice warm meal?  And, keep sugar down, protein, fiber and veggies up and try to save money too.  Is the food pyramid unnecessary?  The Bible says not to worry about food.  Backing up to the verse previous verse where it says one cannot serve God and money.  If you have been reading this blog, you know that my husband retired from the military and started a new business and I have been a stay-at-home mom since my first child was born 8 ½ years ago.  I have applied at 8 various retail places, but no one wants to hire me because I made too much at my previous job and I don’t want to work on Sundays.  (I haven’t been looking a whole lot lately, because I’ve been busy and I haven’t received any direction on it from God.  Right now, this blog is my job, which I enjoy) Thus, money has been tight.  We’ll get to the first week of our monthly retirement check and have to watch our money.  But, it hasn’t all been bad, in fact it’s been a little liberating.  I don’t have to have the cupboards stocked, my kids have a lot of play time together because they are not in any extra-curricular activities and we talk to God a lot more than we used to.  I have a ways to go, but turning my life over to him is hard, but very fulfilling.  You?

A. Your thoughts on money as it relates to your walk with God are quite interesting, and I’m glad you are on a journey of exploration for what God desires you and your family to do next.  As to your assertion about God’s concern about food, I would make two responses.  The largest point Jesus is trying to make here, and also in the wilderness, is that food ISN’T everything.  There are more important things in life than food, though it is certainly important.  But if you constantly dwell on not having enough food — or the wrong kind of food, or whatever — you miss the point Jesus is sharing with us.  God will provide for our needs, even if not in the quantity — monetary or otherwise — that we might desire.  We must hold to our faith, and trust that God will provide.  To do otherwise will likely make us ungrateful for what God HAS provided.

The other thing is that I would disagree with your assessment of God/Jesus not caring about food.  The Gospels contain numerous stories told over broken bread, lessons based upon food, and great concern for feeding the people of God (the feeding of the 5000 is coming!)  But again, the point is clear: food should not be what drives us, our faith in God should.

Q. (7:1-6): The first part is hard, but the more we live, the more we learn that judging is worthless.  What good does it do?  None.  As far as what judging is, I think it’s putting your opinion on someone and pigeon-holing them to that characteristic you are judging.  They are so much more than that.  At a small group meeting, we were talking about homosexuality.  The group leader said he had a gay friend who said he is labeled as “gay” and that the rest of his personality doesn’t matter to others.  He said he wishes it wasn’t a defining characteristic of him.  I can understand that.  But, while maybe my best friend would be gay or an adulterer or whatever, I am not to judge him or her.  However, that doesn’t mean that God approves of their sins, but he does accept them?  And could you explain how to apply v. 6?

A. I knew a minister who said that we tend to treat sin like a creampuff, when it’s more like a rattlesnake.  That is, sin is actually dangerous, if not always to our bodies, but it is poison to our souls.  Should God “accept” one (or all) of His children playing with a poisonous viper that could kill them?  As a parent, I wouldn’t!  But here’s the thing: it is not our job to judge the hearts and actions of other people.  That’s what these verses are about.  The other thing that Christians tend to forget — especially now that there are more and more non-Christians out there in our post-Christian society — is that we cannot reasonably hold non-Christians to Christian standards of behavior.  It’s a waste of time and counterproductive.  THAT is what Jesus is talking about in verse 6 (he’s using crude language to do so, frankly): don’t waste your time giving holy, precious things (pearls) over to creatures that don’t even realize their value.  The end result is going to be failure.  That’s not to say we should lack a desire to TEACH Christian values to others, and proclaim the Gospel message, but it is wrong to HOLD OTHERS to our standards without them being aware of what they are or why we have them.  That is what it means to give pearls to swine.

Q. (7:12): This is pretty much the new commandment that encompasses the Law of Moses.  That, and the other more important one is “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,” right?  Is there anything you would like to add?

A. It’s not new, but yes.  As Jesus says, it is a summary of all that has come before.  We will see this come up again, so let’s hold off on further discussion for right now.

O. (7:15-20): My daughter just got done reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in school.  What a great book and movie.  I have only watched the movie.  This passage reminds me of the scene where the squirrels pin down Veruca Salt to see if she is a bad nut.  Here’s a link: (don’t worry, the incinerator doesn’t come on) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmISVHxjcAI

Q. (7:21-23): I imagine that these are the people who looked like they had a great heart, or professed to, but were a bad nut.  Now, they are begging God to save them.  I have heard that if someone claims Jesus Christ on their deathbed, they will be saved.  But not bad nuts who say they are willing to follow him once they see him?

A. As we discussed in previous days, it is very difficult to know about the afterlife decisions that God makes when it comes to our souls.  All we can know for certain is what Jesus is telling us here: if the message of the Gospel never gets to your heart, and causes you to desire to change your actions and do what God desires for you, then I would be very concerned that your soul is in peril (I don’t want there to be any uncertainty about what I’m saying, and what I think Jesus means).  If the Gospel has no effect on your heart, then I wonder if you understood the message at all!  Those who understand the Gospel are those who desire each day to be more and more like God as seen in the person of Jesus, because He shows us the best of who we can be when we are in tune with our Creator.  If we truly understand the Gospel, we cannot help but have it change us.

Q. (7:29): What does “real authority” mean here?

A. It refers to the way that Jesus (in yesterday’s reading) said “you have heard it said…” and then say, “…but I tell you.”  The rabbis of Jesus’ day would never have done that, because they would have considered it adding to the Word of God, which they took very seriously.  They spent all of their time interpreting the words that they already had (the OT), and would not have thought of speaking in such as manner as Jesus does here.  That is the real authority Jesus presented, and clearly it got noticed.