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 147 (May 27): Proverbs prelude, wisdom is valuable, wisdom calls you, benefits of wisdom, trust the Lord, absorb your father’s wisdom

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.

Proverbs 1-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 1:1-4): I had never thought about this question, but this passage addresses it: Did the authors of the various books know their writings — and their very lives, for that fact — were for the benefit of others and it would be compiled into one book, the Bible?

A. I would say it is unlikely that the authors of the books we have been studying wrote them for compilation into a single volume, but I suspect that God was at work via the Spirit to make it happen.  As the verses tell us, Solomon and the others who compiled the volume lay out its purpose here: to proclaim universal wisdom for the benefit of future generations.  Later Jews saw great value in that, and incorporated it into what was call the OT.  They saw Proverbs, along with numerous other works, as inspired by God, which is what led them to “keep” the work as part of their collection.

Q. (1:19): This verse cuts to the core.  If we spend our time worrying about money or trying to accumulate more and more of it, then we miss out on the joys of everyday life.

A. Nice summary.

Q. (1:20-33): This talks about you reap what you sew.  But, I always thought that if someone who hasn’t been a follower reaches out to God in desperation would get some help because he’s acknowledging that God is able to save him.

A. I wouldn’t read theological significance into the passage: the author is making a point about the advantages of seeking Wisdom (personified as a woman).  Besides, as we have discussed, sin carries its own consequences, and the sin being discussed at this point is ignoring what Wisdom is trying to teach you (be wise, not sinful, etc.).  Ignoring Wisdom is not a death sentence (we can clearly state that God is merciful), but it can prove costly.

Q. (2:1-22): I can think of two ways to get wisdom: pray for it like Solomon did and read and absorb the lessons of the Bible.  I do feel I’m getting wiser from reading God’s Word.  I just feel that I have a better understanding of what He wants me to be and that understanding is heavily influencing my thoughts and actions to where they are not mine anymore, but God’s.  I have a long ways to go, but I definitely see how I can be more fulfilled through God.  Rob, are there any other ways to get wisdom?

A. Sure.  One of them would be read the works of those who have written on the Bible and studied it over the centuries, from Justin Martyr, to Augustine, to Jerome, Basil and Benedict, Luther and Calvin, Wesley (my personal favorite), and even great modern souls like C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, or Martin Luther King Jr.  Exploring the writings of these followers of Jesus can impart incredible wisdom to us.  Let me know if I need to point you in some directions on good places to start!

Q. (3:1-4): I have also been more aware of others lately and how my actions can or cannot influence them.  By engaging with someone on a positive note should brighten their day a little bit. (I don’t know why caring human interaction has a positive effect on people.  I suppose we may learn about this later?)  I know it does mine on both ends – when people engage me and when I engage with them.  Reaching out to people and vice versa makes me feel good.

A. Very wise.  Perhaps the Proverbs are wearing off on you already.

O. (3:5-6): My daughter learned this verse in Kindergarten, thus I did too.  It sums up this whole intro to Proverbs.

Q. (3:9-10): As I have said previously, if I won the lottery, I would give quite a bit of the money away.  I don’t even bother buying a lottery ticket unless God tells me the winning numbers.  But, if I did play and won, getting large amounts of money, I would feel guilty holding on to it because I feel God would want me to help others.  Yet, here it says that if we follow his path, he will “fill our barns.”  So, should we give away our wealth or just listen for God’s direction?

A. First of all, it doesn’t say how He will fill them.  I can tell you it most likely will NOT be via the lottery, which tends to have a horribly detrimental effect on the people who win it — google lottery curse if you want to see.  But generally, I feel that if God chooses to bless you with wealth in whatever way, He will be clear about what He desires for you to do with it, if you are willing to listen.

Q. (3:33-35): This is a hard question to ask, but … well, are the wicked’s fate doomed?  Can God work in their lives without any requests from his followers?  Or, are His followers solely responsible for bringing the wicked to Him?

A. One of the great mercies that Scripture makes clear is that we are not responsible for the lives of other people.  We are only responsible for ourselves.  That may sound cold, but ultimately, we are not capable of “saving” other people, whether they are “wicked” in our eyes or not.  God is in the business of saving souls, so leave that part to Him.  You’ll sleep better at night if you are not carrying another person’s salvation on your shoulders — I promise you!

The wicked are not necessarily doomed: in His mercy God may reach out to them in a non-fatal way to get their attention, but of course He is not required to.  One of the coolest thoughts I ever heard a pastor share was the idea of awakening in Heaven and exclaiming “you’re here?”  Never underestimate the power of God’s grace at work.  Without it, wicked or not, we are all lost.

Q. (4:16): This verse doesn’t seem possible to me.  I thought most people had a “reality-check” conscious.  What I mean is if someone does something wrong, although they may enjoy it, most people would know it’s wrong in their heart and feel guilty for it.  Verses like this help me feel that I’m in check and doing the right things.  I would be just the opposite: If I wronged someone, I would not be able to sleep.

A. If you have spent years ignoring that little voice inside you that says “you are wrong and you need to seek forgiveness (or forgive, or repent, etc.),” eventually it stops talking or we can no longer hear it.  I suspect that’s the idea that the writer has in mind: that of a criminal so hardened that they can’t sleep at night unless they do something bad.  This is another verse to not read very literally.  It is hyperbole.  Proverbs is full of it, so hang on!

Day 73 (March 14): Moses calls Israelites to fully commit to God, loyalty comes with rewards, remember God’s blessings, God to drive out the wicked from Canaan, Moses lays out sin of golden calf again

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 6-9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 6:2): What is God referring to here when he says “you will enjoy a long life?”  Is he referring to eternal life or just that they will live a long, healthy life on earth?

A. There is not much discussion of eternal life in the first five books of the Bible.  It is a concept that is introduced later, notably in the New Testament.  Moses is speaking only of a prosperous, healthy temporal life on earth.

O. (6:4): What a simple, great verse, but so hard to wholeheartedly get my mind and heart around.  I find it extremely hard to forget about “myself” and replace it with God — God’s will.  I often wonder when I will get to this point in my life and how I can let myself go and welcome God in.  I have definitely taken baby steps in this endeavor and it feels great when I do, but then I need to take even bigger steps to get that same feeling.  I am looking forward to a complete turnover.  That’s the major reason I am reading the Bible in a Year.  Not to do it fast like a race, but to commit myself to studying all of it so I can know God better and what he wants me to do with my life that will help others and help Him.  And, I hope to find the time when I can fully give up my own wishes for God’s.  It’s just so hard to fathom!

Anyone else want to chime in?

O. (6:6-9): This sounds like what our schools want us to do.  We put posters up and try hard to teach our kids everything the standardized tests want them to learn, but how many people post God’s rules all over their house and recite them regularly to their children? Where do our world’s priorities lay?

Q.  (7:7): It is pretty amazing that God chose Abraham, who had no children, to be the father of all nations.  Then, he finally gave him one child Isaac.  These were both good men who followed God, thus God’s love for them and promises to them.  But, there is nothing special about this nation, other than the fathers of it were loyal to God.  So, it is interesting that God chose the Israelites.  Rob, can we talk about this a little?  Like, why God chose anyone?  What is the purpose of God having his own people?  I assume it’s for God to have a model nation to show his power through them, that he is the one, true God.  Are there any other reasons for choosing them?

A. I think that the relationship between God and Abraham is special, as Genesis indicates, and the Bible writers go out of their way to point out that when God makes a promise, He is faithful to it — unlike us.  So, part of the reason that God is so faithful to this particular nation, that there is nothing else especially interesting about, is that He is keeping His word to Abraham.

 

In the Old Testament, God is painting an image of a nation that will be a shining light to the rest of the world: a symbol of what right relationship between God and man looks like.  At this stage, it looks like this: God sets the terms of the relationship in exchange for the great provisions that He will pour out on His people, as long as they are faithful to the covenant.  We will see Israel’s unfaithfulness explored a lot more in the coming texts, but we will also see the way that the Prophets of God (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, among others) will powerfully describe the way that God has remained faithful not only to His promises, but also His vision for the nation of Israel — as unfaithful as she is — to be a light to the Gentile world.

O. (7:9-11): “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.”

These verses are a wonderful summary of the awards and consequences of following God’s rules.  Loving God is for the Israelite’s benefit.  These are verses that you can take either with a “half-empty” or “half-full” approach.  Half empty, you can either read it that if the Israelites don’t obey God, they will be punished.  Or, half full, read it if they love God, they will give them his unfailing love.

Q. (7:12-14): These verses suggest that if the Israelites obey God they will be fruitful — I would think that would translate into “rich” — but the Bible also says that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Is this contradicting?

A. I don’t see a contradiction, and I think that part of the passage we just read helps us understand the distinction.  The camel/needle idea comes from Matthew 19:24, in which Jesus is warning against the way that wealth tends to blind us to our own need for God.  A rich person is not necessarily dependent upon God in order to prosper or succeed.  But that is the danger: it is not the money in and of itself, but what the money does to our spiritual priorities.  In this passage (6:12), we see Moses give a careful warning: you are about to enter a realm, he says, where you and your families will prosper.  Be careful, therefore, that when you have all this stuff, that you DON’T FORGET GOD!  That, I think, is the real danger of wealth and riches in that it insulates us to our own need for God.  Such insulation can truly make it easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to properly understand their own need for God who has greatly blessed them.  I hope that makes it clear.

Q. (7:15): To me this also has a contradiction in it to the NT.  Here God says he will protect his followers from sickness, but doesn’t the NT say that sickness can come to Christians?  We have seen it come to Job in the OT.  That was a different circumstance.  And, it doesn’t seem that this necessarily applies to today, right.  This “sickness-free” decree was meant for the Israelites?

A. I’m not even sure if I would say that Moses is doing anything but making a rhetorical argument about how good the Israelites will have it in the Promised Land if they are faithful to God.  I would say that much of what he is promising here is hyperbole: you will NEVER get sick, your animals will ALWAYS have offspring, etc.  I would not take such promises completely literally: Moses is saying that you will have it good in this country.  And honestly, part of the problem with the entire scenario is that we never get to find out how much of it was what God truly promised: the people will be unfaithful to the covenant, so they lose out on the promises anyway.

In general, it is a good idea to consider that any promise, rhetorical or not, made in scripture is only applicable for the people that it is written to, unless the promise specifically says it can be applied to different circumstances.  It’s a good rule of thumb for such sections of scripture.  We will see more examples of this, and I will try to highlight instances where either scenario is appropriate.

O. (7:16-20): The Israelites are reminded again and again about God bringing them out of Egypt.  After they failed God, I can understand the constant reminders.  I, too, need constant reminders of everything God has done for me and that nothing is impossible and everything is possible.

O. (8:5): I never thought of this analogy before, that we are to God what our children are to us.  That puts some perspective on our relationship to God: that we are devoid of power and not comparable to Him.

Q. (9:1-6): I am struggling with the question of why God tries so hard to make the Israelites realize that He is all powerful?  Why does He care so much?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are long gone.  If He were human, he would have likely given up on them, after all of their failings, a long time ago.

A. I would actually answer this the same way I answered our question from 7:7: God has made a covenant with Abraham, and He is faithful to keep it, even in light of the failings of each generation.  One other thing to remember: the nation of Israel will give birth to the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus is the one who will set not just Israel, but the entire world to rights with God.  So certainly part of God’s plan is to use this nation, in spite of its failings, to bring about a restored relationship for all humanity — past, present, and future.  Why God chose these people is beyond our full comprehension, but as Christians, we can see the way that God is laying the foundations so that one day, God Himself will walk the earth as one of us to save us from our sins and teach us the right way to be in relationship with Himself and one another.

One other reaction I had to the way you phrased your question: be careful about assuming that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are “long gone” as you put it.  When Jesus was confronted about the afterlife, He clearly pointed to the idea that these men were still alive with God.  He quotes God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 3 when God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.  God, Jesus tells us, is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living!  (Matthew 22:32)  What an amazing verse!  So, perhaps we would be careful about assuming that God is any less faithful in the afterlife to these men, and those who faithfully follow Him, as He was when they were living.

See you tomorrow!