Day 337 (Dec. 3): Paul tells his story to crowd but is rebuked, Paul tells of Roman citizenship to thwart lashing, Paul goes before high council, Jews conspirte to kill Paul, Paul is sent to Caesarea

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Acts 21:37-23:35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 22:3, 22:25): Paul said he was from Tarsus, but then he says he was born in Rome.  These two places are far apart aren’t they?

A. Ha!  Being a Roman citizen is not the same as being BORN in Rome.  A Roman citizenship could be granted in any province of the Empire — including Tarsus, where Paul is from — and it would mean that Paul’s family was wealthy and influential.  It basically means that Paul was an official citizen of the Roman Empire, which put him squarely under the protection of the commander and governor.  Paul is pulling out his “trump card” here in order to “move up the ladder” and witness to those in authority.

Q. (22:22-23): I guess the crowd didn’t like Paul’s story?

A. Nope, they did not, but it won’t matter.

Q. (23:6): This is the first time I’ve heard Paul call himself a Pharisee.  Why did he do that?

A. Because he was one — he will talk about it more in Philippians — but he did so in this case to divide Sadducee and Pharisee in order to, again, avoid trouble and remove himself from the situation.  He’s clever in that way.

Day 336 (Dec. 2): Paul meets the Ephesian elders and tells of his looming persecution, Paul says he has done all he can for the church, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, Paul is warned of his persecution, Paul is arrested and endures violent crowd

Countdown: 29 days

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 20:13-21:36

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 20:21): The charge is so easy and clear, but it gets lost so often because of human characteristics of pride, jealousy and greed.  I’m sure there are more.

Q. (Acts 20:26, 21:4): Paul has used every moment of his new life — not when he persecuted Christians — to reach as many people as possible to tell them the Good News so they would follow God.  So, now he has put the responsibility of their salvation in their hands, saying he has done everything possible to save them.  And, he is telling them that this is their last chance to listen to him since he knows he will be persecuted in Jerusalem.  But, why can’t Paul be protected from this persecution by the Holy Spirit telling him to go elsewhere?  Jesus already died on the cross, why does Paul need to die a martyr’s death?  This leads me to the next question in v. 21:4.  Why would the Holy Spirit tell the believers to plead with Paul not to go to Jerusalem when the Spirit is guiding Paul there?  Is it that they were told his fate by the Holy Spirit so that’s why they don’t want him to go — not really that the Spirit TOLD them to keep Paul from going to Jerusalem?

A. This scene points to some important issues, so let’s clear some things up.  The Spirit is using the prophets along the way to warn Paul about what fate will befall him, but NOT to keep him from going — 20:22 tells us plainly that the Spirit is compelling Paul to go to Jerusalem, though he will be captured.  Now there are several reasons for this, but the major one that is worth noting is what God will do THROUGH Paul while he is captured. You will see how this happens as we continue reading Acts and in his so-called “Prison letters” — Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Now I understand the question at the heart of what you’re asking: why does Paul have to die if Jesus already died.  Well, the answer is…he’s not dead yet, and God will use Paul in powerful ways before he dies.  Paul has no interest in “dodging” suffering: he desires to be used for the Glory of God, and if that is the way God desires to use him, then Paul is ready.  Note what happened with the Jailer back in Acts 16: Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, but God used this beating and imprisonment to proclaim a message of salvation to the Jailer and his whole family- something that NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED without Paul and Silas being in prison.  It is our nature — especially modern society — to try our best to dodge and avoid pain and suffering as much as possible, but God has always used pain and suffering to accomplish his ends, including the death of his followers.  While it can be uncomfortable to hear about, we must understand that it was through suffering that God used Jesus to change EVERYTHING for us!  God brings light out of the darkest places, if we will but follow and have faith.

Day 335 (Dec. 1): Paul cautions about false apostles, Paul tells of his persecution, Paul boasts of his weakness, Paul’s vision and his thorn, Paul is concerned about the Corinthians, Paul encourages church to rid themselves of sin and he is coming soon, Paul revives Eutychus

Countdown: 30 days!

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.

2 Corinthians 11-13:14

Acts 20:7-12

Questions & Observations

Q. For most of this whole reading Paul is on the church in Corinth with some corruption of some kind.  But, we don’t know what it is, or why is it important to include their scuffles in the Bible?  Paul also defends his character of not being a burden to the church.  It sounds like maybe some false apostles were influencing the church and bad-mouthing Paul?

A. The major thrust of Paul’s argument is that the people were not being faithful to their call, which is certainly something we can understand today — allowing sin to creep into our lives, even as believers.  Yes, it sounds like Paul’s enemies were slandering him in his absence.

Q. (2 Corinthians 11:13): How can false apostles be differentiated from true ones?

A. By their fruit (Matthew 7:16).  Are your teachers sewing unity, love, compassion, etc?  If so, then most likely they are a genuine follower of Christ (though deceit is surely possible, it can and does happen to the best).  But if the major “fruit” of a teacher is false doctrine, compromises in orthodoxy, disunity, division, then your church might be in danger, though I freely admit that the power of grace can change hearts if there is a genuine desire for a false teacher to repent.

Q. (2 Corinthians 11:30): I understand what Paul is saying in that he becomes strong when he thinks about his human person being weak, because then he relies on God’s strength which makes him a stronger person.  But, I don’t understand what Paul is saying his weaknesses are.

A. Paul does not explicitly tell us, even the one he mentions — the thorn — is a bit of an unknown.  Speaking of…

Q. (12:7): The thorn in his flesh is Satan’s torment?  Or, is he talking about an actual physical pain here?  We know that Paul has his share of ailments from the amount of physical persecution he has endured.

A. The best guess we have is it is some sort of physical aliment.  It is not a literal torment of Satan, but a metaphorical torment.  Other people think it is some sort of “pet” sin that Paul had, or a regular temptation that he faced, though these seem like a bit more of a stretch to me.

Q. (12:11): Why would Paul need to apologize to the church for not becoming a financial burden on them?  Is he saying that if they had financially supported him more that they would feel a stronger connection to him — and feel more responsible for his well being?

A. He’s being sarcastic by saying that he’s “apologizing” for not being a burden to them.  That’s all.

Q. (13:7): What is this “demonstrating authority” that Paul is threatening the church with?

A. It appears he is saying that he will discern between those who are right and those who are in sin, and he does not want to have to use his God-given authority this way.  He would rather that the people repent of their sin and turn back to God, that he visit can be joyful.

Day 333 (Nov. 29): Forgiveness for the sinner, God’s apostles are genuine, old covenant doesn’t compare to glory of new covenant, our power is from God, bodies die but spirits are renewed daily, we are God’s ambassadors, Paul’s hardships

Countdown: 32 days

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.

2 Corinthians 2:5-6:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11): Who is the sinner Paul is talking about and what trouble did he/she cause?

A. We don’t know: we are never given that information, but it was clearly someone who was attempting to lead members of the congregation astray.  It is possible that it is one of the Jewish cult group members that Paul referred to in the first letter.

Q. (3:6): So, in the OT, there was no reward to look forward to if the people obeyed the laws?  But, we know it wasn’t all death.  Many of the “Hall of Famers” — Abraham, Moses, Elijah — are with God because they are mentioned later of being in heaven.  And, those who didn’t obey, certainly faced death from God’s wrath, some died almost instantly.

A. I do not think Paul is making afterlife distinctions, but is rather arguing that the New covenant is an improvement on the old from his perspective.  Even the “winners” of the Old covenant were saved by their faith, not by their actions under the Law.

Q. (3:16-18): Back to our discussion about the Trinity and the Holy Spirit being separate from God, but still God.  Here, it clearly states that the Spirit is the Lord.  This would support the Jehovah Witnesses’ belief (Note from Rob: are you sure you wrote that right?  It’s the opposite- a scripture indicating the Spirit is God IS THE OPPOSITE of what JWs believe).  Personally, the Trinity is a little confusing.  I definitely understand the concept, but I think the arguments play a game of semantics that, in the end, doesn’t really matter.  I believe that the Spirit acts for us in God’s behalf.  But, whether the Spirit is separate (but acts in the same vein) or is God himself doesn’t really matter.  It’s all holy and kind of one in the same to a certain degree. (I know God, the Father, is the ultimate).  But, like Jesus said, if you have seen Him (Jesus), you have seen the Father.  I would think the Spirit would be the same thing, separate, but connected.

A. The Trinity has been a source of difficulty and confusion for a long time, so I wouldn’t worry about your comfort level with it.  The important thing to understand is that God has been at work in three Persons — Father, Son (Jesus) and the Spirit, which the Bible has said are ALL God.  The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus appeared to be God in human form, which is a common criticism of scripture, but that He was the Word of God made flesh — with God from the very beginning of time.  Christians do what some might consider a bit of hairsplitting by saying the Spirit of God is separate from God the Father, but we are doing so only because JESUS told us that the Spirit would be the gift of Father and Son to those who follow His name.  If you reread that last message Jesus gave His followers back in John, you can see that the clear doctrine of the Trinity, without the name, is what He has in mind.

Q. (4:16-18): So, with the struggles we have in proclaiming Jesus as our Savior, our selves starts to die and our new selves emerge.  That is so cool!

A. We start to die because that is the way of all life, with or without the Gospel.  But only those who are in Christ can have the great blessing of knowing that this decay can be amended and stopped by God’s intervention.  This is one of the central promises of the NT: that decay and death do not have to be the end.

O. Paul obviously has God working in him saying these amazing revelations.  No human alone could make all of these connections and say them so eloquently that your mind feels like it’s glowing in glory.

Day 321 (Nov. 17): Paul gives strong advice to the Thessalonica church, Paul encourages church to remain steadfast in the midst of persecution, Jesus’ second coming, Jesus will take down leaders and man of ‘lawlessness,’ Paul warns against being idle, God gives peace at all times, Gallio stands up for Paul, Paul returns to Antioch of Syria

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

2 Thessalonians 1-3:18

Acts 18:4-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22): Paul says a lot here.  Are these instructions concrete?  I would think they would be goals.  V. 16: I can’t imagine being joyful all the time.  We all have some low times.  It does seem like some people are much more joyful than others.  V. 18 says to be thankful in all circumstances.  I’m working on that one.  I must say, it would be very hard to thank God in some situations.  I know if you have faith, that whatever seemed so bad will have a reason. V. 22: I would think this means to stay away from evil for yourself.  If we are to reach some sinners, we must brush up to evil.

A. I think Paul is speaking of the position we should be desiring.  We should desire to joyful all the time, for that means that we are able to handle any circumstance.  Paul, like Jesus before him, was no stranger to sin, and surely recommends spreading the gospel among sinners while not sinning yourself.

Q. (2 Thessalonians 1:8): This verse makes it sound like believers will not be judged, only those who don’t follow Jesus.

A. Let’s hold onto this one until we get to Romans.

Q. (1:11-12): So, the church in Thessalonica is being persecuted by whom?  Paul is telling them in these two verses that their good works will bring glory to God.  Of course, God loves people standing up for Him.  However, this does not save a person, right?  People are saved by faith alone?

A. It is likely that the church there (and other places) was persecuted by Jews and Roman authorities, but it was probably not consistent.  The story Acts tells us of Jason being dragged before the civil authorities is probably a good telling example.  What the writers of our readings have been pointing to is the idea that being persecuted offers you the opportunity to test your own heart: are you strong enough to preach the gospel even in the midst of persecution?  As you suggest, this action will not save us, but this level of bravery is surely the sign of a true believer, whose faith WILL save them.

Q. (2:1-12): I was talking to a friend about the horror of the end of days that the pastor at our former church was preaching on.  It was absolutely horrific.  My friend said that she hoped she was in the grave when “the days” come.  I’m with her.  Is it bad to hope that we don’t have to face it?  We have no idea who the “man of lawlessness” is in v. 3?  V. 11 says that God caused them to be greatly deceived, but from the context, I would guess that it means more like God showed them the choice to be saved, but they rejected it.  And because they refused to go “good,” God allows them to be condemned.  What do you say to this, Rob?

A. I see nothing wrong with not wanting to face a time of trial or deal with difficult times, but understand that this may be GOD’S desire for us!  We must be willing to answer the call, even to preach in the midst of difficult times.  As to who the “man” is, this is an image of the anti-Christ, which we will see again in John’s writings and in Revelation.  This is an image of the supreme human evil — but not Satan — who puts himself directly in opposition to the work of Christ (hence “anti”).  There are tons of ideas out there about who this man is (some, for example, say it is Obama, which is just ridiculous), but I’m not going to offer much in the way of speculation except to say that we as believers will know him when we see him.  I, like you, hope that I never have to worry about it at all!

Q. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15): This is a hard passage.  Sometimes I feel lazy, but I have never thought about being lazy in the spirit, which I think this verse addresses both — lazy in spirit and lazy in earning money.  I feel guilty when I am.  Most of us have down times, I think.  Maybe we are supposed to fight them as hard as possible?  Also, when you try to encourage someone to not be lazy, that’s a little touchy too without offending them.  Maybe instead of addressing their laziness, they could be invited to partake in something that would make them more active.  Here’s a kid’s song I love: http://sovereigngracemusic.bandcamp.com/track/lazy-bones  It has motivated me many times!  That CD is awesome even if you don’t have kids!

A. Sloth, or laziness, is one of the so-called “seven deadly sins” — though I would quickly add that there is no particular “list” of them in the Bible — and it is a slow poison to the soul, which is why we are compelled to fight it in ourselves and make war against it when we see it in others.  Your suggestions are good ones.

Q. Paul had so much energy to devote to spreading God’s word.  He likely went by foot and by boat.  I don’t know if the disciples and other teachers of the gospel had any other means of transportation, like a horse?  If you google “map of Paul’s journeys” you will see what a vast territory he covered and how big of an influence he was on spreading the gospel.  I notice on these maps that Asia is where modern-day Turkey is, which I thought was more of where Israel was in Bible times.  Why is it labeled Asia, when Asia is much farther to the east?

A. Well, the region you refer to is called Asia Minor, and it is indeed part of Asia, not Europe, depending upon who you ask.  I suppose that the disciples could have had horses or other transport animals, but most of what the record tells us is that they traveled by foot.

Day 314 (Nov. 10): Believers spread after Stephen’s persecution, Philip preaches in Samaria, Philp and the eunuch, Saul’s converts to Christianity

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 8b-9:43

Questions & Observations

O. (Acts 9:10-18): God is so smart to use Saul, the very many persecuting Christians, to spread His message.  Just when I think I may understand the ins and outs of following and understanding God, I lose it.  He is so many steps in front of me that it’s crazy to try to figure out my future.  Yet, I struggle with it daily.  I thought I was in control of my life, pretty much, until I had kids.  I graduated from college, moved to Hawaii, worked super hard and found a great job, got married, had children, stopped working, moved around with military hubby, have two great kids, a house in a great neighborhood, but we are struggling financially.  I used to be able to control my own state of being by working hard.  I work hard and make good money.  Now, my skills are outdated and my attractiveness to employers is nil, as far as I know.  My point is that it’s hard to leave all of what you know behind, the control, and give it to God.  But, like we see with Ananias and Saul, you can never predict how God will orchestrate your situation to help you and others.  It’s so hard to let control go!

Q. (9:36-41): Did Jesus pretty much give the disciples all of the miraculous abilities that He had.  They must have proclaimed Jesus extensively for the people to look past the disciples’ miracles and give that credit to Jesus.  I wonder if the disciples’ ever struggled with any of them thinking that they were powerful themselves and not so much from Jesus — they were taking the glory instead of giving it to God?

A. The text implies that their power is coming by the leading of the Holy Spirit, but since He is part of the Godhead, it is the same “powers” that Jesus had during His time on earth.  One of the most important things to understand about Acts — and the writer Luke keeps reminding us — is that the Gospel is being proclaimed everywhere the Apostles and followers went.  This story contains numerous powerful stories of God using terrible circumstances to turn people to Him.  God used the death of Stephen and the persecution of the Church to force God’s people to move in all new directions, and as the text tells us, they proclaimed their message everywhere they went.  One in particular is the encounter between Philip and the eunuch.  A cool bit of history with one of the stories: the largest church in Ethiopia, called the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Orthodox_Tewahedo_Church), one of the oldest in the ENTIRE WORLD, traces its origins all the way back to this encounter between Philip and this ambassador, probably a Jewish convert.  Now imagine how many people have heard the Gospel proclaimed throughout the ages because of Philip’s faithfulness to the Spirit during that day.  That, I think, gives you a glimpse into the long game that God is playing, and we rarely receive more than a glimpse into how that plan is moving along.  Those glimpses are simply amazing to me!

Day 221 (Aug. 9): Jeremiah questions God’s justice, the rulers have poisoned the people, God will return exiles to their homes and they will prosper, God uses rotting clothes to describe wicked people, a warning against pride and arrogance, Judah’s unbearable drought, the Lord asks Jeremiah to not respond to Judah’s suffering, a prayer for Judah, Judah’s inevitable doom, Jeremiah’s complaint of persecution, God assures Jeremiah that He will protect him

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.

Jeremiah 12-15:21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 12:1-4, 5-13): Jeremiah is complaining here about the evil surrounding him and why those evil people are not suffering.  Then, God answers Him.  I think He is saying that if Jeremiah thinks he has it rough, he should step in God’s shoes and see what he has to stomach.  In v. 12, God is saying that this evil will be faced with suffering?

A. The suffering will be the consequence of the evil, yes.

Q. (12:14-17): Is God describing Judgment Day here, when the believers go to heaven and the rest … well, go somewhere else?

A. God is describing a judgment day for Judah, but not all humanity.

Q. (14:1-7): What a vivid picture this parched land paints.  I feel so sorry for the people and all other life.  But, then again they had a million chances to turn to God.  I can’t believe that the people — if that’s what is happening here, Jeremiah is speaking for them — would turn this back on God.  After all of His warnings to them, they advise Him to protect His reputation.  This has to hurt God so much to see the people He created, that He loved and wanted to nurture be so devastated, but then, they still look at God for blame instead of themselves.

A. While there is precedent for the argument (its basically the one Moses used to convince God to not destroy Israel in the wilderness in Exodus 32), it was surely shameful for the people to use God’s reputation to excuse their own actions.  As we’ve discussed a bit in Jeremiah, a big part of the people’s problem is that they are listening to the wrong voices: they are listening to false prophets and corrupt priests who proclaim peace when war and destruction is at their doorstep.

Q. (14:19-22): Do we know if this is the pulse of Judah right now, or is Jeremiah praying for the people?

A. He is making a plea on their behalf.

Q. (15:18): I feel for Jeremiah here.  I often have the same thinking, “how long can this go on?”  It’s hard to praise God when you have Him in your heart and trying to live the life He desires us to live, yet a stressful situation we/I/Jeremiah is in remains status quo.  I must say that I do love when God answers.  It’s so refreshing and exciting.  The waiting though is almost unbearable.  When I think about it, it just seems like our whole time on Earth is a testing ground for God to see if we pass the test to get into heaven.  I hope this isn’t dishonoring God by saying this.  I have often thought it, but then as my faith grows, I think that being in heaven for eternity makes our petty complaints here seem lame.

A. The perspective of eternity can surely change the way we look at and understand present circumstances.