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  Now, my skills are outdated and my attractiveness to employers is nil, as far as I know.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 313 (Nov. 9): Disciples chose seven men to assist them, Stephen is arrested, Stephen addresses the council

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 6-8:1a

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 6:7): It’s nice to see some Jewish priests softening up and being converted.

A. There is certainly a degree of importance in this often missed verse.  Though many of the Jewish leaders condemned themselves by siding against Jesus, they were able to find repentance and be saved by the very plan that they had themselves enacted.  Surely that is God’s grace at work!

O. (Acts 6:15): So, take that!

Q. (Acts 7:2-50): OT, in a nutshell, right?.  Thanks, Stephen!

A. Sort of.  He definitely hits the um…highlights.  But his main point is that the Jews have a long history of rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit because of their hard hearts, as they are doing here in persecuting the Church.  Stephen is accusing them of being just like their ancestors, and I would say their response indicates that they did not like that accusation.

Q. (Acts 8:59-60): I guess Jesus’s believers knew what they were getting into after seeing Jesus crucified.  Stephen showed what kind of mercy he had on people by asking God to forgive his murderers.  I take it that Stephen is asking Jesus to welcome him to His Kingdom when he asks Jesus to receive his spirit?  Pretty amazing stuff.

A. Yes, I would say that is right.

Day 270 (Sept. 27): Spirit urges Jesus to wilderness where Satan tests him for 40 days, John the Baptist honors Jesus, Jesus finds followers, Jesus turns water to wine, Jesus clears the temple of sinners

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 1:12-13

Matthew 4:1-11

Luke 4:1-15

John 1:19-51

John 2:1-25

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 4:1-11): Why did the Spirit lead Jesus into the desert?  For the son of God (which is God himself by means of the Trinity) to spend 40 days in the desert very hungry and being tempted doesn’t sound like royal treatment.  Why was it important for Satan to tempt Jesus?

A. It is a divinely inspired test.  In Deuteronomy 8, Moses speaks to the people and tells them that these 40 years they had been in the dessert was a test to see if they would be faithful to God and keep His commands despite temptations not to, which they kept failing.  This is exactly the image that Matthew is painting for us: where Israel failed its test in the wilderness, Jesus successfully combats His temptations and confirms His role as God’s chosen or Messiah.  Note that the things that Satan tempts Him with are things that could only tempt the God/man: turning stones to bread, surviving a high fall, being ruler of the world.  What is behind each of these temptations — it may not be obvious — is the idea of Jesus using His power as God incarnate to circumvent the will of God the Father, which Jesus has come to serve.  Jesus could make bread out of the stones, but that would mean He did not trust God to bring Him through.  He could fall from a great height and survive (we presume), but that would have made Him a celebrity or even seen as a “freak” by His people: He would become famous, but not in the way God intended.  And lastly, Jesus will one day rule the world, but it will be earned by enduring the cross and dying, not by worshipping Satan.  Each of the temptations, then, centers around Jesus going His own way, and having power or fame or leadership outside of God’s plan.  That is, ultimately, the test He passed: He submitted these desires to the Father, rather then give in to them as Israel had before.

Q. (John 1:19-28): Is this bantering supposed to be a bit humorous?  The Pharisees have a hard time getting a straight answer out of John.

A. I think so.  One of John’s themes (the Gospel writer I mean) will be misunderstanding between two parties, so watch for more humorous examples.

Q. (1:35-51): So, we have four disciples here: Andrew, Simon-Peter, Philip and Nathanael.  Eight more ahead?

A. Yes, eight more.  They will be designated as His chosen Apostles at a later date; for now, they just follow Him.

Q. (2:12): Any idea how old Jesus is at this point?  Here it says he has brothers too.  Will we run into family information again to where we can talk about it?

A. The Gospels are actually very unhelpful in terms of family information on Jesus’ half brothers or other family (though there are lots of legends in Church lore).  Matthew 13:55 tells us the names of his brothers: James, Simon, Joseph (no doubt after their father), and Judas (which was a common Jewish name in this period).  The Church tradition is that two of these brothers became known for being followers of Jesus (which is not to say His other family didn’t): James, the writer of the NT letter, who is the same man as mentioned in Matthew, Jesus’ half brother.  Galatians 1:19 tells us that Paul met with Jesus’ brother, and that he was a leader of the early church in Jerusalem after the Apostles are scattered (coming soon!)  Judas was sometimes shortened to Jude, which is the name of the shortest letter in the NT, and the writer mentions that he is the brother of James, which we assume to mean the brother James in question.

His family will have a role to play in the unfolding story that I won’t spoil here, but suffice it say that they were not on board with Jesus’ mission before Easter Sunday.

Q. (2:24-25): Why couldn’t Jesus trust them?

A. I honestly think its because He knew that people would not understand Him, but also that the people’s desire would be for Him to continue doing miracles as party tricks or to show off, and that was never Jesus’ purpose.  He knew His mission, and entrusting Himself to people could have risked what He had come to do.