Day 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

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.

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

Day 323 (Nov. 19): Paul tells church not to judge others, God’s apostles are not showy, Paul condemns spiritual pride, Christians should settle their own disputes, avoid sexual immorality, marriage instructions

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 Corinthians 4-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 4:9): I was almost going to say that God continues to use humble people to spread His word and now He has allowed them to be tattered, according to Paul’s letter.  However, it wasn’t really God who made them dirty, hungry, thirsty, tired, weak, bruised, etc., it was the people treating them that way.

A. That doesn’t make the people like Paul spreading the message of the Gospel less humble; if anything, through humility they are able to withstand the mistreatment of others.  I certainly think the things that Paul and his companions experienced — and will experience, including martyrdom — will only increase the power of their witness.

Q. (4:15): I don’t understand Paul saying that He became the church’s spiritual father.

A. He’s the one who founded the church at Corinth, so that makes him their spiritual father.  He’s not really bragging about this, but is rather attempting to get the Corinthians to follow his example the way that a child often tries to imitate their earthly father.

Q. (5:3-5): I don’t understand v. 5.  I think what Paul is trying to say here is that we want to save this man who is disrupting the church.

A. Paul’s order is to expel the man from the church — a form of church justice, something that is sadly rarely practiced today due to our “winking” attitude to sin.  So if the man is kicked out of “God’s” territory (the church), then he is given over to the realm that is not of God, or Satan.  This isn’t a literal punishment: Paul is not saying a demon will get him, but rather he is hoping that being expelled from the community by his friends will cause him such anguish that he will repent of his sin and return to the community a new man.

Q. (6:2): What does Paul mean by the believers will judge the world and the angels?

A. As those who will rule with Christ as heirs, we have the implication that we will have some role in judging (the Greek can also mean “rule” or “command”) the world and angels.  It is a unique passage, frankly, and Paul does not expand on what he means here, so we do not exactly know.  It is possible that Paul is sharing something that he assumes his audience will already be familiar with — i.e. something they understood in their culture that has been lost to history.  Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what he means, but I think it is safe to assume that our role in the next world will be as some sort of ruler or leader of some sort.  Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Q. (6:1-8): I think many people use the justice system to resolve disputes because it is easier than facing each other and figuring it out among themselves.  But, if believers are coming together to form the body of a church, they should be able to settle their own disputes, which I think would actually make them closer.

A. I couldn’t agree more, and I suspect that is what Paul has in mind.

Q. (6:9-11): One of my best friends growing up became gay after a couple years of college.  He has an awesome, but struggling, heart and considering what he has been through — a dad that beat and threatened him on a regular basis, a mom who also suffered physical and verbal abuse and dealt with her husband’s cheating, and had been molested by many men close to him.  With attention from these men, it’s no wonder that he leaned toward homosexuality.  I do wonder how his judgment will fair, but I know that God is God and He is the judge.  I just wish he could get pulled out of that lifestyle.  Pray, right?  I need to call him more often too.

A. There is nothing sinful about being attracted to people of the same gender, but I feel the Bible is pretty clear about sexual relationships among people of the same gender (though I am aware that not everyone feels that way).  We all have our temptations that we must face, and that honestly makes it hard for me to want to pass judgment on homosexuals as a person who has never experienced a sexual attraction to a man.  God knows our hearts, and also knows our past and difficulties, and will judge us accordingly.

Q. (7:8): By Paul saying that it’s better to stay single than married, it sounds so against the way God designed humans and the world.  He made man and woman so they could come together and create more humans.  If everyone were single, the world would die off, well … if they abstained from sex unless they were married.

A. It is interesting to me that Paul brings such a different mindset to the situation then we are used to, and that God — and the Bible — are big enough to handle multiple ideas in tension.  As you well say, without marriage and children, there is no future.  But Paul is probably looking at the situation as a man who wanted to fully devote himself to doing God’s will (as Jesus, who was also never married, did before him).  So it is certainly fascinating that the two men most responsible for the Christian faith were unmarried and celibate — a tradition that is carried to this day by priests, nuns, and monks all over the world.  God can make either way for us work, but I think that Paul at least makes it clear that there are pros and cons to being single or married.  And in a society that is literally OBSESSED with weddings (less so marriages, but anyway…), I bet there are some interesting insights about celibacy in the reading.

Q. (7:10): This verse just makes me think of the spiritual parallel that God created between man and woman should be like the relationship between God and believers, only even more devoted.

A. Yes, I would agree with that.

Q. (7:25-28): What is Paul talking about here?  Why is he advising everyone to stay single?  And, honestly, I feel that some of these letters sound like personal problems of the church way back then that isn’t really our business.  Maybe this is an example of how our secret desires and motivations will be revealed on judgment day?

A. Something I didn’t mention in my above responses was that the early church went through varying degrees of persecution, and that would certainly shade his thinking about being married and having a spouse depend on you.  Imagine the heartache of dying for your faith (or being thrown in jail or sold into slavery) with a wife, or husband, women were martyrs too, you can read about some 3rd Century women martyrs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetua_and_Felicity)- or even children at home.  I could see why Paul would say, “that’s not a great idea.”

I would also point out, that as a married person, it would naturally be harder for you to see the benefits of being able to give every waking moment over to God as Paul was able to do — and I’m sure his being single shaded his thinking as well.  But note that even in the midst of his thoughts on staying single, he argues that there is no sin in being married (which I realize is a “duh” to us, but anyway).  As I mentioned above, I appreciate that the Bible presents a perspective so radically different than my own.

Q. (7:31b): There are several references we have seen that alludes me to the conclusion that judgment day should have been during these times.  Paul makes the end of days sound imminent.  Yet, we have also read where Jesus isn’t coming until the most evil person rises up.

A. It hasn’t happened yet is all I can tell you.  Paul goes back and forth on the matter- some places he makes it sound immenent, other places not so much, you’ll see.

Q. (7:40): Paul doesn’t sound 100 percent sure that his advice is coming from the Holy Spirit here … or God (not sure who he is referring to).

A. Same difference.  I think he is clearly stating that God has not told him explicitly either way, which is just fine with me.  If God desires to leave the matter open, and clearly He did, then Paul is willing to say so.  That sounds about right 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.

Day 203 (July 22): Hezekiah’s sickness and God’s healing him, God is displeased with Hezekiah’s pride

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 Kings 20:1-11

Isaiah 38:1-8

2 Chronicles 32:24-31

Isaiah 38:9-22

2 Kings 20:12-19

Isaiah 39:1-8

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Chronicles 32:25): Wealth is such a double-edged sword.  Here Hezekiah prayed that this illness would not kill Him.  God appreciated his humbleness and rewarded him greatly.  But, as his wealth was building, it seems that his pride was growing.  Wealth and power can really belittle me, and likewise, empower the wealthy.  If I’m around power or wealth, I feel inferior and on the flip side, I think the wealthy and powerful feed off of that superiority feeling. Here, Hezekiah clearly got his wealth and power from God, yet he still flaunted it.

A. Wealth and power have a near irresistible ability to corrupt us.  We must truly tread carefully around them.  It becomes so easy to forget the source of all good things when we have so much ability to control our lives and the lives of others around us via money or power.  It is a repeated warning in the Bible that we must avoid the corrupting power of riches.

Q. (32:31): I would say that most people would keep God in their hearts once He’s there.  So, why does God continuously test us?  I understand that some people do stray.  But, doesn’t God know the ones who are truly humble and faithful to Him?

A. Of course He does, but we don’t.  In 1 Peter 1:3-7, Peter describes the riches that are stored up for us in Heaven as a result of our faith in Christ.  But, he says, for the moment, you must go through various trials.  The reason?  That your faith may be proven genuine — to the community and to ourselves.  But the verses also point to another objective: the trials are a refining process that purifies us, and in the end, God is glorified by the transformation that takes place as a result of our overcoming the trials and staying faithful.  In the end, trials such as these are about learning the genuineness of our own faith, and providing glory to the One who has redeemed us.

Q. (Isaiah 38:16-17): A couple verses that tell us that discipline is used as a measure to keep us on God’s path.  Interesting.  So many folks who have had bad things happen to them come out saying that if it wouldn’t have happened, then this other good news wouldn’t have happened.

A. The great message of faith in Jesus Christ is that God is capable of bringing good out of evil — the central message of the crucifixion.  Without the crucifixion, along with the mockery, the lashings, the humiliation; without all the great suffering, there is no resurrection on Sunday.  Without Jesus’ death, there is nothing to celebrate when He rises.  So we are called to look upon Christ’s passion and resurrection and trust that if God can do it at the most crucial moment in history, He can do it for us as well.  God is capable of bringing light out of the greatest darkness of our lives — whether it is our own doing or the work of someone else.  But it is only to the one who does not give up, who perseveres through the trials, that is given the privilege of seeing the ways that God chooses to do so.

Q. (2 Kings 20:13): Why on earth would a king show a neighboring — and often enemy nation — all of his treasures?  That is a death sentence foremost and not to mention just gloating.  I guess Hezekiah is showing his pride again?  He needs to have a better memory!  I would have thought he would have learned his lesson after being healed, prospering and then being prideful of his status.

A. Babylon is a rival with Assyria (thought not as powerful as Egypt … yet), and the two nations have been at war for some times.  It is very likely that Hezekiah is “showing off” to gain an ally against Assyria.  But this will backfire on him, in the same manner that reaching out to Egypt did.  But, I certainly agree with your assessment about his need for a better memory!