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.

Day 129 (May 9): Psalms 27) I will see the Lord. He is my light and salvation. Lord, do not forsake me. 28) The Lord is with me. He is my shield. I cry out to you Lord. Give the wicked what they deserve. 29) Open your eyes to God’s glory all around. He is king! 30) I will exalt you, O LORD, for you spared me from going down to the pit. I cried to you for mercy. You turned my mourning into dancing. 31) I seek shelter in You, Lord. Deliver me from my enemies. 32) Happy are those who have confessed their sins. God has lifted their heavy burdens. May all go to God and repent and not drown in guilt.

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.

Psalms 27-32

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 27): This psalm says to me that as David was devoted to the Lord, sometimes that meant heralding his name and looking down on enemies, and other times, curling up under God’s protection while He does the fighting.  In the latter, when he was surrounded by evil, I hear in David’s words that he tries really hard not to be scared, but it’s hard knowing how fierce and conniving his enemies can be.  And then in the next set, David asks God to show him how to live, maybe so he doesn’t have to be afraid?  That’s what I get anyway.

A. Sounds correct to me.

O. (28): I am hearing a lot of recurring emotions from David.  1) His patience wears thin.  He has a lot of responsibility, in which he asks God to give him direction.  2) And, when he doesn’t get answers, he becomes impatient and scared and starts begging God to forgive him.  3) His endurance is tested because of his enemies keep lurking and lurking and lurking.

Q. (30:6-7): Is David showing us that God turned away from him because of his ego?

A. Yes.  It appears that David forgot that his prospering was from God, not his own efforts, and God appears to have shamed him into seeing how things really are.

O. (31:9-13): In these verses, we revisit many of David’s “ghosts” that are haunting him.  I am reminded of how much David endured for God’s name.  No, he was not perfect, but he was devoted to God.  These verses have renewed my respect for such a soldier of God!

Q. (31:22): Why are some prayers not answered until someone cries out?

A. Why is any prayer answered at all?  God, in His mercy, chooses to listen to His children and show compassion for their needs, but He is by no means obligated to listen to them.  Part of the act of faith that comes in praying is trusting that God not only controls the results of the request, but also the timing of the answer.  I would imagine that in some cases God desires for us to wait into we have nothing left to turn to but Him, and then rescue us.  It would certainly engender a proper understanding of Who is ultimately in control of our lives.

O. (32:5): It’s so wonderful that God has an open ear for us to confess our sins.  I know when I’m hiding guilt or shame, it eats at me.  So, thank you God for this outlet, letting us off the hook with just a heartfelt “sorry.”

Day 64 (March 5): Purifying with water, Miriam dies, Moses strikes rock for water, Moses is punished for changing rock procedure, King Edom refuses to let Israel pass, Aaron dies, Canaanite victory, manna complaintes, bronze snake, travels to Moab, Beer, more victories

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.  Please join us!

Numbers 19-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 19:1-22): We have talked about how Israelites would be ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead person and would need purification to become clean again.  We have said that the reason for this is a hygienic issue.   God did not want disease to enter the Tabernacle.  Is there anything more?

A. The hygiene is the underlying issue to consider when it comes to the purification, but ultimately, God is providing instructions for obedience, and part of it was not having the Tabernacle come in contact with things that were unclean because they had been in various forms of contact with the dead.  God WAS interested in helping the community not suffer from disease, especially among the priests, but the reason the people were required to obey didn’t just have to do with the spread of disease, but because God was teaching them to trust and follow His commands.  If God declared that contact with dead bodies (including animals, as this passage reminds us) caused people to be unclean, that was all they needed to know in order to obey.  We can see considerations of community hygiene, but they were simply expected to obey because that is what God told them.

Q. (20:1): Not much is made of Miriam’s death.

A. That is true.  Something that I read is that because of her proclamation of victory after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15), she became a figure associated with water.  Thus, the next section of the story, the provision of water in the wildnerness, even with the cost to Moses and Aaron, was a way of honoring her spirit.  Miriam remains an important figure to Jewish women, and one of the most well-known and commonly used Jewish names.  Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, and what seems like a dozen other women in the New Testament, bear the same name, Mary.  Mary is the English version of the translation of the same name in Greek, the Hebrew name Miriam.  So while the story does not seem to honor her, she remains to this day a very revered Jewish figure.

Q. (20:2-5): In a reading a couple days ago, you mentioned that because of the disrespect and disbelief that this generation of Israelites had that God intentionally made them wander in the desert for 40 years, long enough for that rebellious generation to die off.  Here they are grumbling again.  Did God reveal to them why they keep wandering

A. I think the previous texts made the matter pretty clear (Numbers 14 tells them that their time in the desert matches the time in days the spies were in the Promised Land: 40 years for 40 days.  But it appears they didn’t get the message, and rather then seeking to repent, they tried to force God’s hand by going into the land anyway, and continuing to complain about Moses and God’s provision.  Some people learn hard.

Q. (20:6-13): I know this story, so I know that God was upset with Moses because Moses struck the rock instead of just speaking to it.  But, if you don’t know this story and are just reading along, you may be confused because Moses got water for the people from the rock as God told him to.  It’s the specific instructions that Moses does not follow.  Do we know if this is intentional on Moses part, or just a misunderstanding?  I guess we take it that Moses did it intentionally, because God knows his heart and Moses did write this book, as best to our knowledge.  Maybe Moses is upset with God: His sister just died?  So, now Moses and Aaron will not see Canaan, just like the rest of that generation of Israelites.

A. Moses will see the Promised Land, just not enter it.  You’ll see how.  I’m sure the death of his sister had something to do with his frustration, but ultimately he directly disobeys God, and joins his generation in being kept out of the Promised Land.  There’s a lot of speculation about what Moses actually did, clearly it wasn’t just a misunderstanding, but rather willful intent on his part.  He is clearly angry with the people, and very likely at the end of his rope in frustration with their complaining.  Personally, I think that what God reacts to is Moses claiming credit for the provision of water (“must I provide it for you”), when God was the one who had made the provision.  It is never a good thing when we claim personal credit for things that we know are the will and provision of God alone.

Q. (20:14-21): The descendants of Esau comprise Edom, right?  Jacob and Esau parted on good terms years ago.  Why would the king of Edom not let the Israelites pass through?  Do we know how other nations view the Israelites at this time?  They are a huge traveling group.  There must have been talk.

A. Remember that Esau’s other name was Edom, related to his red hair and foolish desire for red stew (Genesis 25:30).  We do not know exactly what motivated the king’s decision, but the antagonism between Jacob’s descendants and Esau’s is one of the things we noted back in Genesis was something we would follow throughout the narrative.  As you mention, the group was probably quite intimidating, so perhaps there is little surprise that various nations refused to let them enter their territory.

Q. (20:29): I wonder here if mourning means observance of death or actual mourning.  The reason I bring this up is that the Israelites yo-yo between respecting Moses and Aaron and rebelling against them.  To mourn for 30 days must mean they respected him at this time?  They also seem to be following in the next passage, Numbers 21:1-3.

A. Most ancient societies had standard operating procedures for honoring the dead, which appears to be what the text is describing.  I do think that it is a powerful tribute to the respect they had for Aaron, even as they refused to listen to him.  Aaron, along with Moses, certainly did a lot for the people in terms of, you know, keeping the people alive and out of God’s wrath, and I think the people knew it.

Q. (21:4-9): I must say, I would think that if I had the same thing to eat over and over again that I would complain about it.  Is the lesson that the Israelites are not getting that they have made bad choices (complaining, doubting, being envious) and thus have brought this long journey in the desert on themselves?  If they would have trusted in God, they may have already been enjoying the Promised Land?

A. I think you’ve put it well.  Note the tone of the complaint: we hate this horrible manna, the very provision God made for His people day after day.  No wonder God was angered!  This isn’t, “Moses can we have quail or something else”, this is, “I hate what you are providing for me God,”  That’s very dangerous territory for any of us!

Q. (21:35): So after the Israelites destroyed these cities (God was with them), they could settle in those houses instead of using their tents?

A. I honestly don’t know if they used the territory; the text doesn’t tell us.  I would say it is a fair assumption that they (temporarily- they would be moving soon) used some of the buildings they conquered.

Thanks for reading.  See you tomorrow!