Day 345 (Dec. 11): Complaining and arguing leads to others criticism, Paul advocates Timothy and Epaphroditus, knowing Christ is priceless, stay true to the Lord ignoring enemies to the cross, don’t worry, just pray, a little sin is as big as lots of sins, faith without good deeds is dead, guard your tongue for it is a powerful tool, true wisdom comes from God

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.

Philippians 2:12-4:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Philippians 2:13): I never knew that God could give us the desire to please Him.  I thought that was a human ability.

A. All good things ultimately come from God, and the desire to please Him is a good thing.

O. (2:14): A hard one to do, but solid advice from Paul.  Bite your tongue has more uses than preventing you from saying something that might hurt someone, which I guess, in turn, ends up hurting you.  But also, complaining and criticizing damages character and people’s opinion of you.  When I go away from someone complaining, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  And, likewise, if I complain, I feel shame afterward.

Q. (4:3): What is the Book of Life?

A. The concept goes all the way back to Exodus 32 during Moses’ discussion with God after the golden calf incident.  Moses tells God that if He does not forgive the people’s sin, then he wants no part in God’s plan, and that God should blot him out of the “book” that God is writing.  God replies that it is not up to Moses who is included or not included in His book.  This exchange could mean several things, but the primary meaning that has come to be accepted is that it is the book of those who have a place in God’s Kingdom — the Book of Life.  We will see more references to this again, especially in Revelation, where it is referred to as the Lamb’s Book of Life in reference to Jesus.

O. (4:6-7): I wish I would always remember to ask for God’s help instead of stewing about issues.  It’s so wonderful to know that He truly wants to care for me.

Q. (4:12-13): Although I feel like Paul is boasting here, he always gives the glory to God, so it’s null and void.

A. He’s bragging about the one thing that he told others to boast about (1 Cor 1:31- let him who boasts boast about the Lord): his relationship with God, and how it provides him contentment even in the most dire of circumstances.  Don’t forget where Paul is when he writes this — under house arrest and expecting to be executed.  This is probably my favorite letter of Paul’s, because it creates such a contrast to the way that the world reacts to suffering and the way that Paul does. Paul says to take joy in suffering and to do so over and over (4:4)!  That is amazing to me.

Day 322 (Nov. 18): Apollos instructed at Ephesus, Paul’s third missionary journey, Paul ministers at Ephesus, Paul tells church in Corinth to be united under Christ, God’s wisdom is stronger than the wisest human plan, God’s Spirit gives us some of His wisdom, believers are servants of Christ not of Paul or Apollos

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 18:24-19:20

1 Corinthians 1-3:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 19:6): I didn’t speak in tongues after I got baptized.  I haven’t heard of anyone getting this gift that I know of.  What is the purpose of it anyway?

A. We looked at this in Acts 2 (Pentecost), but the purpose of speaking in tongues in the book of Acts is to proclaim God’s message in a miraculous way, by doing so in a language that the speaker does not speak.  Paul will actually address this gift (and gifts in general) in the near future of this work, so let’s hang in there for that.  There are various theories about why people baptized today do not speak in tongues, among them that these gifts are no longer commonly given by the Spirit (a position known as Cessationalism- the gift has ceased), and others that it is still given, but rarely manifests itself.  The Charismatic Movement and Pentecostal Churches would argue that speaking in tongues is the proof of the Spirit’s presence, but I disagree with that stance for many reasons.  It is, frankly, somewhat of a profound mystery, but as Jesus told us about the Spirit in John 3, He has a will of His own, and does as He pleases, not as we might like Him to.

Q. (19:13-20): Were the Jews not properly casting out the evil spirits?  Why would an evil spirit overpowering the group of Jews make them honor God.  I take it they were looking for God to protect them?

A. The story is implying that they saw the error of their ways when they were defeated by the demon, and turned to Christ for true salvation.

Q. (1 Corinthians 2:6-9): So here goes the free will v. predestination argument.  Here it says that the crucifixion of Jesus was planned all along.  But, it says that the “rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord.” So, can we say that God knew these leaders would not be righteous and He knew He would have to make the world right through the ultimate king?

A. Actually, both Calvinist (Predestination) and Armenian (Free Will) camps argue that the cross was God’s plan all along- neither position holds that God is not sovereign and can do as He pleases, the fault line is over what place HUMAN free will has in the place of God, so I don’t see the declaration of Jesus being crucified as being especially controversial.  I think you can see, however, that this argument can be extended either way to the scripture you ask about: either their fate was preordained (that would be Calvinist) to reject and crucify Jesus, or that they made up their own minds to kill Jesus (Free Will) and God merely knew in advance what they would do.  This scripture doesn’t solve your dilemma, sorry.

Q. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23): I don’t understand what Paul is saying when he says “everything belongs to you.”  Does it have something to do with v. 16, because it says that all believers together are the temple of God?

A. Paul is reinforcing the call for unity by saying basically, “you are all heirs in Christ, together — everything, every teacher, every blessing, etc, it belongs to all of you, so why waste time on divisions?”

Day 290 (Oct. 17): Those who are “ready” for Jesus’s return will be rewarded, the call to follow Jesus causes division, barren fig tree parable, Jesus rebuked for healing on Sabbath, parable of mustard seed, Jesus heals blind man, spiritual blindness

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.

Luke 12:35-13:21

John 9:1-41

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 12:35-36): Why a master and a wedding feast?  The person waiting is a servant, I guess, getting a dinner party ready?

A. Not in this story.  This is the master returning home FROM a party.  In the ancient world, banquets and wedding feasts could literally go for days and weeks.  Thus, a master who was returning home would not be able to tell his servants exactly WHEN he was going to come home.  That is the idea behind what Jesus is telling the people in this story: you’re not going to know the hour of the return.

Q. (12:42-48): After reading this several times, I take it that Jesus means that all of those who proclaim him and are ready in Spirit to welcome Him will be rewarded.  Those who think they’ll “get their act together” and follow Him later will … not be rewarded.  Servant means believer/follower?  Then, v. 48, says that the more Jesus/God has entrusted us with His flock, the more He expects.

A. Yes, I would say you’ve judged correctly.

Q. (12:49-53): Why would Jesus want to cause division?

A. The call to follow Jesus is a radical one, by its very nature.  It is difficult to think of a stronger contrast between men and women who are powerfully following after the Gospel and those who see it as foolishness (as many today do).  So Jesus is not necessarily interesting in CAUSING division, but division is a natural by-product of the message that He has come to proclaim.  We will see this type of division come to its zenith in Matthew 25 with the story of the sheep and goats, so watch for that during Holy Week.

Q. (12:56): Just an interesting point … I always think of the kajillions of things that God could control.  Here, it sounds like the weather just goes on it’s own because the people can monitor it with close speculation.  So, it sounds like to me, God created nature, but it’s on its own unless God chooses to use it for a lesson or reward.

A. The normal way I have heard such things explained is that God established the “laws” of the universe, including for our world.  God certainly has the ability to supersede these laws, but generally chooses not to except for the reasons you mentioned.  So we can study the way that God made the world — what we would call Science, even if you don’t think there is a Creator behind it — which is what the people in Jesus’ story are doing.

Q. (13:1-5): I don’t understand quite what’s going on in this Scripture, but I think I get from it that the people who Pilate murdered were not the worst of sinners.  So, unless they/we repent, we will face the same fate, or worse.

A. It fits under a notion that we have talked about a few times, when you asked me about “good people,” and my reply was basically to say, “there’s no such thing.”  What Jesus is sharing here is we are all deserving of death for our sins, but God spares us in His mercy, and we are not called to judgment for our actions — which the grace of Jesus would cover, but still… .  But even if God chooses NOT to call us into judgment, that does not mean that, on our own, we are undeserving of God declaring that our time is up.  It’s a tough message, no doubt about it, but notice what Jesus is doing: trying to convict people and lead them to repentance.

Q. (13:10-13): This Scripture just reminds me (I’m not saying that Jesus is like them) of the healings I’ve seen on TV where an evangelist will be on stage and start healing people.  They may fall on the floor or whatever.  Can anyone now say they can heal in the name of Jesus?  I would think it would be just for those Jesus had chosen to be in His inner circle.  But, the one man who the disciples didn’t recognize and was healing in the name of Jesus, Jesus was OK with that.

A. I do not put much stock in such efforts: many of those individuals are snake oil salesmen who are just trying to get wealthy, and they do no honor to the Gospel.  Honestly, I am of two minds about your question: I have no doubt that God is capable of using His people today to heal, but I have never witnesses such a thing personally (its not a miracle for nothing — they are rare!)

My big concern is this: imagine the potential for abuse in a person such as your TV preacher were able to heal just by calling on Jesus.  It is nearly unfathomable!  Such a power could be — and frankly would be, knowing human nature — completely exploited for personal gain and fame, and the power of God would be completely forgotten.  It is a sad fact about human nature (see question above) that such and ability would wind up generating fame and wealth for the person rather than glory to God.  Now, let me repeat: God is capable of doing whatever He pleases, but I have not seen a lot of evidence that God DESIRES to provide healing in this way, and clearly the reasons I have mentioned have something to do with that in my opinion.  We will see more about such issues as healing and raising the dead as we get a little deeper into the story, and especially into the story of the early church, so hang in there for more.

O. (13:18-19): Yesterday a friend called in the morning to talk because she was upset.  She called me because she knew I would have good answers on showing grace.  Let me tell you, that is a compliment, but I must say that I struggle with it too.  But, I have been working on it, mostly as a result of reading the Scripture for this blog.  So, I have seen this verse at work. What I have been sifting through this year in the Bible helped me help her.  Jesus used me as an avenue to communicate His love and grace.  I’m so glad she called!  And thus, the “harvest” gets larger!

Q. (John 9:3): I used to think that this kind of structure God has built was not fair at all.  I felt like we are puppets in His world helping His story come true.  Well, we are like that in a way, except we are much more than puppets.  We are His children who He loves very much.  Everything He does is orchestrating our lives so we can live with Him in heaven.  Yes, we have difficulties, but those can just serves as tests to see if we can be faithful.  They are opportunities to be humble, to show that we are not in control.  And, if we believe in Jesus and let Him take over, we will live fulfilled lives all the way to heaven.  Question: I still don’t understand God’s reason for mentally handicapped.

A. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about that.  But I know that there are families that have been so blessed by the joy that a child with, say, Down’s syndrome brings to the family, even if the “side effect” is mental retardation.  I have read stories of the way that special needs children have become cherished members of families and communities, and that many are blown away by their faith in Christ.  It certainly sounds like God can have a myriad of “reasons” for the mentally handicapped: they are still His children, and I suspect that God finds very special ways to communicate to them and through them.

For example, try this one (I confess, I wept a little):

Q. (9:16): Jesus is not setting aside the Sabbath for complete rest, but if He didn’t heal people who ask to be healed and have faith in Him, he wouldn’t have peace of mind, i.e. peace.  And, maybe the healing gives Him rest.  It would certainly ease the hearts of the ones He was healing.  But, I think the main point is that the Commandment of “Love one another” outweighs keeping the Sabbath.  And, if you don’t help people because it’s the Sabbath, you are disobeying God’s commandment and causing the person to continue their pain.  That doesn’t sound loving.

A. Amen sister!

Day 277 (Oct. 4): Roman officer has faith in Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus’ resurrects widow’s only son, John the Baptist questions Jesus, judgment for nonbelievers, Jesus’s prayer, sinful woman gracious to Jesus

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 8:5-13

Luke 7:1-17

Matthew 11:1-19

Luke 7:18-35

Matthew 11:20-30

Luke 7:36-50

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10): I think this story is the epitome of how strong our faith in God should be and how much we should love our fellow man.  First of all, this officer is concerned about his youngest servant (we read in Luke’s version, vs. 7:4-5, that this man had built a synagogue), but he is courageous enough to ask Jesus to help the man.  And, as for courageous, I wouldn’t think the Roman leadership would be all that friendly with Jesus.  Then, as an officer, he himself is important in society, yet he knows that he can in no way compare to the Lord Jesus Christ, so he humbles himself.  But, he is 100 percent sure that Christ can heal his servant just by willing it from afar.  Amazing story!  In v. 11-12 is telling us that the Israelites are no longer set apart?  Is God acknowledging here that the Israelites being set apart as His people for the world to learn from did not work?

A. Not at all!  The Gospels provide what we might call the pivot point between God’s work in the OT (almost exclusively with the Jews) to opening up the message of salvation in Christ to the whole world: Jew and Gentile.  But it is only within the community of Israel that God was able to bring about the Messiah — the person of Jesus, who was the personification of a good Jewish man.  Paul in particular will talk about the ways that God “transitions” between a message only for His chosen people (which they remain to this day), and to the whole world via the Messiah.  So it is wrong to assume that God “failed” in His plan — saving the world via the Messiah WAS His plan.  As Jesus points out in this reading, the Law and the Prophets have been leading up to Him, the culmination of God’s plan, not the contingency.

Q. (Luke 7:13): We read here and other places where Jesus cried.  Jesus coming to the Earth gave the world a human version of God who looks, acts (except for the sins) and feels just like we do.  Because He is in human form, we can relate to Jesus better.  Jesus is the epitome of who God wants us to be.  Last night, I was at a church partnership meeting where we were talking about the Trinity.  The minister was talking about the OT where it says “the Angel of the Lord.”  The minister said that angel was more glorious than Gabriel or other angels we have read about.  This one seemed to carry the authority of God.  So, theologians/scholars believe that this was Jesus in heavenly form.  Your opinion on that, Rob?

A. I’ve heard that theory, but don’t put much stock in it myself.  My take on it would be that God has long used angels (don’t forget what we talked about in the OT— a messenger in ancient times was seen as the sender Himself, in this case God).  So there is really no reason that God HAD to use Himself (in the form of the Son, what we call a Christophany, God in human form).  I suppose it is possible, but I think the idea of an Angel of the Lord (and just because the angel is not names doesn’t mean they don’t HAVE a name) being God the Son is something that is a bit unnecessary, but you never know.

Q. (Matthew 11:6): What does this mean?  “ ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me”?

A. Those who do not turn away from Him on account of His message.  It is a call to keep the faith and trust in Him.

Q. (11:7-11): I don’t understand this interaction.  Why would John the Baptist question who Jesus is?  I thought they had long acknowledged one another.  Then, in v. 11, Jesus says that John is greater than anyone who has ever lived.  The Bible doesn’t tell us much about John at all.  We know much more about Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon.  How could John be greater than them?

A. I don’t have a perfect answer, but my suspicion is that John was having his doubts about his cousin because Jesus wasn’t “being Messiah” fast enough for him.  Perhaps he was wondering why Jesus had not overthrown the Romans in Israel, or become king, or done something to “take over.”  Like everyone else, I doubt John would have had any understanding of Jesus’ true mission (even if he understood Jesus to be the Lamb of God).  Jesus came to rule, but His “coronation” was in a way that no one would expect.

As to John being “greater,” what Jesus refers to here is not so much that John is “great,” but that he is the last in the line of prophetic succession.  John is the last of the old way, and Jesus will usher in the New.  So Jesus isn’t saying John is more accomplished then the figures you mentioned, only that he is the final messenger to the Lord’s coming.

Q. (Luke 7:18): Why would John the Baptist have disciples?

A. Because the people saw him as a teacher worthy of respect, basically a rabbi.  Rabbis of Jesus’ day (including John) would have had followers as Jesus did.  And just because some of John’s followers decided to follow Jesus instead (with John’s blessing) did not mean that they all did.  John’s followers will have an influence on the Gospel story until even after the resurrection.

Q. (Matthew 11:20): After all the miracles, these people of Korazin and Bethsaida still have hard hearts?

A. Yes, just like the Israelites in the wilderness.

Q. (Matthew 11:28-30): This makes me want to run to Jesus for a long vacation with no worries.  For some people, that last verse may be troubling because it can seem that defending Jesus and living up to His word can be burdensome when others do things differently than us.  But, I think once that I accepted Jesus as my Savior, then I recognized it wasn’t hard because He is so marvelous.

A. Jesus is telling His people to move beyond the heavy burden of legalism, into the “lighter” burden of personal relationship with Him, and therefore God.  I like the way you put it in your last sentence.

Q. (Luke 7:47): This is a bit confusing because it almost sounds like the more sinful you are the more you can be forgiven.  So, it almost sounds like it promotes more sin.  I don’t think that’s what it is saying.  I think it’s saying that because Jesus forgave such a huge sin, which she understood the depth of that, that she was more thankful and gracious to Jesus than the average person.

A. If you recall, our pastor Jim preached on this passage quite recently, and that was exactly his conclusion: those who understand they have been forgiven will be much more likely — though its not guaranteed — to forgive and love others.  Those who do not realize what help they need from Jesus are much more likely to be “stingy” with the love and forgiveness.  So perhaps that should be a sort of litmus test for our understanding of God’s forgiveness (it certainly is for Jesus in this story): Christians who forgive readily and love generously are much more likely to understand what God has truly done for them.


Day 207 (July 26): God’s humble servant, Jerusalem will be rebuilt showing God’s glory, take in the Lord’s offer of salvation, be just and fair to all, sinful leaders are condemned, idolatry condemned, God forgives those who repent

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.

Isaiah 52:13-57:21

Questions & Observations

O. (Isaiah 52:13-15): This sounds like the scene from Shrek 2 — I think that was the one — where Shrek and Fiona travel to meet Fiona’s parents and the whole kingdom is eagerly awaiting what they assumed was the beautiful prince and princess.  The crowd went from cheering to jaws dropping as soon as the royal couple stepped out of their cage and showed their ogre selves.

Q. (53:4): Why did Cyrus take on the burden of others’ sins?

A. This section does not describe Cyrus (who is a messiah, but not THE MESSIAH), but rather Jesus.  This section is one of the clearest sections we have that explicitly lay out what God was doing in offering up Jesus on the cross: He was suffering for the sins of many, and by His suffering, we find healing.

Q. (53:4-9): Cyrus’s description sounds similar to Jesus’s.  How does Cyrus, this rescuer, change the attitudes of the Israelites?  Why should he even care about them?

A. See my above answer, but if the question is “why should Jesus care about them?” then that’s a good question.  Why, indeed, did Jesus choose to love the people who had Him killed (both directly and indirectly)?  It was because of the great love that the Trinity had for all humanity, and the realization that we were hopelessly lost on our own.  With the death of Jesus, we see the paradigm completely shifted between God and man, the rift between them is bridged, and the Spirit moves into the hearts of the faithful to guide them in relationship with God the Father via the work of the Son.

O. (54:9): All of those verses that say God’s love is everlasting … Here’s proof.  He’s bringing up Noah and the flood from hundreds of years and many generations ago.  He never forgets!

Q. (55:2): Could we say that this is a “junk food is bad” verse?

A. Only if that junk food is salvation outside of God.  This refers not to physical food, but the spiritual food from God that nourishes our souls.  Jesus will tell us more about this food at a later date.

Q. (56:3): I thought we had talked about eunuchs before, but not sure.  I just looked it up and it is an eye-opener for today’s culture.  Long ago, a eunuch was a castrated male that guards the living quarters of women in an oriental court.  Just for expanding our minds, could you tell us a little about eunuchs.  Why were they castrated?  How were they viewed by society?  Were they slaves and forced to be eunuchs?

A. I’m sure you had fun reading about this particular cultural touchstone of ancient society.  Eunuchs played an important role in ancient society (though Jews did not generally practice this type of action, it mostly refers to the eunuchs Jews would have encountered in Egypt, Babylon, etc.) and many if not most of them were slaves.  They were usually castrated at a young age to prepare them for their livelihood as a slave.  It gave their masters the option to allow these men to guard the chambers of women, often royalty or other important females in society.  This was done to ensure that the eunuch could not rape the woman or even have consensual sex with her.  In that regard, he was the perfect bodyguard for women.

Now because of the fairly obvious implications of being a eunuch, they were fairly poorly regarded among Jews, who saw children as a blessing for God and a continuing of their family line.  Since eunuchs would have no family line, they were considered less than full people in Jewish society and were not allowed to participate in the ceremonial worship of God.  Deuteronomy 23:1 forbid them to be part of the assembly (one reason Jews did not practice ritual castration).  But the NT will have some interesting things to say about their place in God’s coming Kingdom, and they will be based upon what Isaiah is saying here.

Q. (56:6-7): These verses finally welcome God’s love to all nations.  This changes the whole story that we have been reading up to this point.  Thus far, the main, good characters were exclusively the Israelites, with a few exceptions.  So, I would say this changes the social atmosphere of the world.

A. I suppose it does, but frankly that’s only because the Israelites were so terrible about sharing God’s actions with the nations around them.  Remember, God’s choosing of Israel was never about Israel in and of itself, but for the benefit of every nation.  We see a glimpse of the salvation that comes to all nations (via Jesus, who was a Jew) in these verses.

O. (57:1-2): These are extremely soothing words.  Reminds me of the Psalm 23.

O. (57:6b): “They (worthless idols), not I, are your inheritance” is a nice quip.

O. (57:11): Yeah, I wonder what laws these man-made idols have decreed. Ha.

Q. (57:15): I would say that society teaches us to be brave, forward and strong.  Here God calls first these with crushed spirits.  So many people are “type A” personalities and driven.  Where do they fall with God?  Many type A’s I’m sure do a lot of God’s work.  As long as they don’t step on toes, they should be OK with God?  Is it just those who have suffered will be brought out of their misery first?

A. I think that this section has less to do with the “type” of personality a person has and more to do with providing healing to those people whose spirit has been broken by life’s circumstances or by others.  It is a verse about healing and restoration, not personality types.  But to broaden my answer, no one (regardless of personality type) who walks faithfully with God has anything to worry about when it comes to judgment.