Day 359 (Dec. 25): John encourages us to love one another as God commanded, everyone who believes Jesus is God’s son will be children of God also, Jesus proved He was God’s son by being baptized with water and shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus protects believers from the devil, avoid anything that can take God’s place in your heart, be leary of deceivers, welcome the traveling teachers

Merry Merry Christmas!  The king is born!  Or, was He born on this day?  Read to the end for a discussion.

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.

3 John 1:1-15

1 John 4:7-5:21

2 John 1:1-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 11-12): This verse reminds me of those people I meet that are just radiating with kindness.  I want to ask them if they are a Christian because I am very curious about that.  Is that OK to ask, or should I just assume they are Christian?

A. I can’t really see someone taking offense to the question, but I personally confess that I rarely ask people when I am similar circumstances.  Someone who is a true, confessing Christian should frankly be eager to tell you so.

Q. (5:6b): I am still foggy on what this means: “And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.”  Does that just mean that we know that Jesus is God’s Son and, when we are baptized we get the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said we would.  Therefore, His promise came true.  And the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus’ teaching because the Spirit shows us the right way to live, the same as Jesus did.  Thus, the spirit of Jesus (who taught us to be godly) still resides in us.

A. One of the things we established in Ephesians 1 is that the presence of the Spirit is the “mark” of our salvation, so in a sense, it is His presence that serves as a “testimony” about our faith in Christ.  He would not be present within us if we did not believe in God’s work in Christ, so His very presence testifies about what we believe.

Q. (5:16b): The sin that leads to death is denying that Jesus is the Son of God?  And, talking about praying for sinners, my daughter has started praying for Satan.  What do you say to that?  It actually stemmed from me because God says we are to love our enemies.

A. John tends to describe things in very strong black and white terms: you are either with God, or an antichrist — that sort of thing.  So it is little surprise that he would say that denying Jesus was the Son of God is a sin that leads to death.  As to your daughter’s action, I love her vision for praying for her enemies!

Q. (2 John 1:1): Is John singling out women believers?

A. Not really.  There is some speculation that 2 John is written to a particular woman, but the scholarly consensus is that the “women” represents a congregation or a particular church.  Revelation will repeatedly refer to congregations using feminine imagery, so it is hardly an uncommon thing for the NT (watch for the bride of Christ imagery).

O. (3 John 1:1-4): Growing up, I remember taking care of visiting evangelists and musicians that came to our church for a revival.  I think they stayed with us some, we fed them, had church dinners.  But now that I belong to a megachurch, there isn’t that sense of close-knit community.  I miss it!  But, as my life has changed from going to a small community to a big metropolis, we can still carve out ways to help others.  And, our church definitely supports missionaries who must travel abroad.

Q. Rob, since this is Christmas Day, can you explain if Christmas was the actual day Jesus was born?  I have heard studies where He was born in January.  Regardless, it’s a very important event to celebrate!  I think it’s interesting to hear how dates get set or rearranged in history.

A. The word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass,” or Christ’s coming or arrival.  In the old days, the celebrations were known as liturgical feasts or feast days, as they still are in the “high” churches.  The first indication of the Christ Mass in the Western Church dates to around 354 AD, but the Eastern Church (what we today call the big “o” Orthodox) had already tied the birth of Christ into one combined feast day known as Epiphany, which takes place on Jan 6th of each year.  The Western Church also recognizes Epiphany as the date of the Magi’s arrival (Matthew 2), obviously have a different date for Christmas.  (In passing reference, you get 12 days if you add the dates from Christmas, Dec 25th, to Epiphany, Jan 6th, which would be the 12 days of Christmas, in case you ever wondered).

Okay, now about that date.  Well, as you can clearly see from what we have already discussed, there was no consensus about the ACTUAL date of Jesus’ birth, because the Gospels do not tell us.  The OBSERVANCE of the birth is what takes place on Dec. 25, so it should not be understood that the liturgical churches have been saying Jesus was born on Dec. 25 for 1700 years … it hasn’t.  As to WHY Dec. 25 was selected, well, now we’re in deeper water.  There is some close proximity to what is called the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a major holiday for pagan culture, the dominant force in the world both Jesus and Christianity were “born” into.  So there is frequently discussed and “known” pseudo-knowledge that the 25th was selected to “replace” the feast of the Solstice, but I do not think this is actually what happened.  What caused it then?  Since that’s a long answer, I’m going to recommend you read an essay from a Catholic writer named Mark Shea (he’s a great writer and normally blogs here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/) on that very topic here: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2006/12/is-christmas-really-just-warmed-over.html

Hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.  Merry Christmas!

Day 358 (Dec. 24): God is light, live as Jesus did, love your brothers and sisters, remain faithful in what you have been taught from the beginning so you may inherit eternal life, the Holy Spirit teaches truth, eagerness to know who we will be when Jesus returns keeps us pure, if you live in Him you will not sin, leaving guilt behind we can go to Him with confidence that we will receive what we ask of Him, identifying false prophets

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.

John wrote his letters sometimes between the 60s and the 90s of the first century AD.

1 John 1-4:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 2:8, 3:6): The first of these verses says we all sin and if we say we don’t then we are calling God a liar.  But, 3:6 says that if we live in Him we won’t sin and anyone who keeps sinning does not know Him.  So, on the face of it, these sound a little contradictory.  But, I think what they say together is that we all have sin and have sin in us, but the more we live in the love of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit, the less likely we are to sin and more pure we become.

A. I’m not going to take credit for the effort, but I am glad to see that you are expanding your understanding of the depth of Scripture: not everything that SOUNDS like a contradiction is one.  I think that you are right about this reading, and that we can grow to be more like God (including sinning less — we are unlikely to stop sinning all together) over time.

Q. (3:21): Here, John says that feeling guilty is pretty much a sin.  It keeps us from feeling worthy of all the gifts He offers.

A. Guilt, while sometimes motivating, is ultimately not an emotion that brings us closer to God.  If we understand our worth comes from God and not from our actions, we will frankly be less likely to turn to our guilt instead of our God.

Q. Anything else, Rob?  Did you want to say anything about John himself?  I am curious about who he is.

A. Church tradition holds that the Apostle John is the writer of this letter, the one referred to as the “apostle Jesus loved.”  We do not know if this is true or not (he doesn’t identify himself), but it is quite clear if you examine the language of this letter that the writer of this letter also wrote the Gospel of John.  Compare John 1 and 1 John 1’s first few verses and you will see what I mean.

Day 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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.

Hebrews 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 346 (Dec. 12): James (Jesus’s brother) writes 12 tribes, get rid of human anger and accept the word in your heart, show no favoritism, faith without good deeds is dead, control your Christian tongue, 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.

James 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. Just some background info, if it’s available: Do any of Jesus’s other brothers speak out for Him?  What were the “12 tribes” that James was talking about?  How did this letter get to them?

A. There is tradition, but not certainty, that the Epistle of Jude (coming soon!) is written by another of Jesus’ brothers — it’s the same name as Judas, so they changed it for obvious reasons.  James, the half brother of Jesus and Bishop of the church of Jerusalem (which will soon be destroyed), appears to be writing to Jewish believers, though it is possible he is using metaphor and refers to both Jews and Gentiles as being part of the “12 tribes”.  Jews of this era were spread over various cities, and any letter like this one would have been sent by messenger.  We do not know who the original readers were.

O. (James 1:2-4): James speaks the truth.  I think this means that the more we endure, the more spiritual we grow until we won’t need to improve much more, if any.

O. (1:14): I think it’s so interesting to point out that evil desires come from ourselves.  We must listen to the Spirit to guide us away from these thoughts or actions.

O. (James 2:10): So, I guess if we have one or two super small sinful issues, then we are not pure.  Purity is the whole shebang.

Q. (James 2:20): Also the other way around, right?  Good deeds without faith has no value to God, right?

A. James is talking about works that are of benefit to mankind, and a faith that is visible to others as a way of spreading the Gospel.  Only God can see our true faith, so in that sense, it does no good to those around us if only God can see it.

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 329 (Nov. 25): Faith brings joy, God’s gift outweighs what Adam brought, Christ broke sin’s power, law is no longer trump, Jesus frees us from sin’s domination, Spirit can control you

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.

Romans 5-8:17

Questions & Observations

O. (Romans 5:1-11): Paul is an awesome writer!  And, if I said that to him, he would give the glory to God because God has given him the words to speak and the talent to deliver the words eloquently.  I often think of giving and receiving compliments.  I feel weird getting them, because I did what I did because of who I am and the talents I have.  I should say something about that it’s just how God made me.  Then, giving them sometimes feels awkward too, maybe because of the same thing.  It shouldn’t be the people I’m praising, but God for giving them the talents or means that would elicit that compliment.

Q. (Romans 5:17): I just wondered if that’s how Satan became ruler of the earth: because he was triumphant in getting Adam and Eve to sin that he won a little battle over earth. I’m not saying that Satan is more powerful than God, just that this was the beginning of a battle of the two for the rights of the human race and eternity.  Yes, I’m just reaching for all of this.  I’m not saying it’s true.  I think it’s OK for our minds to wonder as long as we don’t pass it on as truth?  The important point being made here is that Adam may have ushered in sin, but the more important point is that Jesus triumphed over sin by making it null and void, as long as we believe in Him and live our lives accordingly.

A. I think that the creation of man and woman was merely a new front in a struggle that has taken place outside of time, so to think of it as having a “beginning” is a little bit tricky.  I believe that the struggle between God and Satan has been going on since before time began (which is not the same as saying they have battled for eternity — only God is eternal, Satan is created).  Satan’s attacks on mankind, from the Garden on down, can be thought of in the same way that a bully by definition attacks people smaller than himself or herself.  Satan can’t attack God directly, but he can harm those who are most dear to God, His children — us, and perhaps even separate some of these vulnerable children from their Father for all eternity.  Pretty brutal tactics if you ask me.

Q. (Romans 6:1-14): I’ve said before that I was baptized in the Fourth Grade and I don’t remember a lot about it except that where it was and about how old I was.  I remember that our church always sang the hymnal versions of Power in the Blood (listen to this blue-grassy version at http://cardiphonia.bandcamp.com/track/power-in-the-blood-nothing-but-the-blood-of-jesus).  I intended to go to the baptism classes with my oldest daughter, who is 8, last time our church offered them.  I missed it.  It wasn’t on my radar loud enough.  She didn’t really say one way or the other if she wanted to do it.  However, one of their friends, who I think is 7, was baptized.  Now, my little one, 5, asked to be baptized.  I certainly didn’t tell her she couldn’t.  She said she wanted to because she loved Jesus.  I thought that was a pretty good reason.  But, I was always taught — by the church, I don’t know what the Bible says about it — that you have to be mature enough to understand the deep meaning of baptism.  Does the Bible address the timing of it?  Our church baptizes babies, right?  Or, is it a dedication or blessing?  They are sprinkled with water.  That’s another thing, I was always taught that true baptism required submersion.

A. Ah, we’re back to the baker’s dozen questions in a question.  Ok, let’s see: the Bible says nothing about the age of knowing, but there’s a good reason for that — the only accounts of baptisms are with adults (though some families are included).  So the only form of baptism presented in the Bible at all (whether by John the Baptist or by Jesus’ followers in Acts) is immersion.  This is where the tradition of immersion comes from to this day, and is the most common type of Baptism.  It’s worth pointing out, however, that really only the Baptist church (named that for a reason) says that the ONLY acceptable baptism is immersion.  Other churches have done just fine with pouring or sprinkling water onto the head of a candidate (I was baptized by sprinkling when I was 12).  Baptists are rather picky about this because of their denominational history, which is too lengthy to go into here.  Summit as a church will baptize (by sprinkling) or dedicate an infant, but they only OFFER (publicly anyway) immersion for adults, at our bi-annual beach ceremonies.  The ministers at Summit would not tell someone that their baptism “didn’t count” because they weren’t immersed, they respect all forms of baptism.

Q. (6:12-14): I certainly get this, but I struggle with the structure of it.  I never remember feeling the gift of the Holy Spirit when I was baptized, but I always had a strong conscience, even before I was baptized.  So, can you get the gift of the Spirit without being baptized?  My girls seem to have a good sense of right and wrong, around others anyway.  The other thing is this Passage makes it sound simple, like sin is so easy to give up.  And, sometimes I don’t know if some things I do are sins or not.  I know some may roll their eyes to these, but hey, I’m married with two kids at home and not much money to sin with, so the little stuff is meaningful.  I can have a cup of coffee and know it wasn’t right for me to have.  Others can drink a whole pot of coffee and not feel bad, physically or guiltily (is that even a word, jk).  I am always monitoring my words.  Sometimes I speak out and wish I had kept my mouth shut.  But, I think many times I’m being overly worried.  But, it feels like sin because anything I say should be OK with God and whatever he allows me to say, I shouldn’t feel ashamed.  And, sometimes I am ashamed of what I say (not about God.)  Anyway, are these little white sins or am I getting caught up in areas that are not important to God?  In his eyes, a little coffee or chocolate is probably no big deal.  But … if I do eat some and feel bad, then my body is not working at full capacity which would keep me from being my best, which would make me feel as if I had sinned.

A. That was pretty hard to follow, but let’s see what we can get out of it.  The Bible tells us that those who believe in Christ receive the Holy Spirit — no Baptism required.  The two are frequently intertwined, however, because Baptism was for centuries the only place where you could profess your faith and become a Christian.  Now even before a person receives the Spirit, that person has some form of moral compass (what you describe in your daughters) that I believe comes from the mark of our Creator — it is what we would call a conscience.  We don’t lose that when the Spirit enters our lives, but I believe that if we are open to His guiding, the Spirit can supersede our moral compass and guide us in truly Godly living, but it takes years of practice.  Since you bring it up, one way we can know that the Spirit is at work is that we are CONVICTED of our little sins, and guided towards repentance.  As to whether chocolate or coffee is a sin to indulge in, well, I’ll let the Spirit guide you on that one.  J

Q. (Romans 7:15-17): This is so interesting.  I never thought of myself as two different parts.  I thought that the sinner and the person were one in the same.  But, here it is saying that a person can know and understand sin, but still do it.  So, to me, this means that the person is inherently good, it’s just the sin that is living inside them that they need to dispose of.

A. I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment — the trajectory of human kind since the fall has been down, not up; bad, not good.  There is still good in us, but it is negated and corrupted by our sins.  We are capable of great acts of kindness and mercy, but also perverse acts of brutality and cruelty, but without God’s help, our good deeds simply do not outweigh our evil ones.  That is why we need God’s help so badly, and that is why Jesus came to Earth.

Q. (7:21-25): Amen, Brother Paul.  I can’t believe that even Paul has little wars going inside of his head between choosing good in the midst of sinful temptations.  This makes me think that those folks who have an air about them that they are pompously holy are putting on a big show.  If Paul struggles with sin, so do they!  I feel like the end of the Bible is the grand finale.

A. Wait until we get to the end of 2 Corinthians, you’ll love what Paul has to say.

O. (8:1-2) Sweet relief.  Thank you for your knowledge, Paul.  These verses certainly calm some anxiety!

Q. (8:9b): To me, this statement in parentheses supports your idea, Rob, that God’s chosen ones are the ones who have the Spirit in their heart, which is something that they chose to do themselves.  It has nothing to do with God selecting certain people to go to heaven.  I always have to remember to give God a lot more credit than I do.  He’s always going to be fair.  He loves all of us, equally, if we let Him.

A. Jesus desires to draw all humankind to Himself.

Q. (8:17): I’m glad Paul remembered the suffering part.  He was making it sound all too easy.

A. Frankly, I find Paul’s ability to make it sound easy with all that he went through to be the amazing part.  He will give us a rundown of his “incidents” in Philippians I think.  But never fear, suffering was never very foreign to him — it never is to those who are closest to God.  Just don’t tell that to Joel Osteen.

Day 328 (Nov. 24): Everyone will be judged, Jews need to practice what they preach, God remains faithful, all are equal, all sin, through Christ we are saved, Abraham chosen for his faithfulness to be father of Jewish nation

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.

Romans 2-4

Questions & Observations

Q. (Romans 2:5-11): Back in the Old Testament, I felt like all the prophecies were talking solely to the Israelites, which I think they were.  But, here, I feel like Paul is staring me in the eye and telling me this prophecy.  As to what this Scripture addresses: I feel that I’m doing some of what God wants, I just never know if it’s enough.  There are definite areas I can work on.  One is my dependence on God — emotionally, financially, socially.  I still see my weaknesses, but when I let God take over, they are no longer weaknesses.  My strength — when I ask for it — comes from God.

A. You’ve got the right idea.  What Paul is really doing here is making a very long-winded case that we just can’t make it on our own.  We all sin, and fall short of the standard, even the Gentiles who were unaware of the formal standard given to the Jews.  Paul wants to tell everyone, Jew, Gentile, us today, that we are lost without the work of God in Jesus Christ.  In the end, it is faith in God, and seeking His help, that is the foundation of our relationship with Him.

Q. (2:12-16): Why would the Gentiles be destroyed if they didn’t know anything about God’s written law?  I like v. 15.  It is similar to a thought I had this morning about sin.  My sin indicator is not written down, it’s in my heart (soul).  When something feels good in my head — showing off a bit, eating chocolate, complaining, gossiping (which I don’t do anymore, chocolate is my vice) — it doesn’t feel good in my heart.  That is my conscience, which I say is the Holy Spirit guiding me.

A. Paul is saying that your “sin indicator” is universal, everyone has one, even if it has grown “dull” over time.  That is why he can say that Gentiles will be destroyed for their sins.

O. (3:5-8): Talk about spinning the truth to fit someone’s needs.

Q. (4:1-25): I enjoy hearing about Abraham again … about how he was faithful and that was what made him righteous, and God, in turn, gives him salvation.   I like how he is used as an example that obeying the law does not win God’s love and/or earn salvation.  Circumcision, something that lots of folks get hung up on whether or not to have their boys circumcised, no longer signifies if you are set apart as God’s chosen.  Faith alone does that.

A. Glad Paul’s writings can help clear that up.  There is a reason that this book has been instrumental in bringing people to God through Christ for centuries.  It has a very powerful message.

Day 327 (Nov. 23): Collecting money for Jerusalem, greetings from Paul, riot in Ephesus, Paul goes to Macedonia and Greece, God’s good news, God’s anger against sin and notably homosexuality

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 16:1-24

Acts 19:21-20:6

Romans 1:1-32

Questions & Observations

O. Paul is such a perfect role model!  He has taken his charge from God seriously, and not faltered.

Q. (1 Corinthians 16:21): Did Paul use a scribe to write his letters?  I just don’t know why he makes it a point to say he is signing his letters in his own handwriting.

A. Yes, Paul used a scribe — he won’t always leave his signature at the end — to write his letters.  It was common practice in the day to have the “genuine” signature of the true author of the letter.  We don’t really know why he did this, but one theory is that his writing hand was injured in his various traumas, and he is “signing” the letter with his non-writing hand, which is why the letters are so big.

Q. (Acts 19:23): What does “the Way” mean here?

A. That is the way that Luke refers to the Gospel, it was the primary way that the early believers referred to the message of Christianity.  Remember that this is the way that Jesus himself referred to Himself in John 14:6, so it is little surprise that the earliest believers took up this way of referring to their message.

O. (Romans 1:8:17): Paul is really great at building awesome, genuine rapport with whomever he visits or writes.

Q. (1:18-32): God is obviously against homosexuality.  He says in v. 26 that homosexuality is not the “natural way to have sex.”  Could we apply this to other subjects, like food, in particular?  Artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and GMOs are not natural.  I would think that God would not be to keen on those either.  You?  I know the Bible says to not worry about what we will eat, but I think It means “clean” and “unclean” food, not food that comes from a lab.

A. Paul is definitely condemning homosexual conduct (remember that being attracted to people of the same sex is NOT a sin, just acting on it!).  This type of conduct would have been commonplace in Rome at this time, and would have involved exploitation of young men by older men (you don’t want to know the details), and public bath houses (only for men) that frequently involved sex.  As to the other “unnatural” things like food or dyes, since those things did not exist at the time, I have a suspicion that Paul did not have such things in mind.  We might think of such regulations as being wise, but Paul is describing sin, and I would stop short of eating artificial foods as being a sinful action.

Day 326 (Nov. 22): Speaking in tongues and prophesying, worship should be orderly, resurrection review, resurrection of the dead, Christ will come again and defeat His enemies, physical bodies are seed for immortal being, work enthusiastically for 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.

1 Corinthians 14-15

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 14:1-25): Rob, do you know if anyone today has the gift of speaking in tongues or prophesying?  To me, this passage speaks out for the gift of prophesying or preaching and not so much for speaking in tongues because the latter can only benefit the person speaking in a unique language.

A. That is a highly debated topic with no consensus.  Though I have not personally witnessed either speaking in tongues (or interpretation) or prophecy, I am surely open to the possibility that the Spirit can do as He pleases.

Q. (14:34-35): OK, Rob, talk about this one.  This is a hard one for me to swallow.  I feel like God is saying that women have no understanding of His word.  I had counseling when I was in high school because I had held my feelings in for so long because I didn’t think what I thought really mattered.  Now, God is telling me that I don’t matter because I’m a woman!  Besides, this says because the law says to be submissive.  The Law is no longer valid.

A. Ok, here goes.  The entire point of this passage is Paul’s instructions is NOT to keep women in their “place,” but rather to maintain an orderly worship.  Since in this society, it would have been improper for women to speak in public, Paul instructions are about preventing a “scene” in worship — the worship experience should present order, not disorder for non-believers.  There are other places (like Acts 11:5) where Paul would appear to go against his own instructions and expect women to pray and prophecy in church, so we’re clearly not talking about a universal, ironclad standard here.  If you examine 1 Cor 11:5, Paul himself indicates that there were times when women were permitted to speak at church.  So, I leave it to you to decide from there what he meant.

O. (15:8-11): I like what Paul says here about him being the least of the apostles.  He says he does not even deserve to be called an apostle.  Nevertheless, He has let God work through him and been more effective than the others.  But, it doesn’t matter because as long as people are preaching as God instructs them, their word is all solid.

A. God has the amazing ability to bring light out of the darkest places, even those in the human heart.  His ability to change lives, even of those closest to me, is a powerful testimony, and I believe it is the very best witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Q. (15:35-58): This is an amazing description of life after physical death that I’ve never read.  Our old bodies being a seed to our immortal spirits shows how God continues to use the same ways of life over again and again.

A. It is one of the least read and understood passages of scripture, and it does a lot of damage to the idea of the afterlife as being where disembodied souls play harps on clouds for all eternity.  That is certainly not the record of Scripture!  Wait until we wrap up with Revelation!

O. (15:58) Love this one!