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 357 (Dec. 23): Grow in your faith with “moral excellence” and the more productive you will be in the knowledge of Jesus, we need constant reminders of our faith in Jesus to stand firm with truth, false teachers are clever and crafty, the Day of the Lord will come as a surprise, God is patient in picking His day because He is wants to give people more time to be saved, Peter warns against becoming influenced by evil people

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 Peter 5:12-14

Peter’s second letter addresses many of the same concerns as the letter of Jude — the two letters were probably written about the same time and to the same churches.

2 Peter 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Peter 2:9): If God rescues godly people, then why do bad things still happen to true Christians?

A.  I can give you lots of reasons: because we live in a fallen world, because sin still reigns, because God knows that He can bring good out of our darkness, because the faith of true Christians needs testing, and ultimately, because, as we have discussed, there are no “good” people, even true Christians.  Sin still holds sway in this world, but not forever.

Q. (3:7): I just noticed that “heavens” is plural.

A. There’s some theories about this, but the general consensus is that there is indication of “levels” of heaven — usually seven, with God’s throne being the seventh.  While there is some speculation, there is little concrete evidence in Scripture, so speculation seems a bit out of bounds.  Like the reality of hell, the reality of heaven is something the Bible merely casts fleeting glances at — it calls for our focus to be on God and His acts in the person of Jesus Christ.  Revelation will have another “glance” into the throne room, coming soon!

O. (3:8-9): This is so sweet.  It shows how much God loves us!

O. (3:14): Peaceful, I’m sure, means to not quarrel with people and love them as much as humanly possible.  I would think, though, that it would also mean being calm in yourself, which for me, I need to carve out a lot more quiet time where I can talk purposely and earnestly with God.  I also need to make sure I am ministering to people, helping anyone I can, being a great friend who listens, leading by example, etc; because I think this brings inner peace and purpose that we are fulfilling the instructions we have been given of spreading the Good News.

Day 356 (Dec. 22): Jesus is cornerstone for believers to build on and nonbelievers to stumble, respect those in authority, slaves who endure hardship will be rewarded, wives must accept husband’s authority, clothe yourself in inward beauty not outward appearance, husbands must treat wives as equal partner, pay back retaliation with blessings, God will reward those who suffer for doing what is right, live for God, watch over flock willingly not grudgingly, watch out for the prowling devil

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.

Day 356 (Dec. 22)

1 Peter 2:4-5:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Peter 2:18-25): On second reading, the slaves he is talking about, I think, are actual slaves, but I think this passage also includes all Christians: Those who can endure unfair treatment will be rewarded.  Does God condone slavery?  What about slavery in the U.S. was it wrong by God and should it have ended?

A. No more than any other human institution that exploits people, as slavery does.  Slavery, in its various forms, is a classic example of the exploitation that people frequently indulge in, including abuse (in all its forms), violence, and sex trafficking (which is frankly just sex slavery).  The ways that we humans too often treat each other in no way pleases God, but there can be light brought out of it as well, as Peter is describing.  If you endure suffering — suffering you don’t deserve, not that you do! — it is a powerful witness to the transformative power of Christ.  So though we often exploit each other (Americans included), Peter is saying that even the suffering of the exploited can be used to glorify God.

O. (3:3-6): My good friend is a hairstylist in Hollywood.  He sees celebrities constantly.  On a visit, his cousin wanted to go to the grocery store in the morning just dressed in casual clothes.  My friend told her no, no, you have to get ready to go to the store there.  Everyone is dressed to the nines, even on a weekend morning.  I just think about how much time that wastes and if you are out showing God’s love, how does that make people feel if, when you are talking to them all dressed up, they think that you are above their status and can’t relate to you.  It’s easy for me to get on the soapbox about this since I don’t spend hardly any time primping.  I always thought I was too lazy.  Now I can use the reason that I want my inward beauty to show.  J

Q. (4:1b): What does it mean to have “suffered physically for Christ” and “you will have finished with sin?”

A. I’m honestly not sure.  Best guess: if you are counted as a follower of Christ to the point where you are willing to suffer punishment for it, then like Christ, you have (symbolically) moved beyond sin, because those who are faithful have been purified of sin by God’s grace.

O. (4:7): Prayer is certainly something that I don’t take as seriously as I should.  And, I think more quiet time with God would draw me closer to Him.

O. (5:2b): Watching over others willingly sure makes it more enjoyable too!

Q. (5:8): This reminds me of our beloved former pastor, Isaac Hunter, who just took his own life.  I looked back on YouTube at some of his old skit videos.  He looked so normal, so together and happy.  The devil must have bore down on him hard for him to trip up and give up.  We can learn from Isaac’s fall.  The devil can trip us up so easily, we have to be on the lookout constantly.

A. While it can sound insensitive (I had tremendous respect for Isaac), what happened to Isaac did not happen overnight, or through a single “attack” of the devil.  I have a strong suspicion that Isaac suffered greatly for years because of his personal choices.  So while Satan may prowl, far too often we give him an opening and are forced to deal with the consequences, as Isaac did.  While the man that you saw in the videos presented an outward appearance of happiness — which may indeed have been genuine — I suspect that Isaac was hiding great pain that not even close friends, co-workers, or counselors could see.  He hid it so well.  Isaac was incredibly gifted, and I am so sad that those gifts have now been lost — partly because he would have been uniquely qualified to share with others about how to confront the demons that haunt you and pass to the other side with God’s help.

Day 278 (Oct 5): Women included in Jesus’s group, religious leaders accuse Jesus of being obsessed, Jesus tells importance of Jonah, Jesustrue family of believers, scattering seed parable, Jesus explains seed parable

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 8:1-3

Mark 3:20-30

Matthew 12:22-45

Mark 3:31-35

Matthew 12:46-50

Luke 8:19-21

Mark 4:1-9

Matthew 13:1-9

Luke 8:4-8

Mark 4:10-20

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 8:1-3): I just wondered why women joining Jesus is important?  Maybe they prepared meals?  I like the fact that it is mentioned, letting us know now that Jesus valued everyone and everyone can serve Him.

A. This question cracks me up.  Luke is doing two things here, neither of which has to do with cooking: 1) he, as the writer of the outsider’s Gospel, is pointing out that women were a part of Jesus’ inner circle — something mentioned much less in the other Gospels — and 2) he is telling us that these women were the ones providing for the needs of Jesus’ little band.  There were His patronesses — a bit more important than being the cook, isn’t it?

Q. (Mark 3:27): Why does Satan (evil) fall to Jesus (good)?  I would just say that the goodness happens to be stronger than evil.

A. That’s sort of a complicated question, but here’s my take.  When we think about good and evil, we tend to think of them as two sides of the same coin, in a “yin and yang” kind of way.  They are eternal opposites.  But, as C.S. Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity, this picture is not reality.  The Bible points to the idea that the cosmic struggle between good and evil is a civil war, rather than one of eternal opposite powers.  Satan/Lucifer is a created being, and therefore, he is by definition a “lesser” being then God.  Satan led a rebellion against God, and was cast out for it (this will come up again in the NT).  What Satan represents in the Bible is corrupted goodness, not eternal evil.

This can be applied to our lives as well: when we think of evil, people like Mao, Hitler, and Stalin, for example, we find that as much as we despise these men, the goals that they sought after were not inherently evil in the abstract sense.  These men desired power, control, wealth, etc.  None of those things are evil in and of themselves, in fact they are often thought of as good things.  But what we see the evil in is the WAY in which these good things are pursued.  If you have to kill millions of people — as all three of these men did — to get your power, then you are evil.  As Lewis roughly puts it, you can be good just for the sake of goodness, you CANNOT be evil just for the sake of badness.  No one is evil just to be evil: they desire things that one can abstractly call good.  Being good is virtuous in and of itself; evil is ALWAYS a good desire that has been corrupted.  I hope that idea makes sense.  So in that regard, that’s my take on why good wins against evil, because the “good” is the real and true thing.  The “evil” is a hollow, corrupted shell.

Q. (Mark 3:28, Matthew 12:31-32): So, no one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will go to heaven?   What if they have a change of heart?  If you hear someone do this, you should just walk away and not try to tell them about God?  You shouldn’t give them any “pearls”?  And, in Matthew 12:31-32, the scripture says that blaspheming Jesus IS a forgivable sin.  Why the difference between Jesus and the Spirit?

A.  This is not as complicated as you are making it out to be: there’s a semi-simple explanation.  There is an underlying assumption in Christian theology that it is the Holy Spirit that works to restore the heart and mind and desires of each and every human being, even those who are not Christians.  So in that sense, it is the Spirit that allows us to understand the forgiveness of our sins.  But if we declare that the Spirit is NOT the source of these good things (which is blasphemy), it is not so much that these words are SO unforgiveable, but rather that we are cutting ourselves off FROM THE SOURCE of forgiveness.  We have turned away from the One who helps to change our hearts, including those changes of hearts you mentioned in your question.  So it is not that Jesus is saying that speaking these words somehow puts you beyond God’s reach and you’re out of luck, what He is saying is that if you repeatedly deny the power of the Spirit (by, for example, accusing the Spirit of being a demon as the Pharisees are doing here- that’s the connection), you reach a point where without a radical change in your heart, you have PUT YOURSELF out of God’s reach.

Q. (Matthew 12:23): My husband is studying Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship.  He had the question about Jesus being a descendant of David.  He was having a little trouble with Joseph’s line.  I think Mary’s is established in one of the gospels that we have read.  I read somewhere on the Internet that Joseph was a descendant of David, but since Jesus was born from the Holy Spirit, Joseph was a more adoptive role.  And, because He is not biologically related to Joseph, that would allow Jesus to not be under the curse of Solomon (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_exactly_is_Solomon%27s_curse).

A. Interesting article.  I addressed this in the genealogy section (basically word for word, he he) of our reading on Day 267 (Sept 24th).  Perhaps you didn’t make it that far into my answers? (J/K)

Q. (Matthew 12:33-37): I assume Jesus is talking about the Pharisees here.  Let’s discuss again what the Pharisees were doing that was so bad.  They were teaching God’s law.  That seems pretty obedient.  And, now there is a new law.  I could understand how they would get hung up on the way things have been for hundreds of years.

A. The Pharisees were legalists, and as many Christians (my wife included — she grew up in a very rigid house and church community) can tell you, legalism KILLS love for God.  These leaders knew the Bible — OT of course — inside and out, and literally had studied it since their birth, but they failed to properly apply what they read with compassion and love.  That is the major breaking point between Jesus and these leaders: the burden that they gave was a legalistic “heavy” burden, Jesus gave a burden that was light and founded in love and grace.  Legalism knows nothing of grace — by definition, it can’t.

Q. (Matthew 12:38-40): It’s awesome how he brings Jonah from long ago back in to the picture.  Do we know what Jesus is talking about when He says He’ll be “in the heart of the earth”?

A. Yes, the grave.  Jesus was literally dead from the end of Good Friday until Sunday morning: three days in the earth.

Q. (Matthew 12:43): Jesus is casting out a lot of evil spirits.   Where do they come from?  What are they?  What causes them to enter a body?  Do they still exist today?
A. Demons are fallen angels, like Satan, who appear to have the ability to enter into people and control them — we will see more violent versions soon.  As to whether it still happens and why, I don’t have an answer for either.  Sorry, there’s too much speculation, and the Bible does not seem to think it is important enough to tell us.

Q. (Mark 3:31-25): To me this interaction is a bit strange.  If my mom and siblings came calling on me, I think I would come out quickly because they must be concerned about me.  Instead, Jesus turns it into a teaching tool to say we are all God’s children and should love one another, as we have a common cares, beliefs, motivations and goals.  I’m not sure why this sounds a bit awkward.  It’s almost as if our family ties don’t matter.

A. It appears that at this stage of His ministry, Jesus’ family thought He was insane, and were basically coming to get Him to avoid further embarrassment from their peers.  But Jesus is clear about His mission, and He will not be deterred by His family when His task is not yet done.  Jesus will have more to say about family ties, so let’s revisit this when He does.

Q. (Mark 4:1-9): Any idea why Jesus is often by a lake?

A. Sure, that’s where the people were.

Q. (Mark 4:11-12): Several questions here: 1) What “secret?” 2) How does teaching through parables make the scripture true and how does it help others understand?  3) Can you explain the lines in v. 12?

A. In Mark’s Gospel (this is a unique feature), the secret appears to be the coming of the Messiah in the midst of the people of Israel.  Jesus is not yet ready to fully identify Himself as Messiah in this way, because He will be misunderstood.  Please note, literally the only person who He has explicitly told that He is the Messiah is the woman at the well back in John 4.  So the “secret” is something of a way of presenting a humble Messiah who is hiding in plain sight, and only those who have faith in Him can see it.

As to the parables themselves, they are Jesus’ way of bringing to light the truths of the Bible in ways that people can understand at multiple levels.  Again, only those on the “inside” (for now) understand.  In comparing His ministry and use of parables to that of Isaiah (whom He quotes from), Jesus is saying that He desires to expose the hardheartedness of many of the leaders of this day, just as was Isaiah’s call centuries ago.

Q. (Mark 4:20): The “harvest” here is referring to believers produced?

A. You got it.

Day 234 (Aug. 22): Remaining Israelites will feel God’s anger, God compares Jerusalem and Samaria as adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah committed sin by worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to their idols, Nebuchadnezzar beseized Jerusalem for two years, God says the people will burn in their filth, God gives no pity to Jerusalem

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.

Ezekiel 22:17-23:49

2 Kings 24:20b-25:2

Jeremiah 52:3b-5

Jeremiah 39:1

Ezekiel 24:1-14

Questions & Observations

Q. Is there significance to the names of the “sisters” in this reading?

A. Yes.  The older sister, Onolah, which represent Israel/Samaria, means “her tent.”  This is most likely a reference to the unauthorized places of worship set up in the Northern Kingdoms where the “spiritual prostitution” that Ezekiel is describing in graphic detail took place.  Judah is represented by Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her,” which refers to the place of worship in the Temple, and the pagan worship that took hold there under the corrupt kings.

Q. (Ezekiel 23:22-23): Why are all of these countries interested in attacking Jerusalem anyway?  For their treasures?  Or are we just supposed to know that God made it happen so the Israelites would be destroyed?

A. There’s a few reasons: first, as our readings have described over these last few months, the land in Judah/Israel was very desirable and good for growing crops such as olives and grapes.  Jerusalem itself was set in very high country relative to the surround area, so that also made it desirable.  But ultimately what we are talking about here is trade routes: Judah was set along a major trade road that many nations, including Egypt, used to import and export goods.  Since Babylon is a major enemy of Egypt at this point, controlling this route is a great way to weaken its great enemy.  Those, I think, provide three good reasons why Judah and Jerusalem were targeted.  But do note what got the place ultimately leveled was Zedekiah’s betrayal of his loyalty oath to Nebuchadnezzar when he tried to join Egypt against Babylon.

Q. (23:27): Is God saying that the Israelites wickedness came from Egypt back when they were enslaved or more recently?  I didn’t remember the Israelites worshiping idols until they started traveling in the desert.

A. If you remember the Golden Calf incident back in the dessert, the calf itself was an Egyptian deity — though it is possible there were other influences as well; several local cultures revered a deity represented by a bull, a common ancient symbol of strength.  You could certainly make the argument, as God is doing here, that Israel “learned” these terrible worship practices while slaves in Egypt.  Note what happened in Exodus: at the first sign of trouble with this “new God” who has rescued them (when Moses was gone for forty days), they reverted to some form of pagan worship with the calf image.  I think it is quite fair to say that they picked up this bad “habit” in Egypt.

Q. (23:46): God is asking Ezekiel to bring an army against the sisters — Samaria and Jerusalem?  How could Ezekiel do that?

A. God is pronouncing judgment on them, and not asking Ezekiel to bring this army, as we see in the last sections of this reading, the army was already there.

Q. (2 Kings 24:20b-25:2): So, it finally happens.  So, they are surrounded for two years and get no food or water from the outside?

A. Only what they could smuggle in, which surely wasn’t much.  It was surely hell for the people inside.