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 352 (Dec. 18): Christ is our high priest, grow beyond the basic knowledge of Christ, God’s oath is a binding promise of hope, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, Jesus is perfect priest who lives on and can intercede forever and offer salvation

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 4:14-7:28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 5:4): When did God make this oath to Jesus?  The footnote said it was in Psalms, but what is the timeframe and the events surrounding it?

A. That’s a tricky question — keep in mind that trying to assign a “timeframe” to a “being outside of time” is not likely one to have a satisfactory answer.  Ok, the writer is quoting from Psalm 2, which is accepted to be a Psalm about the Messiah — in it, God selects His King and adopts him.  So, carrying the analogy forward, the writer is saying that in quoting from this Psalm, God was making this oath to Jesus as Messiah — it is not a literal oath that God the Father made to Jesus, but is more a metaphorical one describing the relationship between Father and Son.

Q. (5:8): The Bible, in general, is very serious.  And, we shouldn’t take the seriousness of our salvation lightly.  Here it talks about how much Jesus had to suffer, but we know he found joy and delight in people.  He enjoyed those who showed compassion.  But, the seriousness of following God — as it feels in this verse — can sometimes feel stern and cold.

A. It can.  Do keep in mind that the writer is preaching this message to Jewish Christians, who would have treated following God as very serious business — and definitely NOT something to take lightly.  I get the sense that the writer was, as all good writers do, considering his audience in crafting his message, and while it can sound cold to our ears, it was written to show reverence to God.

Q. (5:11-6:12): I like this passage because it basically gives us a swift kick to urge us to keep carrying on and go past the basic knowledge of Jesus is our salvation.  We are to keep moving and telling folks about the Good News.  We are to not waste our time on those who don’t listen?

A. Let’s keep reading the rest of this text, and I think that the meaning of what he is writing here will become clearer.

Q. (7:1-28): OK, Rob, this sounds like a big surprise.  I searched “Melchizedek” on BibleGateway.com, and found several references to him in Abraham’s time.  But, why was he downplayed when we learn in the NT how important he was.  It sounds like he was almost like Jesus, but in the OT?  I don’t remember hearing about him in the OT.

A. He was there, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, but he was frankly not a major character in the story.  The most honest answer to your question would be for me to say that the OT is the story of the Jewish people, and a religious Jew would NOT agree with the argument that the writer is making.  To pious Jews, there IS NO other order of priests then the Levitical priesthood.  This is why the writer devotes an entire section of his writing to make this argument: he wants this Jewish audience to understand that there is another, older priesthood in their own story, and that even the great patriarch Abraham bowed down to him.  It is another example of the “Christ is better than…” arguments that dominate this section of Hebrews.  Essentially with this argument, the writer is making the case for how Jesus could be a priest of any sort without being a Levite since Jesus was a Judean.  And his answer — which frankly many Jews would not accept — is that Jesus is part of a priesthood that long predates the priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.

Day 351 (Dec. 17): The son radiates God’s glory, Jesus earned place of honor when he cleansed us from sin, Jesus is greater than the angels, angels care for believers, stay with the truth, Jesus more glorious than Moses, Israelites faltering in the desert serves as a heed God’s instructions, promised rest for God’s 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.

2 Timothy 4:19-22

The letter to the Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish Christians- and it was very likely given as a sermon since it contains no greeting.  Though Paul is the traditionally attributed writer, it is unlikely that Paul wrote it.  Instead, the author is unknown, lost to history.  The text was probably written before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, since the letter presupposes that sacrifices were still being performed there (for example, see 5:1-3, 8:3-5, 9:6-13).

Hebrews 1-4:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 1:2): Can you explain this verse?  It sounds like this promise of inheritance happened at creation, so then Jesus would have to know he would be crucified back then?  I really don’t know what God is saying Jesus is inheriting.

A. The writer is describing how Jesus will be ultimate ruler of all created things — that this was God’s plan from the beginning.  This is the “everything” that Jesus has inherited by going through the process of being crucified.  If you ask me, I suspect that God knew the way that all things would unfold in Creation, including the need for Jesus to be crucified.

Q. (1:4-14): Why is the author validating that Jesus is more glorious than angels?

A. Because angel worship was a problem then as it is now, maybe more so (google “angel sightings” or “angel shrine” to see what I’m talking about).  This was an especially big problem for early Jewish Christians, who would have greatly revered angels.  The author needs to convince his audience that Jesus is superior to all the things of the OT, including Moses, the angels/messengers, and the priesthood/temple (coming soon!).

Q. (1:14): To my knowledge, I haven’t been in the presence of an angel.  In what instances do angels help us?  I guess I am confused now about angels roles vs. the Holy Spirit.  I have definitely been in the presence of a heavenly spirit, but I don’t know if it was when the Spirit was particularly strong in me, or it was an angel.  I have heard God’s voice — in my head — and I have felt that glorious feeling many times.  But, are we supposed be able to identify if it’s angels, the Spirit, Jesus or God?

A. There’s not really a clear way to do it, since the Bible shrouds such things in mystery intentionally.  But the general rule I would give you is that if you hear the “internal” voice, you are hearing the Spirit of God, and any “external” voice is that of an angelic being, who is bringing a message from God.  That last one is exceptionally rare, occurring only a few times even within Scripture.

Q. (2:18): This verse is saying that if we think of Jesus suffering on the cross that can help us make wise decisions, i.e. Jesus went to these lengths for me so I can honor His suffering by making choices with righteousness and grace?

A. I think that’s part of it, but also remember the verses we have read indicating that Jesus now prays and acts on our behalf at the very throne of God the Father.  Jesus might also be able to literally help us during times of crisis, in addition to your suggestion that His help is figurative.

Q. (3:6): So, God is Lord over all, but Jesus has authority over us?  If we use the church analogy, He is the head pastor of us and God would be the bishop (with no one over Him, of course)?

A. Trying to draw lines like that is a really tricky exercise, since the Persons of the Trinity are distinct, but also unified in a way that we as humans simply cannot comprehend.  What the NT tells us is that Jesus is the ruler of all the things that He helped create, i.e. all of Creation.

Q. (3:13): In our small group, one member said that we are to love everyone, but have an elevated relationship with other Christians.  Could this verse be the source for that thought?  We should help other brothers and sisters in Christ by watching their moves and keeping them straight.  I would think this could be a little tricky because of people’s pride (a sin), but those who are wise will take heed to the guidance.  Also, those who are setting the others straight need to make sure both of their feet and their hearts are on the right path.

A. I would partially disagree with your friend, and my reason for doing so would be because I feel like there are different seasons in a Christians life in which they may be forced to focus on other Christians more, and other seasons where they focus on non-believers more, as the Spirit guides us.  I think it is inaccurate to make blanket statements such as “always watch over Christians more,” because I simply don’t think that that is always what God wants.  Having said all that, I do believe that what you’re describing is at the heart of accountability, the watching over the hearts of Christians close to you, which is a high priority in the NT, just not the only one.  The end point for all Christian discipleship is to reach those who are not yet members of the community.  The ultimate target is those who are far from God.

Q. (4:8): What does it mean, “if Joshua had succeeded in giving them rest”?  I’m really not sure if this passage is talking about resting on the Sabbath or rest after we see Jesus come again and can enjoy the wonderment of Heaven, like a rest of struggling souls.  (I have never thought of this before: Imagine the rest your soul will enjoy after we get to heaven — rest from continuously battling with temptation and sin.  That’s a feeling we should strive for now.  If there is sin trying to influence us, toss it away so you can have that calmness where no one is trying to disturb your peace.

A. Ok, what’s going on here is the writer is comparing the rest God took on the seventh day of Creation to the “rest” that He offers those who are faithful to Him (Heaven, in other words).  The reference to Joshua relates to him being the person who led the people into the Promised Land after Moses’ death.  Entering the Promised Land has long been seen as a metaphor for dying and going to heaven to be with God, which the writer is obviously connecting with here.  But what he is saying is that entering the Promised Land for the Israelites did not bring them salvation or “rest,” but just presented them with a new set of challenges that they frequently failed.  The real rest of God, the writer is saying, won’t be like that.  It will be the true fulfillment of God’s rest for His children.

O. (4:13): Just a noteworthy verse: 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Day 301 (Oct. 28): Be ready for Jesus’s second coming at all times, parable of ten bridesmaids, parable of three servants, Jesus will separate the righteous from evil, helping others helps 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.

Mark 13:32-37

Matthew 24:36-51

Luke 21:34-38

Matthew 25:1-46

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 24:36-51): We have heard this same story before, I guess from another one of the gospels.  Any idea why it wasn’t put with the other one since this is a chronological Bible?

A. While we’ve heard some version of the material, that doesn’t mean that it was presented at the same time as Jesus’ other sermons or that that material was never repeated (an assumption many skeptics of the Bible simply ignore — Jesus likely taught similar sermons over and over again).  Matthew records that these verses are part of a larger narrative on being prepared for the Final Judgment, which is unique, and has not been presented in the Gospels before now.  That is most likely why some of the material that kind of sounds familiar from other Gospels is presented here as part of a narrative about being prepared.

Q. (Luke 21:34-38): Does this mean we aren’t supposed to let our guard down by hanging out with friends and having a couple of drinks?  Or, is this talking about boozing it up at a bar?  I would say that as long as God is with you and on your mind, you’re OK.  But if you let your morals go, then you risk letting God go and your salvation?

A. The Bible does not prescribe a life completely free of alcohol consumption, but it DOES say clearly that drunkenness is a sin.  Since there are many people who cannot handle the distinction between a couple of drinks and being blackout drunk (i.e. alcoholics), it might be better for those people to avoid consuming alcohol at all, since it tends to dull your wits.  Bad decisions come after consuming too much alcohol.

Q. (Matthew 25:14-30): We’ve seen this one before too.  I can get two different morals from this story.  One is that the master is literally giving talents.  The servants who use their talents and either expand on them or profit from them are rewarded.  Or, the servants who use their talents to bring more people to God will be rewarded.

A. As mentioned, it is possible that Jesus is repeating a story He has already told in this instance to make a point about using the gifts and abilities God has given us (including being given riches).  Either of your proposed “morals” are fine, but they BOTH require a level of discernment: you must determine what you feel God is calling you to do, and then to act on it.

Q. (Matthew 25:31-46): Jesus is talking about when we help others, we honor Him.  If we don’t do that — his will and the new covenant — it’s eternal time in the fire pit.  When we lived on Guam, a neighbor who was a Seventh Day Adventist told me that the Bible says that the eternal fire is really not eternal.  I have always pictured people — I guess it would be there souls? — burning forever and ever.  Rob, what knowledge do you have?

A. First, one quick note: the story of the Sheep and Goats does not say that it is actions ALONE that will get us into heaven or send us to hell.  Our actions are generally a tangible representation of what we believe (i.e. we don’t generally act in contrast to what we believe).  So if we have faith in Christ, and have been changed by His life and teachings, then the result of such thinking will most likely being a radical change in our actions.  We are much less likely to be selfish if we have truly internalized what Jesus has taught us.  So if we have faith in Him, our actions will likely change, which is tangibly proven by our daily interactions with others.

As to the reality of what hell is “like,” we only have bits and pieces to go on.  There are some contrasting images that appear contradictory at first look: we are told that hell is a place of darkness, but also of fire for example.  In Revelation, it will be described as a lake of fire — burning sulfur, which used to be known as brimstone, to be exact.  As we discussed at some point — I forget exactly where — when Jesus discussed what we call hell, He used images of a place called Gehenna, a burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem that was once used for pagan child sacrifice.  So there are various ways that the reality of hell is described.  Personally, I agree with one part of what your neighbor has said, but it’s not the part you might think.  I believe that there will be an eternal separation of souls from God, and that while there will be no LITERAL fire there, the agony and anguish of regret at having missed out on God will be undeniable.  Note carefully: all the metaphors that Jesus used to speak about hell — and don’t miss that it is Jesus HIMSELF who teaches much of what we understand about hell! — have a literal point: they represent regret, suffering, and misery.  Hell is real, and it is a real danger to those who willfully turn from God — no one goes to hell by accident — it is willful action on our part to end up there.  We all know or have heard about people who say they want no part of God at all — that He is cruel, or unjust, or whatever.  And as a person who believes strongly in free will, I believe that God is willing to say, “I will not force you to be with me if that is what you desire.”  But surely those who make up their mind to act in defiance of God and choose their sin and selfishness will regret what they have done.  Such defiance often makes us blind to a way out, even if the lifeline is still offered.  C.S. Lewis once cleverly remarked that if hell is “locked,” then it is locked from the inside.  Something to think about…

Day 298 (Oct. 25): Two sons parable shows who belongs to God, farming parable highlights church leaders corrupt hearts, wedding feast parable shows the chosen, coin story shows importance of God, earthly relationships not important for resurrection

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 21:28-32

Mark 12:1-12

Matthew 21:33-46

Luke 20:9-19

Matthew 22:1-14

Mark 12:13-17

Matthew 22:15-22

Luke 20:20-26

Mark 12:18-27

Matthew 22:22-33

Luke 20:27-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 21:28-32): This is what I think is the “moral to this story”: So, Jesus is saying that, in their hearts, the tax collector and prostitutes believe in Him, but were not following yet.  And, the ones who followed God, were not committed in their hearts.  So, the ones who believe are better off with God than the ones who follow Him by sight alone.

A. I would call that is pretty close.  The younger son is the one paying lip service to obeying his Father, but ultimately does not do what the Father says — this is the way that Jesus has repeatedly described the religious leaders.  The older son represents those who are truly following the wishes of the Father, even if they aren’t on the “inside.”  They are doing what is right, which is what the Father ultimately desires.

Q. (Mark 12:1-12, Mathew 21:33-46, Luke 20:9-19): So, I got this one.  The farmers are obviously the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, the landowner is God, the servants are prophets and Jesus is His favored son.  The farmers don’t listen to the prophets, so God sends His son to see if they will obey Him.  They still don’t, they reject Him.  So, Jesus puts the question to the farmers, or church leaders, as to what will happen next.  You would think this would open the leaders eyes to their evil ways.  Then, Jesus gives them another example of them rejecting Him, but then He becomes the cornerstone.  I like Luke’s version where he says that anyone who stumbles over the stone — fails to see Jesus’s teachings — will be destroyed.  I also noted that those who have thought they were the heirs to the Kingdom of God lose their inheritance because of their assumptions that, by default, the kingdom is theirs.  But, they are not following God’s intentions.  They are following their own selfish ways.  So, the Kingdom of God will be granted to those who they have trampled on.

A. Spot on.  Nothing to add here.

Q. (Matthew 22:1-14): God and Jesus use a lot of wedding imagery between them and their followers.  Can you talk about that?  Also, this is an easy story to understand.  But, how about explaining the last verse, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  I’m not sure what “chosen” means.  I would guess it means, “For many are called, but few are worthy.”

A. If you think weddings are a big event here, then you would REALLY be impressed by the wedding feast imagery Jesus is talking about.  Weddings in the ancient world were huge festivals, especially when a ruler such as the king in this story was throwing it.  As we mentioned a few days ago, the festival could go for days, and the exact “end” of the wedding was not entirely known.  One other note that we find humorous: after the actual ceremony, the new happy couple would leave the group and go to, uh…consummate the union.  The wedding party itself literally WOULD NOT BEGIN until they had returned.  Isn’t that something?

We need to compare the two sections of the story in order to understand what Jesus is telling us at the end.  First, the call: the call is one that, metaphorically, goes out to all humanity.  But many do not answer, mostly because like the people in this story, they are too busy with their own business and internally focused.  But the man who is in the midst of the party and not in a wedding outfit — you were expected to wear your best clothes to a wedding, just as today, and many times the host would prescribe or even provide an outfit — brings into focus the last section of the story.  It points back to Jesus’s message in Matthew 7:21-23: not everyone who comes to the party will be able to partake of it.  The image that I have seen used to help us understand the passage is the wedding clothes represent the work of Christ covering up our sins (the “dirty” clothes).  Those who arrive at the “party” without the proper garment (the blood of Jesus atoning for their sins) will, sadly, be cast out.  Without the proper attire, which can only come for the true King, we are lost on our own.  Without a proper outfit, you cannot be “chosen”.

Q. (Mark 12:13-17, Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26): What does Jesus mean by “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”

A. The clue is in what Jesus asks for: a Roman coin called a denarius (the equivalent of the pay for a day’s wages).  In Jesus’s day, this coin would have borne the stamped image of the Emperor Tiberius.  That is, the coin had the “image” of Caesar.  And if we go back all the way to Genesis 1, we note there that man and woman were made in the image of God.  So Jesus is basically making a simple and profound statement about our loyalties: give to Caesar, He says, the things that bear the image of Caesar (the coins), since they “belong to him.”  But, He also says, the things that bear the image of God (us) belong to God, and by extension…not to Caesar.  In summary, Jesus is saying it is right to give to earthly leaders what is owed to them (taxes), but that their leadership pales in comparison to He who made US in His image.

Q. (Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, Luke 20:27-40): Obviously, Jesus is much wiser than me because I don’t understand this one.  All I can guess is that He is saying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead.  He is the Living God.  And, if He lives in us, we are eternally alive.  But, we do die an earthly death and then, when Jesus comes, we will rise again to be alive.  Right?  So, we would be dead for a time.

A. Our bodies are mortal, and will die, but our souls are immortal, and can be given the gift of eternal life from faith in Christ.  We will talk more about what the NT says about our resurrection when we get into Paul’s letters, but that’s enough for now.