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 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 350 (Dec. 16): Soldiers of God will be rewarded, listen to the truth and avoid worthless gossip, gently tell opposers the Truth, difficult times in the last of days, imposters will flourish, all Scripture is inspired by God, suffering is a likely for believers, carry out ministry God has given 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.

2 Timothy 2-4:18

Questions & Observations

O. (2 Timothy 2:3-6): It’s hard not getting caught up in the ways of the world, and you may feel like you are being left out or suffering because of the world rejecting you, but here it says that you will be rewarded for that.

Q. (2:25): I feel like I have to be extremely careful with talking up religious matters with others because they quickly put up their protective shields and run away.

A. I think the idea of sharing the gospel is that it is placed within the greater framework of God’s efforts to reach that person, which you may or may not be a part.  God is looking to see if we will be faithful to our calling, which is to share the message of Jesus with others, especially, as Paul says here, with those who would stand in opposition to what Christianity stands for.

Q. (3:6-7): This reminds me of women looking for a quick fix product that they’ve seen in a health food store or somewhere.  For instance, if it’s weight loss, they will downplay the sin of gluttony instead and look for something to cover it up.

A. Hum, I think that’s a good way to think about it.

Q. (3:16) Nice verse!  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

A. Go home and preach it, sister!

Q. (4:5): So, it appears that we may suffer if we follow Christ, but we will be rewarded.  And, God said to remember to use the talents he gave you.  I think that is so wonderful that God is telling us that we can be something that we enjoy … and when we use our God-given talents, we’ll be fulfilled.

A. True Christian fulfillment comes not in a good or a bad life — by the world’s standards anyway — but in the knowledge that we are following after the true Way, and trusting God with the rest.

Day 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

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 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

Day 286 (Oct. 13): Jesus heals possessed boy, Jesus predicts His death, Jesus obediently pays temple tax, become humble as a child, Jesus OK with people healing in His name, parable of lost sheep, how to handle offenses, parable of unforgiving debtor

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 9:14-29

Matthew 17:14-20

Luke 9:37-43

Mark 9:30-32

Matthew 17:22-23

Luke 9:43b-45

Matthew 17:24-27

Mark 9:33-37

Matthew 18:1-6

Luke 9:46-48

Mark 9:38-41

Luke 9:49-50

Mark 9:42-50

Matthew 18:7-10

Matthew 18:12-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 9:19,29, Matthew 17:20): So the disciples couldn’t heal the boy.  I see conflicting reasons why in Mark and Matthew.  They both say, “You faithless and corrupt people!” making me rationalize that the disciples were not full of faith so they could not heal the boy.  But then, Mark 9:29 said that the evil spirit could have only been cast out by prayer.  Jesus said it like it’s a lesson that they hadn’t covered yet.  So, I don’t know which is correct — lack of faith or naiveté?  And, in both versions, why does Jesus address the disciples in a condescending tone?

A. Personally, I’ve always connected with the version that says their lack of prayer was the error.  Imagine trying to deal with a real life demon without consulting God and perhaps you can get an idea of why Jesus was so frustrated.  Be careful about reading condescension into the text: we have no way of knowing HOW Jesus said these words, so what you’re actually doing is assuming Jesus was being condescending.  As to the lack of faith issue: I don’t really know what that has to do with the situation (that too, might have something to do with prayer or lack thereof), but it appears that the disciples felt they were ready for the big leagues and Jesus was surely frustrated that they failed.  Training ordinary people to change the world can be hard.

Q. (Matthew 17:20): Rob, I have to say that a lot of these readings today are tidbits of information.  It’s hard to absorb the enormity of these little pearls of info that are life-changing, if you can do them.  For example, I believe that prayer and talking to God is genuine.  But, it’s hard to believe that I could move a mountain at my command.  I believe that I can move more important things than a mountain.  Is that what this is referring to?  Something that may seem impossible like softening a hard-hearted person can happen if you believe God will do it for you.

A. Jesus here is unlikely to be referring to literal mountains (as you ascertain), but rather saying that the way to remove obstacles is to have the faith to ask God in prayer.  Quality, not quantity.

Q. (Luke 9:44): Why does Jesus call Himself “Son of Man?”

A. Jesus is using this title as a reference to the person referred to in Daniel 7:13 and 14 as the one who is chosen by the Ancient of Days (God the Father) to be an eternal ruler.  If you read these verses, you get a sense of the understanding Jesus had of Himself, but by using a title that had a more implicit claim to power (as opposed to referring to Himself as Messiah), we, I think, catch a glimpse of Jesus humility and desire to not be thought of publicly as the Messiah at this point.

Q. (Luke 9:45): Why would his disciples be afraid to talk to Jesus about anything?

A. I can’t help you there.  They weren’t able to overcome their fear yet, and it’s not the last time that fear will get them in trouble.

Q. (Matthew 17:24-27): I don’t understand what we are supposed to learn from this story.

A. Jesus is cleverly remarking that HE is the true King of the Temple, and that the religious leaders who control it are not the true rulers.  A king would never tax his own family, but rather his conquered subjects.  Jesus is basically saying that Peter — and presumably the other disciples as well — are not subject to such a tax because they belong to the household of the true King: God.  But, He basically agrees to pay the tax out of respect for those in authority and to not give offense.  There will be plenty of time to offend the rulers of the Temple later.

O. (Mark 9:36-37, Matthew 18:5-6): I am tested on this issue when I am driving my daughter and one other child to school.  I call a lot of people “dudes” whether they are dudes or dudettes telling them gently (not) to move along.  I have thought about the love I am not displaying when I do this and what I am teaching the little ears and eyes in the back seat.  So my “dudes” are more reigned in.  They need to be gone from my heart too.  I’m the “dude” for not leaving on time!

Q. (Mark 9:38-41): So, Jesus isn’t worried about imposters here?  I’m not sure what to take from this passage.

A. What we should take away from it is that Jesus appears to have a much bigger view of what makes someone His disciple then His disciples do.  Jesus tells us that the man could not do what he is doing without genuine faith in Him.

O. (Mark 9:48): If maggots and burning wouldn’t steer you away from evil, I don’t know what would.  I had never heard there are maggots there.

Q. (Mark 9:49-50): My daughter’s school had a “giving” day called SALT where each grade did a huge service project.  My younger child packed shoeboxes of fun stuff for Haiti orphans.  My older child packed meals for 10,000.  This is all wonderful.  But how does salt translate into living peacefully with one another.  It doesn’t say what the qualities of salt are.

A. In Jesus’ ministry, salt appears to imply the presence of a genuine faith in Him, and that this faith should be the basis of a loving relationship with those around you.  Salt, in the ancient world, was used for all kinds of things, including being the one of the only ways to preserve food.  It was very valuable stuff, such that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with it — it’s where our word “salary” comes from, and also where the expression “worth his salt” comes from.  The only problem: it wasn’t pure, like the table salt we use today (they had no way to make it that way in the ancient world).  So what they called “salt” was usually a mix of various ingredients (often harvested from near the Dead or Salt Sea), and over time, this mixture would lose its salty flavor.  Jesus is thus telling us that faith in Him is what gives the “flavor” to our walk with God (an uncommon metaphor, but you get the idea), and if the flavor is lost, then the rest is worthless.

Q. (Matthew 18:7-10): Is this literal?  Or would it be more like if I am reading inappropriate stuff that I should throw it away?

A. Jesus is definitely using hyperbole here (though some throughout the history of the Church have taken His commands literally) in order to help us understand the severity of our sin and the effect that it can have on others.

O. (Matthew 18:18): It seems like I’ve seen this subject already, but don’t remember the answer.   : )

Q. (Matthew 18:19-20): Is this because God wants us to live in community, thus if two or more people were working on a job, it brings others together.  Good times to share about how God is working in your life.

A. In ways that are difficult to understand, Jesus appears to be saying that His spirit will be with those who gather in His name.  I confess I have long wondered about the meaning of this verse, but it’s an intriguing promise.

O. (Matthew 18:34-35): Good incentive to follow Jesus!

Day 183 (July 2): More of Solomon’s proverbs — they are good ones and some are amusing, but true

Congratulations!  You have reached the half-way point of this Bible-in-a-year marathon.  I ran a marathon once.  I remember those people in the crowd shouting, “Keep going, you’re half way, you’re looking great.”  I won’t tell you what I wanted to shout back at them.  But for this blogs half-way point, my brain is jumping for happiness and I want to push on and learn more!  I hope you all are enjoying it too.  What a perfect way to commemorate than with some wisdom from Solomon.

This is 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.

Proverbs 25-29:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 25:6-7): Trusting in God requires that you are patient.  There are so many things that I would like to fast-track, but I am learning to know that if I wait for God to act that something more wonderful will happen than what I had planned for myself.

A. Patience is rarely considered a virtue these days, but it truly is, and through patience is the only way God works.

O. (25:7b-8, 18): I know it’s because of doing this blog that I’ve changed my old way of thinking.  This verse comes into play when I think for myself “by saying something, what gain will it do?  Will it hurt anyone?”  I normally put my “God filter” on my mouth and remain quiet.  I had a situation at work the other day where expectations were wrongly placed because of miscommunication.  I asked God to give me words to speak.  He did and instead of joining bashing someone, God’s words lifted them up.  That felt so great.  Now my “God filter” is coming to me more naturally.  But, I still just usually pause and give myself a little time to process the situation, ask God for His words, then respond.  It’s so hard to give God control, to give up our own control, but when you do, it’s fascinating!  Same with verse 18.  Don’t say things that bring people down.  Lift them up!  Besides, if you ever want to see someone who is not perfect, just look in the mirror.

O. (25:14): This one speaks to me.  I tell my kids that if they do a certain chore, then they’ll get a reward.  Then, sometimes I tack on another one.  That brings distrust from them.

Q. (25:20): Does this mean that if someone is sad, let them be sad?

A. Not necessarily.  I would say its more about being insensitive to those who are sad, and either trying too hard to cheer them up, or not realizing their state of sadness and wrongly assuming everything is alright.

Q. (26:4-5): These verses are contradicting.

A. The apparently contradicting content of these verses is one of the most commonly “pounced on” examples used by non-believers who are eager to show the Bible as full of contradictions and therefore worthy of ridicule.  I think that this position takes much too low a view of what Solomon is getting at.  It is quite clear that the writer, or editor, is putting them together for a reason (if you’re trying to prevent people from noticing this “contradiction,” then you don’t put these verses next to each other!).  What is that reason?  I would say that Solomon is giving two sets of advice to you as a reader/hearer, and it is up to you to decide how to use it.  There are times when we must discern whether it is worth the fight with a foolish person.  Do we stand our ground, and potentially waste a great deal of time in a pointless argument?  If so, it’s probably better not to argue in the first place (that would be verse 4).  But if you are convinced that by not engaging, you will leave the person proud in their own eyes, and thinking they have defeated you, then its probably worth the trouble (verse 5).  Sometimes the wisdom that Solomon is imparting to us requires us to use a bit of wisdom of our own.

Q. (26:8,13,25): These proverbs talk a lot about the foolish, the lazy and hatred.  Maybe three characteristics of ungodly people?

A. Would that it were so.  I know far too many “godly” people who I would say fit into these categories.  These are simply part of human nature, and Christian and non-Christian — or Jewish and non-Jewish as it were — alike can be susceptible to them.  Part of what Solomon desired, I suspect, was to offer people wisdom in the hopes that they would use it to better themselves, and not fall into the traps that are often the unforeseen consequence of being hateful, lazy, or foolish.

O. (26:26): Helped by gossipers then, I guess.  Today, we have the media.

O. (27:4): Jealousy is such a quiet emotion, but I think a lot of people, including myself — although I have learned to shrug it off — struggle with it.  My daughter is amazing.  If she hears of someone else having a play date or arguing about whom is going to sit by whom, she is not bothered at all.  She’s my role model for that.  But, here it says that jealousy is more dangerous than anger.  That’s a good visual of how damaging it can be to one’s character.

Q. (27:8): What does this mean?  My grandma told me this verse when I decided to go to Hawaii for a college exchange program.  I have been one to go far from my nest.

A. I guess he’s saying there is much more potential danger away from home.  Think of what happened to the Prodigal Son when he got away from home (Luke 15).

Q. (27:14): I say, “Amen” as I am definitely not a morning person.  But, I always thought it was better to be “early to bed, early to rise” and be chipper in the morning.  So, is this just one of Solomon’s pet peeves?

A. I don’t think he’s talking about morning people verses those who sleep in, but I honestly don’t know what he’s talking about here.

Q. (27:15): I wrote “Jezebel” next to this.  But, I think this applies to everyone.  I think it is much harder to be around complainers, gossipers and pessimists.

A. Indeed.

Q. (27:19): To me, the face reflected is maybe the person people want to be, but a heart can secretly struggle with evil thoughts.

A. It can indeed, which is why God told Samuel not to be impressed with David’s handsome brothers back in 1 Samuel 16.  You look at outward appearances and can be fooled, but I look at the heart to see the true character of a person.

Q. (27:21): What does this mean?

A. As gold and silver are “tested” by the refining process — i.e. the more pure the gold, the better it holds up — a person is “tested” by how they react to receiving praise.  I see great wisdom in this verse.

Q. (28:7): Reflecting on my years as a teen, or even as young adults, I recall me and my sister’s choices of friends.  Some were great, some were good and some were really bad influences.  I don’t recall my parents ever trying to guide us on who we hung out with — sometimes it was who chose us.  But, even if they did, I think we would view their advice as meddling.  So, if parents are unable to influence their kids’ choice of friends, then it’s up to the kids.  I think that is the message here.  But how many kids will read this verse?

A. There’s no way to answer that.  The question you can answer is, “will YOUR kids read it.”  I feel that part of my responsibility as a parent is teach my daughters how to be smart about who to be friends with and who to trust.  But ultimately, as you say, it will be up to them.  I can only hope to show them the value of choosing friends wisely.

Q. (28:8): Can you explain this one?

A. If you exploit the poor to get rich, God will ensure you don’t get to enjoy the benefits of your labor.  Your money will end up in the hands of a person who treats the poor fairly.

O. (28:11): I bet this drives the rich nuts when they face someone is wiser than them.

Q. (28:19): This isn’t supposed to put down the entrepreneurial spirit, right?  We are supposed to use the talents God gave us.  This is saying that those who try for years to be something like an actor, but never succeed should quit and find something they are good at and work hard?

A. As with the verses we talked about above, there must be a level of discernment in our decision making, especially in something as important as our career.  We must be very careful that our entrepreneurial desires are not, as Solomon says, ultimately a fantasy.  If they are, we are in trouble.

Q. (28:23): I worked with two wonderful ladies in a preschool.  One would tell parents if their child had some issues, the other was bubbly and said the child had a great day — not always, but she dodged criticism of the child.  As a parent, I would want to know if my child was acting up — maybe he/she is bored, maybe they need more parent interaction at home, maybe it’s the terrible 2s or 3s — and I need to investigate to see what’s going on.  The bubbly teacher said she didn’t want to bring shame or embarrassment to the parents.  It seems as if Solomon is saying that the honest teacher made the best choice when talking to parents?

A. I believe that most parents would want to be told about problems their children have, so I can see the value in being honest.  But I would hesitate to call what the other woman was doing “flattery.”  Flattery involves telling a person what they want to hear for your own gain, and it is intellectually dishonest.  It is barely above lying in my mind.

O. (28:26): I felt something change in me this week.  From the last question, you can see that I worked in a preschool last year.  Not my thing.  A little over a week ago, my husband met a muralist on the job.  (I painted my girls rooms with full-room murals.  It took forever, but I enjoyed it.)  They talked and she said she was interested in talking to me.  So, I gave her a buzz.  I sent her some pictures.  I thought she could just give me advice on how to start up in a business.  After talking to me once, we were going to meet on a Monday.  Not a minute went by, and she called again and told me to wear my paint clothes — I had a little job without even meeting her.  It was glorious!  I loved it.  She’s a Christian and her incredible story of how she got started was an act of God.  So, I have really been fulfilled this week.  We had a pool party after my daughter’s last day of camp.  Of course, there were several moms from Geneva there.  All Christians.  We were talking about our hearts, how if we are thinking something bad, we don’t speak it, but we still feel it in our hearts.  We were talking about how we need to turn that off and see people for how they are and not criticize.  Good conversations!  Then, after the night had slowed down, I took a nice quiet walk with my dog.  But, lo and behold, we were not alone.  I haven’t felt God walk with me like that before.  I felt filled with glory.  I hope exploring the Bible like this has been a wonderful experience too!  If you have any testimonials, please share in a comment!

Q. (29:5): Could you explain this verse?

A. Flattery is a “trap” of words: we tell people something (which we probably don’t actually believe) in order to profit from it somehow.  Solomon is merely pointing out the similarity of setting a real trap for the person.  It is verbal manipulation.

Congrats on reaching the half-way point.  And, it’s only going to get better.  We hit the New Testament September 24.