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

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

James 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Philippians 2:12-4:23

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 342 (Dec. 8): Let Spirit be your power source, husbands and wives should be in a relationship as Christ is with the church, children should honor their parents, parents should bring them up in the Lord, God rewards slaves and masters alike who are in the Spirit, Put on armor of God, Pray at all times, Tychicus is going to Ephesus to give report, Paul greets church in Colosse, Christ is image of God, Christ is supreme!

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.

Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians while imprisoned in Rome.  He sent the letter to Colosse with Onesimus and Tychicus (See Col. 4:7-9), who were also carrying the letter to Ephesians (see Eph. 6:21-22).

Colossians 1:1-23

Questions & Observations

O. (Ephesians 5:18b-19, 20): I would say this is a good charge to be playing Christian music at all times.  We have a great station in Orlando, Z88.3! On a different note, v. 20 answers something I brought up a long time ago, that about when you pray, you only have to say “in Jesus name” if you ask for something.  Here it says that you should also when you give thanks.  I just think it’s important to give glory to Him every chance you get.

Q. (5:20-33): Rob, it’s OK, I’m not on my women’s equality throne.  I used to cringe at this Scripture because I never wanted to be considered less than a man.  I think the bigger picture here is our relationship with Christ.  He is the one we need to respect, honor, obey, love, worship, etc.  And, he gives us love and blesses us in return.  He really does that without us doing our part.  Likewise, if wives respect, uphold and love their husbands, just as we should with Christ, our husbands will be better people, just as Christ is better if his believers are virtuous.  After all, together, we are His body.

V. 33 hits the core, I think, of what men and women struggle with in their relationships.  Men love themselves, i.e. can have egos.  If they love their wives to the same degree, they will have a loving relationship.  If they put themselves before their wives — note Christ washes the disciples feet and he endured a grueling crucifixion — they will likely have discord.  I have seen many relationships where if the man has a strong ego, the wife is usually quiet and obedient, not a light like God desires.  And, I think some wives may struggle with the respect virtue.  We have a mind of our own, and especially in modern times, we are nearly equal in prosperity.  So, when entering a marriage, you both have to think of each other and not make major decisions by yourself.  I struggle with this, as you can probably tell, because I didn’t marry until I was 31 and had my own ways.  I was always headstrong though.  Anyway, I think some decisions he makes are wrong, but I know that he is human.  Also, I have learned that if I don’t agree with him, I shouldn’t just be quiet.  I talk through it with him so then I have understanding of his thought process and then, I can fully respect him.  This scripture describes more of working together and submitting to one another — not that husbands dominate their wives — like v. 21 says.  Note that it says, “submit to one another.”  It doesn’t say just “women submit.”

A.  You’ve hit upon the key to this section at the end: the idea is mutual submission, and the husband leads in that he is the first to submit.  That, of course, does not make him perfect, but it certainly demolishes any foolishness about this being a “men should dominate their women and the women should just take it” kind of passage.  The man should lead the relationship (and the wife should follow) in his willingness to die for her- to be willing to die to his own desires (especially control over her).  Many times men mistake the meaning of this passage (as women do) and say things like, “she won’t submit”.  But that’s not what Paul says: he says she should submit- after YOU DIE TO YOURSELF!  That is radically different, and it is a shame to me that more people of both genders do not understand the true meaning of this passage.

O. (6:1-3): Note to parents that it says children “belong to the Lord.”  That means we should cherish them treat them with respect.  I have never heard v. 3 before.  I’ll have to read that to my children.  I have a great aunt who will be 104 in January.  I think she wishes she hadn’t been so obedient.  Just kidding.  She is lonely.  All her friends are gone.

Q. (6:5-9): Rob, here’s a good one for you.  Explain slavery in the pre-Civil War U.S. in regards to this Scripture.  The war ended slavery because the Union said slavery was bad.  Here, the Scriptures say is just a way of life.

A. Ok, here goes: the slavery system in the ancient world was a system of slave debt, which frequently ended in the freedom of the slave.  People were frequently sold into slavery to settle debts in lieu of going to prison- and this type of slavery was rarely for life.  Now this is to be contrasted with the life-long, horribly abusive slavery associated with the slaves who were kidnapped from Western Africa during the colonial period of the United States and the Caribbean.  Slavery within the colonial system was for life, with beatings, brandings, separation of families (something the Roman system would not have allowed), and, don’t forget, it would have been entered into via kidnapping.  A master could also hang or beat an American slave to death, something that would NEVER have been allowed, even in barbaric Rome.

 

Something important to note here is that, despite Paul’s writings, there were people on both sides of the colonies (England and America) that took up what they saw as God’s command to abolish a slavery system that was exploitive and not necessary any longer.  You can read about one of the most famous, an Englishman named William Wilberforce- his story is told in a fairly recent movie called Amazing Grace (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454776/?ref_=nv_sr_1) which I would highly recommend to learn more about the reasons behind the abolition movement.

O. (6:8-9): Again, I would like to point out that God says everyone is equal here, no matter if you are a bazilliionaire or impoverished.  Remember where we read in the OT about how the tables will be turned when everything comes to light.  The overbearing people — rich, powerful (if used in the wrong spirit) will be shadowed by those they dominated on earth.  I think that is so cool that we will see our reward.  The test is to stay humble and on the right path.

Q. (6:11): What is the God’s armor?

A. It is a series of reminders that Paul presents using the metaphor of a solider putting on his armor for battle.  Paul is providing a reminder that there are spiritual, not merely physical, dangers in the world.  The devil has you in his crosshairs, Paul is saying, so you need to be prepared to deal with the spiritual realities of the world that we cannot see.  His advice is to remember the ways that God has provided for our spiritual needs, from the Bible, to guidance for our faith, to instruction in righteousness, in order to stand against the devil’s actions, and not retreat.  He is telling his people to stand firm!

Q. (6:18): What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”?

A. I think he means using the Spirit to guide our prayers and give us insight into God’s will for us.

Q. (Colossians 1:22): There is so much depth to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  I have never thought of myself as holy and blameless, without fault.  That is hard to imagine/accept.

A. Well, if its any consolation to you, your blamelessness is not your doing, but rather God’s.  Amazing Grace indeed.

 

Day 340 (Dec. 6): Paul and shipwrecked passengers on Malta, Paul unharmed by poisonous snake, Paul heals sick on Malta, ship arrives in Rome, Paul preaches under guard, Paul says salvation offered to Gentiles, Paul writes to Ephesus church, Paul prays for spiritual wisdom for Ephesus, we are saved through Christ (God’s gift of grace) alone, believers united as Christ’s body

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Acts 28

Ephesians 1-2

Questions & Observations

Intriguing read today, eh?

Q. (Acts 28:25): Paul is talking to Romans here.  Did Romans come from Israelite ancestry?

A. No, but there was a sizable population of Jews living in Rome at this time.  That’s whom he is meeting with.

Q. (Ephesians 1:5): Why did God want us anyway?  He created us so we could share his kingdom with Him?

A. God was certainly under no obligation to work out salvation on our behalf, but did so out of His great love for each and every one of us — that’s the central message of John 3:16.

Q. (1:14): I still have trouble with not knowing why God seeks praise.  The only thing I can think of is that it keeps us focused on Him.  Also, if we are created in God’s image and He seeks praise, that tells us where we get it from?

A. As I mentioned in the previous question, God’s love and desire for relationship with humanity is a the heart of the Gospel, and part of that relationship is worship.  In times when we rightly see God for who He truly is (the central aim of true worship), we rightly praise Him for His mighty deeds for both His chosen people (Israel) and for each of us who are Gentiles.  God desires our focus, and I think that this is one of the central ways that we can grow closer to Him.  That is why I believe God requires our worship.

Q. (1:23): The church can mean a group of people who meet to worship Him and do His work, or it can mean the group of all believers as a whole, right? I think here it means the latter?

A. It means both (we sometimes use the big “C” when we refer to the eternal Church).  1:23 refers to the eternal entity of the Body of Christ — the Church for all time in every age.

Q. (2:5-10): Some revelations here!!!  It says it well and gives me some internal light that God’s willingness to let His most beloved pay for our sins and that he purchased us through is love that we could be sitting with Jesus beside God, our Father.  Grace (both Rob and I have girls named Grace) is the ultimate gift!  There is no greater!  I never thought too about salvation being something that is not to be boasted about.  It was a gift from God, we have nothing to do with it.

A. That’s not quite right: we have a role to play: we must believe.  The part that Paul wants to be clear is that we can’t brag about OUR role in the actions that brought about salvation to the world.

Q. (2:18): This verse is proof of the Trinity: 3 separate beings/spirits, but working as one.

A. Yes, each Person of the Godhead has their own role to play, and it is amazing to see them work in tandem to complete the task of salvation.

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

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Acts 18:24-19:20

1 Corinthians 1-3:23

Questions & Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 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.

Day 158 (June 7): Solomon on: wisdom for life, few choose God’s wisdom, wicked vs. righteous, both face death, wisdom and folly, Murphy’s law, undercertainties of God and his actions

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.

Ecclesiastes 7-11:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 7:4): Does this mean that wise people think about where they go after death?  And, a fool doesn’t, thus he/she lives the life of folly and will be judged harshly?

A. Not necessarily.  It may just mean that the wise man/woman thinks of the long term (including death) while the fool is only thinking about the here and now.

O. (7:10): I often think of how much “me” time I had before I had children.  Sometimes, I dream of it, but only briefly.  But, I remember being lonely.  And that, I am definitely not anymore!  I’m not sure what Solomon is talking about here in “the good old days,” but I agree.  I wouldn’t tinker with that.  It does seem like that as much as you may want to return to a previous time period, it’s not possible.  My husband was in the Navy and we were stationed on Guam for a couple years.  There were several families we knew who absolutely loved it there and had requested to stay or return.  But, most of them say that it’s never the same the second time around.

Q. (7:13): This does seem true.  No matter how much something hurts, you can’t change it, so you may as well accept it and look forward to where it’s taking you and what lesson you learned.

A. I would say there’s some good wisdom there.

O. (7:14): If no one ever prospered, we would never see or desire any goal to work toward.

Q. (7:15): We discussed earlier that this kind of talk, like Solomon saying life is “meaningless,” is probably not offending God.  Why did Solomon get so depressed in his last years?  I can’t tell if he truly acknowledges that his actions caused his downfall or if he is down on God.  Or, both?

A. We don’t have any information on when this was written within Solomon’s life, so we can only speculate.  Don’t forget, this is a contemplation about finding meaning in life outside of God, so I would say God is pretty “safe” from being offended.

Q. (7:27-29): I believe we have talked about why man falls short of following God’s laws, but it’s been a ways back and now would be a good time to bring it up again.  Did we say that human’s downfall has to do with free will?  It gives God more glory if people choose him willingly not under force?

A. Yes and yes, at least in the Armenian tradition.  Since true love (our genuine choice to follow and love God) involves a choice, the possibility must be open for people to say “no” to God (and each other).  This “no” to God is one of the ways that the Bible defines sin: it is to go our own way, without consideration of God.  God appears to want genuine followers, not puppets, and the only way that can happen is to allow some degree of free choice in life.

O. (7:14): I don’t think we do this today where the wicked are considered good in society and conversely, that the good are made out to be victims.  That does happen occasionally. On a similar note, I would say that, the media gives way too much attention to bad guys.  With bad guys getting so much press, one would think that they are celebrities, which may attract others who want attention.  Also, the media plays up Hollywood too much.  I have never understood why actors are put on a pedestal in our country.  If they spread more news and made more movies about positive stories and people who help others, this world would likely be a more moral place!

Q. (7:17): Solomon certainly seemed like he was trying to learn everything under the sun.  This was part of his downfall?

A. If doing so took away his focus on God (and it appears that it did), then yes.

Q. (9:1): We have to consider the source here.  Solomon is down on God.  Solomon acts like he has no idea who God is.  He is pouting from his punishment?

A. We don’t know.  It is certainly cynical thinking, but as verse 2 of this chapter points out (again), the fate of the faithful and the blasphemous is the same: death.  If we carry that argument out a little farther, we can see something interesting.  If Solomon is convinced that there is no life after death, or perhaps he is making the argument, then there is no benefit to being righteous.  We see this quite often to this day: the evil often get away with it, and justice is not done.  But belief in an afterlife allows for a much more acceptable notion of justice: that there are eternal — not just temporal — consequences to the decisions that we make.  It becomes easy to see how the atheist slips into moral uncertainty: without God and His eternal justice, everything is permissible.

Q. (9:12): Maybe so, but God has told us that He won’t give us anything we can’t handle — though it may seem like doom is near — and it can be part of the plan.  Just look at Job.  He was stripped of everything, but he kept his faith and God restored him.

A. What you are beginning to touch on here is the examination of certain passages of the OT in light of others: that was a big part of developing a theology (beliefs about God and His relationship with humanity in general and Israel specifically).  This theology is always in flux (at least the details are), and new generations come to see God in different ways.  I think that such discussions honor God, because we use the very intellect He blessed us with to make up our own minds about how we will react to hard times: will we be cynical and give up on God, or will we be faithful like Job?

O. (9:16): This reminds me of elections.  If you have money, then the people will hear you (because you can afford advertising) you will be listened to.  If you are poor, you can’t afford to spread your word, so you are snuffed out.

O. (10:4): So, if you made a mistake, you work harder so you can gain back respect.  I think this is true in every relationship.  I think it needs to also come with an apology.  And, I believe, that everyone has messed up at work, especially when they are young.  I used to work at a newspaper.  My first mistake, probably my first or second week of work, was that I input the wrong weather page.  Yes, someone else is there to catch mistakes like that, but it was ultimately my responsibility.  I also put on the wrong answers to crosswords and other stuff like that.  But, I worked hard and was designing front pages in no time.  I have messed up with this blog several times — I know it’s not perfect, but it’s getting God’s Word out and it will be made into even more great things — but no one reamed me about it.  Don’t think that anyone has not made some major mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes at a very young age.  Mistakes breed success.

Q. (10:10): I love this saying, but coming from Solomon at this point, who would take his advice?  He is so contradicting.  Here he is saying gather more wisdom, other places he says wisdom is meaningless.  What are we supposed to take from Ecclesiastes?

A. That everything is meaningless without God.  Hang on until the next chapter, and see who gets the “final word”.

O. (11:2): Here is some sound advice from Solomon that holds true to today.

Day 157 (June 6): Solomon says ‘wisdom is useless,’ companionship is beneficial, leadership and wealth is futile

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.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-6:12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 1:13b-14): In Proverbs, I respected most of Solomon’s wisdom that he shared.  But now, he seems to have lost his focus on God.  What I have figured out is that he has put the ungodly wisdom that he has found above God’s laws and completely lost the meaning of life.  He used to be so light and bright.  Now, he has applied his wisdom to futile ways and it is now his downfall?

A. I suppose that’s possible (though we don’t have any evidence of that), but it could also be a form of “mental exercise” in which the writer (most likely Solomon) looks at the futility of life without God.  Let’s hang in there and see where he goes, ok?

Q. Why does Solomon repeat the phrases, “under the sun” and “chasing the wind”?

A. He’s using images from nature to make his points, almost like refrains.  I would say the futility of chasing the wind is pretty obvious, right?

Q. (2:15, 22b): I believe David had knowledge of the after life, but Solomon had none.  Why?

A. The way that I would phrase that same sentiment is David had faith in the afterlife, and from these verses, it would appear that Solomon did not.  Jewish thought on the existence, or not, of an afterlife was considered an unsettled matter even in Jesus’ day, so it is in no way a surprise to me that father and son were not in agreement on it.

Q. (3:1-8): I know this has been made into a song.  Solomon’s unsound mind aside, this song tells me that there is a season for everything and it all will pass with time.  But, frankly, I don’t know what we are supposed to get from it, given that Solomon was a little psycho.

A. I wouldn’t assume he’s out of his mind.  There is great wisdom in much of what he is saying.  Among the things I saw: there is a time for everything (which was made famous by the Byrds’ song Turn Turn Turn in 1965), that in the end wealth does not separate rich from poor and the wise are not separated from the foolish — everyone dies (macabre, yes, but wise also), that we are better off with companions than alone, etc.  Like Song of Solomon before it, this is truly one of most unique books of scripture, but I believe that God inspired the words, so that means there is value in my reading it and learning from it.

Q. (5:4b-5): This scares me a little.  Eight or nine years ago I was struggling with something that I deeply regretted.  I was on a walk and God told me that He forgave me.  We struck a deal that I would write a book about it.  I feel like this is something I must do.  I have started it, but haven’t worked on it for probably 5 years and I’ve barely even thought about it in a year.  Even seeing some of the material that I’m using for it doesn’t even remind me of the pact.  God did give me the idea to do this blog to fulfill my desire to know the Bible better before I continue on the book.  But, the blog — which I LOVE doing — takes up all of my time.  So, the book will have to wait.  I hope that’s OK.  I haven’t got any disappointing signs from God.

A. I think he’s talking about oaths and promises that we make to others, not necessarily personal ones.  Oaths in that day (and in Jesus’ day, as we will see in the Sermon on the Mount) were often abused and God’s name was used to cover people’s deceit (i.e. people would swear promises by God’s name that they had no intention of fulfilling).  Such abuse greatly displeases God (remember our commandment discussion about treating God’s name with respect).

Q. (5:12): Solomon is acknowledging that there is satisfaction in working hard.  We have talked about how those who inherit wealth and don’t know hard work usually waste their money and their lives.  Maybe with not having to work hard for the vision God gives you — because you have everything you need — one can have no focus and lead an unfulfilled life.  But, then Solomon retracts and says all their hard work is for nothing (6:16b).

A. 6:16 strikes me as a rather cynical statement: he clearly has laid out value in work, and he goes on to talk about how work is helpful towards building relationships with others (v. 18).  But, on some level, I see his point: while wealth can make it so that your offspring have it better than you had it, in the end, this makes no difference to YOU, since you’re dead.  So there are multiple perspectives that we can take on some of these verses, and perhaps even disagree with what he is saying.

Q. (5:19b): So, Solomon continues his thought process: If you can accept the path God has for you, then you will be fulfilled.  Personally, I don’t think God would give someone a “lot” that they didn’t enjoy?  He goes on to say that the love of their work keeps their mind occupied so they keep moving forward.  I do like this wisdom.  Listen to God’s direction and you don’t become despondent.  You stay busy and happy.  I think Solomon gets depressed at the fact that through Gods lots, our future and happiness are dictated by Him.  I totally understand this because I want to be in control of my own life.  But, I find that I am more and more satisfied the more I let go of the control.  It’s a long, hard process.  Why do we have this desire to control our own lives … and others’ lives?

A. It is part of the nature that God gave us when He made us in His image.  On some level — which is impossible to know this side of heaven — we have some role to play in the shape of our lives and in Creation itself: this is why God gave us a task to do in the beginning.  Don’t forget, work predates the “fall,” it is a genuine good that God has created/given to us.  And since we have this role to play and work to do, the natural extension is to work hardest at the things related to our own lives and families (sometimes doing so at the expense of the people God desires us to be!)  We desire control because, ultimately, we have a role to play in how the story of Creation plays out.

Q. (6:1-2): My understanding that God gives everyone a gift, it may be on the front lines, behind the scenes or something that seems totally unimportant.  But, whatever it is, take His direction and ignore your own ideas and motivations.

A. Careful.  That is not what those verses are saying.  They are saying that ones’ wealth can be taken and given to others, it says nothing about gifts and talents God has given to us.  Besides, you’re assuming that the ideas and motivations that we have in our day-to-day lives don’t come from God, when very often, I believe that they do.

Q. (6:9): Solomon is seeing that possessions and coveting your neighbor’s possessions is pointless?

A. I doubt he ever forgot.  But his wisdom, and wisdom in general, has a particular downfall.  His wisdom could not overcome the sinful nature of his heart, and in the end, no matter how smart or wise Solomon was, he made poor choices. I am certain that he knew he was making wrong decisions (as most of us do when we sin: we know its wrong, but do it anyway), but the corrupted nature of his heart allowed him to “overrule” his mind, and all of that wisdom ended up being wasted.

Q. (6:10): We have read that God has given us free will.  What is Solomon talking about?

A. While we have some role to play in the destiny of our own lives (which we can’t know the extent of), we are ultimately subject to the grand design that God is weaving among the totality of human life.  I think it is cynical of the writer to say that there is “nothing” we can do about it, and I think that it is a false notion that if we could truly see the big picture — which we can’t in this life — we would complain to God about how our role in it was futile.  One of the messages that the scriptures keep repeating is that God is good: it is His very nature.  One of the blessings of heaven, I believe, will be the ability to see how our “little” lives made an impact on so many other people in exactly the way God intended.  God is that good and that powerful that He can interweave our free will and His ultimate desire for our lives in a manner that I think will be beyond our comprehension.  Let’s see how Solomon wraps this up, shall we?

Day 152 (June 1): Fools have no hope, the wises’ lives are certain

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.

Proverbs 17-19

Questions & Observations

O. (17:9): I find that “dwelling on a fault” is so easy to do.  And, one of the hardest things to do in life, is go talk to that person that you find fault with.  But the quicker you talk it out or shrug it off that it deflates.  And, as they say, many times more than one person is at fault, usually me!  My best friend and I had a rift that happened a couple summers ago.  I felt she was boasting and I was just tired, worn out and irritable.  So, we both were at fault.  But, when we talked about it, it was so scary.  We could have ended our 20-year friendship.  But, we worked it out because, as she said, we had so much invested in one another.  It was almost like a marriage.  It was one of those tiffs where you think that there is no way to recover from it.  But, we did.  And, we learned that both of our actions simply stemmed from the way we were raised.  It pays to talk it out!

O. (17:17): I love this verse because I am always hesitant to ask for help.  And, many times, when I have asked for help, I’ve been turned down.  That makes me more hesitant to ask.  But, then there are the friends who have “been there, done that” and they understand why I am asking and are more likely to help us.

Q. (17:21): This is so true.  But, is there a failsafe in teaching them the Lord?  There is a verse that talks about those who raise their children knowing Christ will always come back to those teachings when they stray?

A. There are no fail-safes when it comes to teaching our children about God.  Everyone must walk their own path.  There is a proverb that tells us that if we train up a child in the way that they should go, when they are old they will not turn from it (its in chapter 22, watch for it), but as with all of these Proverbs, it is general wisdom and no guarantee of success.  Sorry!

O. (17:22): So many times I can be a Debbie downer.  I can tell that it saps the mood of those around me.  And, likewise, when I’m around someone like that, I get irritated and want to escape that bad attitude.

Q. (17:23): I think there is a saying “Money = Power.”  This verse is something our politicians really struggle with.  Is there a verse than helps keep them away from being tempted by money?

A. 1 Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Note what it does not say: Love of money is the root of ALL evil, which is a common refrain that is actually a misquotation of the verse!

Q. (18:9): It’s so easy to judge people, but we shouldn’t since we don’t know their full story.  However, what is some motivation that the Bible can offer for those couch potatoes to get off their booties and work and do God’s work — meaning to have a cheerful heart that mimics Christ?

A. Hum, I think we’ve read several of them since we got started with Proverbs.  The Bible condemns laziness (sometimes called sloth, one of those “deadly sins”), and it is clear why: God has commanded us to work (Exodus 20: six days you shall work, and then rest on the Sabbath).  Hard work would have been such a key to survival in that era — we can get by a bit more easily today — that it is no wonder sloth is condemned!

Q. (18:10): This means the godly find safety in God’s teachings?

A. Not just in His teachings, but in His very name.

O. (18:11): I have seen this recently where someone just takes their wealth for granted.  But, now that the wealth is gone, so is some comfort.  Luckily, they are believers and know God will provide.

O. (18:12): This is a hot proverb for me.  I am very quick to react on some things and need to learn to be calm, process, consider the facts and other’s actions and feelings, think WWJD and then react.

O. (18:14): Our parents have a friend that is on his last leg.  He is not a believer and is ready to go.  They said he gave up a long time ago.  They have another friend who is a believer and has a great attitude about his condition.  Attitude goes a long way!

Q. (18:18): So, there are times when we should just flip a coin to make a decision instead of talking it out?  Sometimes, there is no right or wrong answer, but a decision needs to be made.

A. Sure, it happens.  Part of the wisdom that these verses require is in how to apply them.

Q. (18:19): Then what does the Bible say on how to get those friends back?

A. Not much.  It has bigger “fish to fry.”

Q. (18:22): It’s hard to remember this when we don’t always feel like a treasure.  I feel this way most of the time.  I don’t think I reciprocate very well.  We all have our times when we don’t treat our spouse like a treasure.  I would like to think it’s something that couples can work out.  I find that money can be a big factor in spouse’s attitude toward one another.  But, also, it can bring you closer together.  Nevertheless, the money factor is there.

A. Having a genuine appreciation for a spouse — no one is perfect in this — goes such a long way toward keeping a marriage alive.

O. (19:3): Like you said earlier, these proverbs are not certain.  So, some who are not foolish can land on bad times too.  When shuffling through the Bible notes in my head, bad things can happen to Christians, but God is always there for us and He is not done with us yet.  He won’t give us more stress than we can handle.  And, we can humbly unload that stress on God and let Him handle it.

Q. (19:8): So, if you love yourself, you love knowledge?  Knowledge helps you live a fulfilled life.  I often give examples of people who fit the situation of the proverb.  I don’t know if that is OK to do or not, because I don’t know their whole story.  Only God does.  A story for this proverb is that you see those people who are always seeking new experiences and full of life.  Then, you see others who stay close to home, almost in an enclosed habitat and are very irritable. I think ienjoying God’s creations gives light to personalities.

A. You have the proverb correct.

Q. (19:12): Can you explain this one?

A. As we have seen with Solomon and David, you don’t mess with the king.  To anger him is to risk the “lion’s” wrath.

O. (19:16): This is a great verse to keep in your head to remember the result of your actions.  Plus, I think those who follow God’s Word are happier, more focused, more fulfilled and have direction.

O. (19:17): Another verse saying that your charity will be repaid.

Q. (19:21): In other words, don’t sweat the big stuff too much because God may turn you in another direction.  Around Christmas, our pastor preached about this subject using Joseph.  He was getting married, but then his betrothed wife became pregnant with a child that was not his.  And that’s just the beginning.  He looked forward to moving on, but God redirected him several times.  It was all part of the plan.  So, how far should we push ourselves?  I guess we are supposed to go in the direction that we think unless God redirects us.  But, some push through it to seek their goals and are rewarded.

A. Our main job is to trust in God, even when others do us harm, and attempt to seek His council.  To me, God is not interested in “redirecting” us every moment- much of what He desires about our hearts is perfectly clear, and it is our job to obey.

Q. (19:24): Does this mean that some people are given blessings, but then they let those blessings go to waste?

A. I would read this verse as a mocking ridicule of the lazy.  They are so lazy they don’t even eat the food they are given.

Day 151 (May 31): The wise prevail, fools end in devastation

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.

Proverbs 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. The recurring theme in theses proverbs is godly/wisdom vs. wickedness/foolishness.  I also notice a lot of repetition.  Like other repetition in the Bible, it does a great job of pounding it in.

O. (14:4): I like this verse saying that you have to deal with a mess if you want to be successful.  That’s my motto … and excuse!  So, the success should be coming, right?!  J

Q. (14:12): This must mean eternal life for the godly vs. death for the wicked?

A. No.  What is it talking about is the deceitful path, which can capture both the good and the evil.  It is the seductive path that seems right, but is deadly to those who take it.

O. (14:13): I have known several people with hard childhoods who use laughter and comedy to cope or bring lightness to their lives.  They avoid conflict at all costs.

Q. (14:18): Prudent means to look into the future, but there is that old hymn “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.”  What’s the right answer?

A. They’re not mutually exclusive.  You can keep an eye on the future will taking things one day at a time.  In fact, finding some way to do both would appear to be quite wise to me.

Q. (14:20): I don’t understand this verse.

A. I think it’s pretty simple.  Everyone wants to be “friends” with the rich person, even if you don’t like them.  But there is no financial incentive to be friends with poor people, so such people are often cast aside.  I would say there is great insight into human character in this verse.

Q. (14:23): I think fear of failure is the hardest thing to overcome when trying to start something new, especially a business.  For me, it’s also the fear of the unknown.  I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to get there.  My husband and I want to start a coffee shop one of these days, but figuring out all the details seems daunting!

A. This verse is, I think, assigning value to actually working, not merely talking about working.  I don’t think it has much to say about planning to start a business.  That’s one of our big themes from this book: those who work are rewarded, those who do not lose.

Q. (14:24): Does this mean financial wealth?  All wise people are not rich unless it’s talking about wealth of fulfillment.

A. No, this is not about financial wealth.  Wisdom brings its own rewards, which do not necessarily have anything to do with finances.

Q. (14:26): So, those who fear the Lord, but don’t get everything right, are still promised a place in heaven and protection for future generations?

A. As a general rule.  Don’t forget, this is general wisdom here, not etched in stone principles.  We are saved by our faith, not our deeds, so being in right relationship with God and trusting Him is the most important thing.  Beyond that, anything God chooses to bless us with is up to Him.

Q. (14:28): I was trying to apply this to the leaders of countries.  But there are some out there that grow in population but aren’t glorious nations.  We could apply it to businesses?  Usually if a business does everything right and produces a good product or service, they grow?

A. I would be very cautious with either application.  There are just too many variables out there.

O. (14:29): Amen.

Q. (14:31): I never thought about oppressing the poor as insulting God, but I knew it was bad.  This seems obvious.  I always thought not helping was ungodly.  When a cashier asks if we want to donate to their company’s chosen charity, should we give with a happy heart?  Honestly, I am always a little annoyed by the question.  I usually say “no.” But then, there is that stubbornness.  Here is a business trying to help others and I’m scrutinizing the practice.  But, then again, are they doing it for a tax write-off or out of love?  Should it matter?

A. Helping the poor is one of the crucial things to understand from the Law: If we are all created in God’s image, then we have a responsibility to care for those who cannot support themselves.  Beyond that, however, we all must choose our own ways of going about it.  If it involves donations to companies that you know do good work in this area, then by all means do it.  If you support people you know directly, that is certainly something that honors God as long as your donations are not “holding them back” if that makes sense.  I struggle with the idea that if you make the donation to charities, then you are “done” with your service.  I think it is a very reasonable expectation of Christians that they find a particular area where they can donate their time, talent, treasure, etc. to personally make life better for others.  God surely blesses such efforts.

Q. (14:32): So, this is saying that the godly may go through disaster with the wicked, but at least the godly will have heaven?

A. I would say that’s about right.

Q. (15:1): I may be repeating myself, but this story applies here anyway.  In a past Bible study, the leader said that in most arguments attitude — pride, stubbornness — is half of the problem.  So true, right?

A. Yes.  In fact, I would say it’s more than half.  Pastor Charles Swindoll is quoted as saying that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.  I think that puts it nicely.

Q. (15:23): It’s hard to wait for wisdom.  With so many of my encounters with people, I am trying to think before I speak, mostly, what would God want me to say or what would the loving Jesus do?  But, what happens when I don’t know what they would say and God is not providing me with the words?

A. Sometimes you have to guess, and if you are wrong, ask for forgiveness later.  If we know that we have — intentionally or not — wronged another person, we should in humility make the first step towards reconciliation and apologize.  Forgiveness covers a multitude of sins.

O. (15:24): Comforting thought.

O. (16:1): This is humbling!  And also, rewarding to know that God has a life plan for each one of us.

Q. (16:2): This is also comforting in the way that sometimes I feel like people try to show each other up, even with good things they do.  If the heart is not engaged or they boast about their charity work, then who is it for?  Not God or those you helped.

A. Remember what God told Samuel when he anointed David: we humans look at outside appearance, but God looks at the heart.

Q. (16:4): Can you explain this one?

A. This verse is touching upon a complex theology of predestination, which basically states that all humans were created to fulfill their purposes that God made them for.  So in this case, the verse is saying that the wicked could be raised up and destroyed in order to be an example, or perhaps I should say a non-example, to others.  I have mixed feelings about such ideas, but they are clearly a part of scripture, and one of the things that God desires to teach us is that even in verses that we may not agree with, we must trust that He is sovereign and we are not.

Q. (16:7): No enemies?  Another reason to be godly!  We all have run across people like this who are super sweet, never have a bad thing to say and never seem to have enemies.

A.  Be careful here.  This is another example of general wisdom that may not work itself out in the way you think.  Jesus clearly pleased His Father more than any other human being who has ever lived, but that did not stop Him from having many enemies, who eventually got Him killed.

Q. (16:22): Can you explain this one?

A. It actually fits with all these questions you’ve had about speaking verses not speaking.  If you are discrete, and know when to talk and when to be silent, it will be a fountain of life to you.

Q. (16:26): And, what does this mean?

A. I guess generally it means we tend to work harder with some sort of incentive.  Food is one of the best incentives.

Q. (16:31): Ditto.

A. Though it is difficult for us to understand in a society where only things which are young are valued, this verse is saying that growing old and getting the gray hair that comes with it are something to be respected and admired, like a crown.

Q. (16:33): Love it.  Great saying.  I wonder when dice were invented though.  Is it likely “cast lots” like the footnote says?

A. The lots were like dice, and served the same purpose.