Archive | December, 2011
Christmas Bible Quiz- A Little Fun for Your Christmas Celebration

Christmas Bible Quiz- A Little Fun for Your Christmas Celebration

Have some fun with this 25 question quiz I wrote to test your knowledge of the biblical Christmas story.   Give it a try and then try it on your family this Christmas.  I  hope this little quiz will be fun and educational.  Some questions are difficult others are easier. Scroll down a way after the last question to find the answers.  I have documented each answer with its biblical reference and thrown in a little commentary on a few.  Enjoy!

1. What was the name of John the Baptist’s father?

2. When Elizabeth sees Mary and realizes she is pregnant, Mary’s response to Elizabeth is a song of praise often called what?

3. What is the reason given by Luke as to why Mary laid Jesus in a manger?

4. When the angel tells Mary she will conceive a baby, the angel tells her that Elizabeth, thought to be barren, is how far along in her pregnancy?

5. Bethlehem is also known as the city of who?

6. Jewish law demanded that a male child should be circumcised how many days after his birth?

7. According to Matthew, how many wise men visited Jesus?

8. Mary and Elizabeth are often thought to be related in what way?

9. What were the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus?

10. A number of scholars believe the magi who visited Jesus were students of the Old Testament thanks to the lineage of Daniel being made chief of the wise men by Nebuchadnezzar.  These scholars argue that the magi would have been aware of the appearance of the star in connection to the coming Messiah based on a verse from what Old Testament book?

11. Herod was troubled at the appearance of the wise men because of the title they gave to Jesus (which was the same title Herod used). What was the title?

12. What did the baby in Elizabeth’s womb do when she heard Mary’s greeting?

13. What was the name of the devout man who had been assured by the Holy Spirit he would not die until he saw Jesus and then had the opportunity to hold baby Jesus in the Temple?

14. Who was the governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth?

15. Matthew says that Herod’s slaughter of the male children under the age of two was a fulfillment of a passage from what Old Testament book?

16. What happened to Zacharias when he failed to believe the angel who came to tell him his wife would become pregnant?

17. Aside from giving Jesus gifts, what did the wise men do when they saw Him?

18. What was the name of the angel who spoke to Zacharias?

19. To what country did Joseph and Mary flee to escape Herod’s slaughter of the children?

20. The name “Immanuel” means what?

21. Who are the four women named in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus?

22. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem from what city?

23. Why were Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem at such a late date in her pregnancy?

24. What was the name of the prophetess who never left the Temple and was present when Jesus was circumcised?

25. Challenge: How old was the prophetess when she saw Jesus?



















1. Zacharias (Luke 1:5-13)

2. The Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55)

3. There was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7)

4. Six months (Luke 1:36)

5. David (Luke 2:11)

6. Eight days (Luke 2:21)

7. He doesn’t say. He only says that they brought three kinds of gifts. (Matt. 2:1; 11).

8. As cousins (Luke 1:36).  The KJV translates the Greek word syngenis as “cousin.”  However, the word literally means “relative” and is translated as such in most modern English Bibles.

9. Gold– thought to symbolize Jesus’ royalty

Frankincense– thought to symbolize worship of Jesus and His sacrifice.    Frankincense was used in sacrifices in the Old Testament

Myrrh– thought to symbolize Jesus’ death

(Matt. 2:11)

10. Numbers 24:17: “A star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel…” 

11. “King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2)

12. Leaped for joy (Luke 1:44)

13. Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)

14. Quirinius (Luke 2:2)

15. Jer. 31:15

16. He was struck mute (Luke 1:20)

17. They fell down and worshiped Him (Matt. 2:11)

18. Gabriel (Luke 1:19)

19. Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15)

20. “God with us” (Matt. 1:23)

21. Tamar (Matt. 1:3)

Rahab (1:5)

Ruth (Matt. 1:5)

Bathsheba (Matt. 1:6)

It’s amazing that women would appear in a first century Jewish genealogy.  What’s more, these women would have been viewed by Matthew’s Jewish audience as very out of place to be mentioned in the lineage of the Messiah.  Tamar, after the death of her husband, dressed as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law (Gen.38).  Rahab was a prostitute in a Gentile city (Josh. 2:1).  Ruth, though an amazing example of faith, was a Gentile and a Moabite at that (Ruth 1:4).  The Moabites began as a result of one of Lot’s daughters sleeping with him (Gen. 19:30-38).  Bathsheba committed adultery with David (2 Sam. 11).  The inclusion of these women is most likely Matthew’s way of saying that what is on display in the genealogy of Jesus is not perfection and “high breeding” but rather the grace and forgiveness of God.  It also shows that all are included and can be saved by God’s grace.

22. Nazareth (Luke 2:4)

23. They were going to register for the census (Luke 2:1)

24. Anna (Luke 2:36-38)

25.  84 years old (Luke 2:37)


Where is God in the Midst of Tragedy?

Where is God in the Midst of Tragedy?

Just a few days ago, our community experienced a terrible tragedy with the passing of two teenage boys in a car wreck.  When we all heard this news, we were grief stricken and still find it difficult to deal with the pain of loss.  These boys had their whole lives in front of them.

Naturally, our thoughts turn to the attempt of answering the biggest question that arises after tragedy- “Why?”  Why did these boys die at such an early age?  Why didn’t God stop this tragedy from happening?  How I wish I had answers to the question of “why?” and the myriad of others that certainly come to mind, but I do not.  The questions that surround such a terrible tragedy will most likely never be provided to us this side of heaven.  Sadly, in the face of tragedy we often hear a number of comments that are the products of some bad theologizing and do little to give comfort and hope to those who are hurting.

I’m sure you are like me and have heard others say when something tragic occurs, “It’s God’s will.”  To be honest, I don’t believe that at all.  I do not think everything that occurs on earth is the will of God.  It wasn’t God’s will for terrorists to fly planes into buildings on 9/11.  When a child is abducted it isn’t God’s will.  Abortion, drug abuse, and adultery are not God’s will.  And it’s extremely difficult to imagine the death of a young person being God’s will.  I want to be clear in making this statement that in no way does this discredit the immutability or sovereignty of God.  God is God- He never changes and He works all of history according to His plan and its eventual consummation.  Yet, God has also given us free will and we often use that free will to do things that do not please God.  So, when bad things occur we must not blame God for causing them and saying He willed it to happen.  This is why I have never been comfortable with the statement, “God took him/her.”  That implies God caused their tragic death, which isn’t true.  Bad things occur because we live on a fallen planet that has been cursed by our sin (see Rom. 8:21-23).

Something that has always helped me to understand the complexity of God’s will, a fallen world, and God’s sovereignty is the attitude of Joseph in regard to the events of his life.  When reunited with his brothers who did him wrong, he said in Gen. 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Was it “God’s will” that Joseph’s brothers threw him in a hole and sold him into slavery?  I don’t think so.  Did God work in spite of sinful actions to place Joseph in Egypt just in time to save the people from famine? Yes.  Not everything that happens on this earth is God’s will, but He can use bad things to bring about eventual positive results.

Another statement I sometimes hear at times of tragedy deals with the character and ability of God.  In other words, “Why didn’t God stop this bad thing from happening?  If He really is a God of love He would stop it.  If He really is all-powerful he would prevent bad things from happening.”  Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a famous book entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” where he basically posits that God is simply unable to stop all the bad things that occur.  I disagree.  If God were not omnipotent (all-powerful), then by definition, He wouldn’t be God.  Imagine the world if God stopped everything bad or painful from ever occurring.  What would that say about the consequences of our actions?  If God did this, would it be an encroachment on the free will with which He created us?  As parents, do you not let your children make some mistakes in order for them to learn?  Is it not true that many times it is the crucible of pain that grows and strengthens us?  Is not the motto of an athlete in training “No pain no gain?”  If God never allowed anything bad to happen then the existence of the universe would be centered on us.  The point of life would be that we never experience pain, loss, or discomfort.  However, life and all that exists carries the purpose of glorifying God.  I once remember watching an episode of the Twilight Zone as a kid where a man received everything he ever wanted.  Everything went perfectly his way.  He thought he was in heaven. Yet, in the end, it turned out that the man was in hell.

It’s obviously difficult to address all of the ramifications of what we are to think about God in the face of tragedy.  My point is to simply say we must not make God something He is not in order to make sense of tough times.  Regardless of what happens in life, we must rest our anchor on the fact that God is perfectly loving, all-powerful, and sovereign to the end.  In my experience of helping families through times of tragedy, I have learned that it is best to focus on these things we do know about God, rather than on the things we don’t know.  We can never forget that God is God and He is not like us.  We are unable to grasp the “why?” of all that occurs and all that He does.  If our little three-pound brains could figure out everything about God, then He wouldn’t be much of a God.

Consider these Bible verses:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa. 55:8).

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (Ecc.11:5).

God can see a bigger picture that we will never see.  And in the midst of tragedy, we must know that God’s love for us and His desire to comfort us, heal us, and give us hope is never diminished.  In the New Testament there is a story about a young man named Lazarus who is a friend of Jesus who dies.  Jesus goes to his home and spends time with the family who is grieved and crying.  And it is in this story that we see the shortest verse in the whole Bible- “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  I find it interesting that this is the shortest verse in the Bible.  In the midst of tragedy and grief, we might expect the longest verse in the Bible- to explain to us why the friend died, and what was God’s plan and purpose.  But we are not given any of that.  All we are given is the compassion of the Savior.  We need to remember that when we weep, God weeps with us.  Psalm 56:8 states that God puts our tears in his bottle and records them in His book.  His heart breaks for those whose hearts are broken.  Tragic deaths do not show God to be weak or uncaring.  In fact, it shows his power and his desire to comfort us.

So, what is left for us is not to doubt God or be mad at God or blame God, but to trust God.  Tragedy is a time for all of us to draw closer to God, not to withdraw from Him. We must trust God that He loves us and will strengthen and heal us in our greatest times of pain and loss.


Growing in the Word podcast:  12-18-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-18-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 18th, 2011.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-11-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-11-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 11th, 2011.

Is Cremation a Christian Thing to Do?

Is Cremation a Christian Thing to Do?

One question that I am asked at least a few times a month is whether or not cremation violates Christian values/teachings.  Cremation is becoming more and more popular today as an economic alternative to the rising cost of funerals and cemetery plots.  I thought I would write a blog post to hopefully shed some light on the subject.

Let me start with what I think is the easiest question concerning cremation which is the issue of how it affects our glorified bodies in heaven.  Paul, in his great treatise on the resurrection, taught that believers will one day be raised from the dead and receive incorruptible bodies: 1 Cor. 15:53- “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”  But, the question is asked, how do we receive these glorified bodies for eternity if our earthly bodies have been cremated?  Yes, I do believe that our resurrection bodies reconstitute our earthly bodies.  The resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples demonstrate that His resurrection body looked like His earthly body.

That said, it cannot make any difference how a Christian’s body is laid to rest in regard to the feasibility or appearance of the resurrection body.  To begin, if God wants to make a resurrection body that resembles my earthly body out of a pile of ashes He certainly has the power to do so.  I once had a person tell me that God doesn’t want people cremated because it’s so much trouble to make a glorified body out of ashes rather than an embalmed body.  My response to that statement was, “What trouble?  God created the entire universe simply by speaking a word (Heb. 11:3). If He can do that, He can make a body from ashes with zero trouble.”  Don’t forget that God made the first earthly body (Adam) from dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7).

We must remember that many Christians died in ways whereby their remains are not even gathered in a single pile of ashes.  There were Christians who were torn apart by wild animals under the violent persecutions of Rome.  There were believers thrown overboard on slave ships or died at sea whose remains were scattered throughout the ocean.  There were believers incinerated in explosions.  The list goes on.  In addition, the fact is God will be creating resurrection bodies for the most part from ashes.  The remains of the vast majority of believers throughout human history are no longer in the form of a corpse, but have decayed into dust.

Still others have stated that cremation is wrong because the eternal state of the body is related to the condition of the body at the time of death (i.e. people who die at an old age will look old in heaven, children who die will be children, etc.).  The support I have heard given for this is Jesus showing the scars from the nails in his hands and the spear in his side.  What He looked like in eternity is what He looked like at the time He died.  Yet, this couldn’t make sense as we see no indication that Jesus is the bloodied, bruised, swollen, and barely recognizable person He had to have been when He died on the cross.  Every indication is that He looks like the same Jesus (they think he is a ghost- an apparition of His former self) they walked and ministered with for three years.  They do not see him as some kind of disfigured zombie and we should note that the scars are not that noticeable because Jesus has to point them out to the disciples.  The scars are present simply as evidence that the person before them is the actual Jesus they knew and loved standing before them resurrected in bodily form.

Regardless of how a person dies or what is done with their remains, death for a Christian is the planting of a seed that flourishes into new life in the age to come (1 Cor. 15:35-44).  The bottom line is not whether it is possible for God to create a resurrection body from ashes, but rather is cremation the proper Christian response to handling human remains.

This is where the issue gets a bit sticky and people are divided.  In short, burning bodies has never historically been a Christian practice (or a practice of believers in the Old Testament- cf. Heb. 11:22).  A number of historians have traced the burning of human remains back to pagan rituals and practices.  Other historians, such as Stephen Prothero in his book Purified by Fire trace the cremation movement in the United States to atheists who did so as a statement of their disbelief in the resurrection.  And this is the issue.  Why is burial, and not cremation, the traditional Christian practice?  Because caring for the remains of the dead in a dignified way was a testimony to the belief of the resurrection.  In other words, Christians didn’t “discard” a corpse, but rather committed the person back to the earth from which they were made because of the belief that the Lord would one day raise them again.  This isn’t to say that Christians embalm and bury the dead trying to preserve it as long as possible so God can make a resurrection body.  No, we’ve already established God can do that from ashes or even nothing.  Christians have traditionally buried their dead as a witness to the world of their belief in the resurrection of Christ and His return one day to resurrect all believers (1 Thess. 4:14-16).

Burial has also been the Christian tradition because it best symbolizes the resurrection of believers (much like baptism by immersion symbolizes the burial and resurrection of Jesus as well as death to sin and new life in Christ).  There are numerous places in the New Testament where “sleep” is used as a metaphor for death.  In John 11:11 Jesus said that Lazarus had fallen “asleep” when in actuality he had died.  Paul makes the usage in his teaching about the resurrection body in 1 Cor. 15:51-52- “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”  For a Christian, death is in fact something like sleep- you lay down to rest to be awoken later (let me be emphatically clear that the Bible does not teach “soul sleep.”  Rather, the moment a Christian dies their soul has a conscience existence with Jesus- see 2 Cor. 5:8 and Lk. 23:43).  Thus, in burial, the remains of a Christian are “laid to rest” in preparation to be awoken at Jesus’ return.

So, does this mean that Christians should not participate in cremation?  A number of my colleagues firmly believe so.  However, I am not ready to be so adamantly opposed to it.  We should clearly not oppose cremation on the grounds that it has consequences for the resurrection body.  That is foolish.  Regardless of what happens to a believer’s remains, they will be resurrected to imperishable bodies upon Christ’s return.  If we do oppose cremation, it needs to be on the basis of the impact that may have on our testimony to the world about our belief in the resurrection of the dead.  If we support cremation, we need to instruct our loved ones that our memorial services clearly present belief in the resurrection of Christ and our resurrection bodies.  And regardless of whether you support cremation or not, the lives we live right now need to be testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his power to transform our lives today in a spiritual sense and one day in a physical sense for all of eternity.

Growing in the Word podcast 12-4-11

Growing in the Word podcast 12-4-11

Morning Service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 4th, 2011.