Archive | December, 2012
Growing in the Word podcast: 12-23-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-23-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church, Shawnee, OK from December 23rd, 2012.

Christmas Bible Quiz- Some Fun for Your Family Gathering

Christmas Bible Quiz- Some Fun for Your Family Gathering

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581Have some fun with this 30 question quiz I wrote (updated and expanded from last year) 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 while 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. 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?

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

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?

26. According to Luke, the first people to see the baby Jesus, other than Mary and Joseph, were who?

27. When Joseph returns with Mary and Jesus from exile, he does not go into Judea, but to Galilee instead, because God warns him in a dream that a son of Herod is the ruler of the area. What was this son’s name?

28. Matthew states that the angel telling Joseph in a dream that Mary will have a baby and the name he is to give the child is a fulfillment of what Old Testament text?

29. When the shepherds told people about what the angels had said to them and about the baby they had found in the manger they “wondered” at their testimony.  What, according to Luke, was the response of Mary?

30. What did Mary use to wrap around the baby Jesus?


























1. Zacharias (Luke 1:5-13)

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

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

4. 6 months (Luke 1:36)

5. David (Luke 2:11)

6. 8 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). Myrrh was a common spice used in the embalming process in Jesus’ day.

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

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)

26.  The shepherds (Luke 2:8-19)

27.  Archelaus (Matt. 2:22)

28.  Isa. 7:14- “Behold the virgin will be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

29.  Luke 2:19- “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

30.  Cloths (Luke 2:7)





Statement on the Newtown, CT School Shooting

Statement on the Newtown, CT School Shooting

Image: The families of victims grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, ConnecticutBelow is the statement I read to our church on Sunday, Dec. 16, in reference to the school shooting in Newtown, CT. Most of this statement is taken from the blog post on the same subject by Russell Moore.  You can read that post here.  I have had many requests from church members for this statement so I am posting it on the blog.  Please continue to be in prayer for the families affected by this horrific tragedy.

I do not know why evil of such magnitude can happen on this earth.  I do not know why God did not stop that man from walking into the school in Connecticut and murdering so many people.  And the thought that most of the victims were innocent, defenseless children is appalling to an infinite degree.  We are angered that there will be no chance for this man to be brought to justice as he took his own life.  But let me remind you that there is no human punishment severe enough for this man.  And remember that one day he will face a Judge able to render judgment far greater than we ever could.

I do know that God is good.  He is not to be blamed for what happened.  The horror of a school shooting is the manifestation of the fact that sin is more wicked than we can imagine or describe.  We live in a terribly, terribly broken and fallen world and the only hope we have goes beyond any law that we enforce or don’t enforce or the fields of psychology or sociology.  The only thing that can push back against the darkness and evil is Jesus Christ.

We must never forget that we are in a spiritual battle.  “The course of this world,” we’re told, is driven along by “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Satan is, Jesus tells us, a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44) because he hates life itself. And he hates the life of children, particularly, because they picture something true about Jesus of Nazareth.

Satan hates children because he hates Jesus. When evil destroys “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40, 45), the most vulnerable among us, it destroys a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes the head of our reptilian overlord- the devil (Gen. 3:15). The demonic powers know that the human race is saved, and they are vanquished, by a child born of woman (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:15). And so they hate the children who bear his nature.

Violence against children is also peculiarly satanic because it destroys the very picture of newness of life and dependent trust that characterizes life in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:4). Children are a blessing, and that enrages the horrifying nature of those who seek only to kill and to destroy (Jn. 10:10).  Perhaps this is why Jesus said of anyone who harms a child it would have been better for him to have never been born- a clear reference to that person’s judgment.

Let’s not offer pat, easy answers to this tragedy. We don’t fully understand the mystery of iniquity. We don’t know why God didn’t stop this from happening. But we do know what this act is: it’s satanic, and we should say so.

Let’s not forget that over 2,000 years ago Jesus was born in the midst of a madman who mass murdered babies.  His name was Herod and in every way he epitomized the evil we fight against.  And yet Jesus offered hope, peace, and salvation.  Today, it’s another madman and another mass murder of babies.  And yet, Jesus is still offering hope, peace, and salvation.  Let’s grieve for the innocent. Let’s demand justice for the guilty. And let’s rage against the devil who is behind it all.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-16-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-16-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 16th, 2012.  “King of Kings.”

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-9-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-9-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 9th, 2012.  “Making the Most of Time.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

Should Christians Observe Santa Claus?

Should Christians Observe Santa Claus?

Every year at this time I am asked the question by parents in our church, “Should we observe Santa?”  It’s amazing to me how emotive and divisive the issue of Santa Claus can be.  I have read a number of Christian authors who post tempestuous rants declaring that Santa “hijacks” the meaning of Christmas.  To me, I find such extremist responses at worst inflammatory and at best unhelpful to the debate.  Many Christian parents grew up with Santa as part of their Christmas tradition and would like to do the same for their kids, but struggle with the ethics of it- namely in two areas.  One, is observing Santa lying to my children?  Two, does it make the focus of Christmas materialism rather than Christ?

These are fair questions and legitimate concerns that have to be considered and navigated by parents at Christmas.  I think we could add to the concern of observing Santa an emphasis on St. Nick potentially being omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal- all attributes that can only be possessed by God.  So, is it wrong to observe Santa?  I asked a Christian mother whom I respect a great deal to share with me her perspective on Santa.  The following is what she wrote to me and I found in it a great deal of wisdom.  I strongly encourage you to read this and ponder the insight she offers:

I like Santa.  Many are surprised that my family allows him into our celebration at all.  I care very much about this issue because as a Christian mom I want to get this right.  I usually answer the question with something along the lines of, “It’s a game we play in our family…our kids understand and enjoy it.”  I struggle if it is ok to invite Santa into our family’s Christmas celebration.  I understand and genuinely admire those who have chosen not to play Santa.  When I let go of the comparison game, and just tuck this question up with the Lord I always go back to my own childhood.  This game was special and dear to me growing up.  I was raised by Bible-believing Christian parents.  Jesus was clearly taught truthfully ALL YEAR LONG in many creative and traditional ways in both my home and church.  Both of my parents are wise and down to earth and didn’t raise us with a materialistic “keep up with the Joneses’” worldview.

Santa was a tradition of Christmas that we all loved and he didn’t occlude Jesus; or Jesus’ birthday.  Maybe because of the way they led our lives January through November or maybe because our Christmases were simple and sacred and both family and faith focused, I never felt Jesus was threatened or forgotten.  He was honored by a family who loved Him and loved each other.  I felt no more lied to than when my dad would tweak my nose and act like he’d pulled it off as he paraded his own thumb around.  The twinkle in my mother’s eye when she teased about Santa was very different than the passion in her eye when she taught about Jesus.  Both were good for me.  The way God puts families together is different.  Some kiddos are unique in the way they process things and for them the difference I just described would be more difficult for them than good for them.  This makes me glad that He gives us wisdom in every situation and very glad that we can share faith with great celebration and camaraderie even while having different convictions.

When I think about Jesus’ own life as a human child, and the faith culture in which He was raised I consider festivals intended to help a community remember God’s intervention and faithfulness to His people throughout the generations.  I believe THAT should be the center of Christmas.  I wonder if sometimes in our effort to keep the shallow and materialistic out of our Christmases, Christians tend to “over-baby” Jesus, making Him a little bit of a birthday tyrant.  I’m not sure that He would be ok with our over-protecting Him at Christmas while often under-acknowledging Him the whole year through.  In my family I don’t want to prioritize God first, family second, church third… with all the good choices lined up in order next and the bad choices carefully avoided.  I want God to be the center; the only Creative Life from which every choice and action flows.  When that is an intentional goal for everyday then at Christmas He is still the center from which everything flows; even silly fun traditions that keep children and parents young and connected.

The traditional games we play and the generosity we pour out on our children at Christmas time can be very pleasing to the God of “all good gifts” as it reflects His generous faithfulness throughout the year.  The telling of stories of family and faith tradition that make an Invisible God’s providence visible to children learning to move from concrete to abstract thinking can be very pleasing to the God who tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  Remembering Jesus the Baby, the Boy, the Minister, the Sacrifice, the Redeemer, the Living Intercessor in the context of family and faith community is the goal for my Christmas.  And FOR US, in our family, the sweet Santa game is powerless to steal that away.

I think this Mom sums it up well.  Yes, there are potential dangers in observing Santa that require caution, but if a family chooses to observe Santa they have not necessarily caused Jesus to abdicate his throne.  For some families, Santa won’t be the right thing to do.  And that’s good.  But for other families, Santa can be a part of the Christmas tradition while still focusing on Jesus.  And that’s good, too.

I believe when it comes to Christians and the observance of Santa we must apply the principles Paul taught in Col. 2:16-17- “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

Paul notes that the observance of diets and days is like a shadow, but Jesus is the substance.  God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament specific rules and regulations about what to eat and what to celebrate as a means of aiding their obedience and devotion to God.  But now that Christ has come, we follow and obey God on the basis of grace, not law.  It doesn’t mean we reject what the Old Testament says or think it unimportant, we just understand it in light of Jesus Christ.  All of the dietary laws, observances of days, and animal sacrifices were simply pointing the way to something that was coming which was much better- Jesus.  That’s why he refers to diets and days as a shadow, but Jesus is the substance.  We have to make sure that we are not chasing shadows with our lives.  We must be focused on the substance- Jesus Christ!

It is very important to note what Paul does not say in this passage.  He doesn’t say, “Forbid people from observing diets and days.”  What he says is that you cannot let anyone judge you.  There is great liberty for believers.  Christians can choose to observe or not to observe whatever they choose so long as it is in keeping with Scripture.  The substance of the observance or celebration must be Christ and growing faith in him.  This becomes a potential issue in the church because there are people and families with a wide diversity of convictions (including Santa).  We have to be careful how we handle these in the context of the body of Christ.  I have talked to some children (and even parents) about what they would be doing to celebrate Christmas and the first thing they say, with great enthusiasm, is they won’t be observing Santa Claus.  I came away from those conversations wondering if the chief end of Christmas was to extol the non-existence of Santa instead of the existence of Christ.  Again, it’s perfectly fine to not observe Santa and for some families it’s the best thing to do.  However, we must be careful how we handle this to not cause division within the church.

If we are to follow the principles of Col. 2:16-17, at issue is if you do not observe Santa, you cannot think that you are more spiritual than others who do observe him.  Paul condemns that in this passage.  Why?  Because it leads to pride and self-righteousness, not Christ-righteousness.  The reverse is true.  If you observe Santa, you cannot think that those who do not are wrong.  Don’t judge others in these convictions and don’t let them judge you.  These are convictions that God has given you.  Realize that God genuinely has not given them to everyone.  We must never let issues such as these divide us.  Our liberty to follow our convictions is part of the treasure we have in Christ.  Our unity and fellowship in the body of Christ is part of that treasure as well.  If we are not careful, pride and judgmentalism can set in regarding convictions and take away our treasure.

So, let the Lord lead you and give you wisdom about what is best for your family regarding Santa Claus.  And whatever he leads you to observe, don’t condemn those who observe differently.

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-2-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 12-2-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from December 2nd 2012.  “What Does the Bible Teach about Tithing and Giving?”