I did a family quiz for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. Great discussion times. Here goes: (pa@harvestcommunities.org for answers)

  1.  Name two prophecies that were fulfilled during Holy Week.
  2.  Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  3.  What does “Hosanna” mean?
  4.  What did Jesus do during Holy Week?
  5.  What day did Jesus have a healing service?
  6. Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?
  7. How did Jesus baffle the religious leaders in the questions they asked him?
  8. What different groups of religious leaders were arguing with Jesus during Holy Week?
  9. Why did the answer of Jesus regarding taxes stop the religious leaders: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:15-22).
  10. Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?
  11. How did Jesus describe the end times?
  12. How does Daniel, the letters of Paul, and Revelation support Christ’s end-time picture?
  13. Why did the leaders not want to arrest Jesus during the feast? Why then did it happen?
  14. Why was Jesus anointed by a woman at the home of Simon the leper?
  15. Why did Judas agree to betray Jesus?
  16. Why did Jesus “set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
  17. What did Jesus know about Jerusalem?
  18. What was the Passover meal? How did Jesus fulfill the Passover?
  19. Why did Caiaphas tear his robes when Jesus spoke about his return? What is the significance of that?
  20. When did it turn dark on the cross? How long was Jesus on the cross? From when to when?
  21. Name the seven words from the cross in order.
  22. Why did Jesus say to John, “Behold, your mother?”
  23. What was more difficult for Jesus on the cross–the physical or emotional suffering?
  24. Why did Jesus say, “I thirst,” when the battle was over?
  25. What was the significance of the hyssop branch used to give Jesus a drink?
  26. What was going on at the same time that Jesus was being crucified?
  27. What is the significance of the curtain being torn from top to bottom when Jesus died?
  28. What women were at the cross?
  29. Who buried Jesus? What is the significance of that? What time was Jesus buried?
  30. What is the significance of the guard placed at the tomb at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees to Pilate?
  31. How many earthquakes took place between the crucifixion and the resurrection and why is that significant?
  32. How many appearances did Jesus make after his resurrection and to whom? What did the resurrected Christ speak about? 





He first said, “Father, forgive them.” Then he said to the criminal next to Him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Then he made provision for his mother, turning her over to the care of John.  “After this,” he spoke words of personal need. Jesus modeled perfect love from the cross by looking to his own bodily needs last.



John writes, “After this Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished…” (19:28). In the heat of battle, one cannot yell, “Time out,” and grab a drink. That Jesus now confesses thirst is an indication that the fight is done. He has stepped on the head of the serpent and crushed him: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities, making a public display of them” (Col. 2:14).



According to John, Jesus spoke the words as a link with what had been prophesied about him. At no point did Jesus ever lose control. Caiaphas did, and tore his robes in anger. Pilate did, and tried to wash a guilty conscience with water. The crowd did, and shouted, “Crucify him,” like bloodthirsty dogs tearing at their victim. But the Victim never lost it. He knew what time it was (John 13:1) and what he needed to do. History was on schedule. The King was about to be crowned.



The One who created Niagara Falls, who made the lakes in the Rockies, is now dehydrated. Humanity sinned and a human had to die. Jesus was a man, a thirsty man. He had poured out his soul to death, and He deserved to be thirsty. He had just cried, “My God, my God, why…?” That was the worst kind of dehydration, the most awful exposure, the most painful and gut-wrenching separation.


He was fulfilling the Scripture, “For my thirst they gave me vinegar” (Psalm 69:21). The soldier understood him to be asking for a drink of liquid. He gave Him some of the sour wine, the cheap stuff given to soldiers as part of their rations. Earlier it had been offered to Jesus and He had refused it. Why now? Because his work was over. He did not want to be drugged earlier, because he chose to be in full awareness of what he was doing, even in the severest pain. He needed to “taste death for everyone.”  He had his taste, and now he asked for a final drink before the end. When he received it, he gained sufficient strength to cry out, “It is finished.”  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He did what he had come to do–and he was done.



That’s what we said as kids when we thought someone was not telling the truth. Then say it to Satan,  because as Jesus declared, “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). As a father, he facilitates the birthing of lies–all over the planet.


Don’t know what we meant about the “pants on fire” part.  I do know that the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). Knowing that “his time is short” (Revelation 12:12), he wants to ruin as many Christians as he can with lies before he heads to the tank. He uses four primary weapons: accusation (bringing guilt and shame), intimidation (producing fear), temptation (luring in sin), and deception (replacing truth with lies). If we believe his lies, we come into his realm. He rules as prince of “this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5).


Have you fellowshipped with Satan by believing lies?

“You don’t have what it takes.”

“You are not going to get victory over this.”

“You’re in financial trouble, and it doesn’t look good.”

“It wouldn’t hurt you–at least not that much. Just don’t tell anyone.”

“God seems to be blessing others more than you. What’s that about?”


Satan comes at us with the goal to change two pictures: how we view God and how we see ourselves. If he is successful, he keeps us from walking into our God-appointed destiny.


“Now the serpent was more crafty [read “sneaky, sinister, deceptive”] than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Which interpreted means, “God sounds a bit immature, maybe even insecure. What’s he worried about? Why is he withholding from you?”


“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” (3). Eve wrongly added the last phrase to the inhibition, maybe thinking God was a bit picky. So Satan went for it: “You will not surely die (in bold defiance). For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (5). He made it clear, at least to Eve, that God was withholding from them, not a kind thing. Why shouldn’t they be able to decide–like God? Buying the lie, they bit the fruit.


They were convinced that it would improve their condition in the garden–and it destroyed them. Satan was happy in a devilish sort of way. They were devastated. They gave up innocence, a great marriage, and number one son.


Arm yourself with the belt of truth. Men, expose your struggles. Only good things come from the truth: “If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, the the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Two gifts: living connections with people so we are not isolated by Satan and the lifting of shame and guilt through forgiveness.



In stark contrast to an indifferent judge, the Bible says many times, “God is good.” The psalmist writes, “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and his mercy endures forever.” The assault on the goodness of God started in the garden with the serpent attacking God’s goodness. He made Eve think that God was withholding good, that He was sneaky, manipulative, not to be trusted, and insecure. To the degree that we doubt God’s goodness we will faint in prayer. Why wouldn’t you persist knowing the character of God? You have everything going for you.


So we put two people together in a contest, an obnoxious man on the bench and an unrelenting widow who will never give up. Who wins? The widow. Now put a kind, loving Father together with a persevering child. Who wins that one? Both. The widow represents the people of God. And God the caring Judge takes our case. Bingo!


Do you stop when you feel like you have gotten a “no?” Or when you have prayed for ten years? Or when circumstances look negative?  We have two possibilities in our parable—persistent prayer or quitting. Maybe we have prayed what we think is long enough, so we stop, like taking a hike and giving up just before we reach the peak. When we persevere, the rewarding view makes the sore muscles worth it.


We need to persist…

when we think we are hearing a “no”

when the circumstances don’t favor a positive answer

when our faith begins to dwindle.


We give up…

when the circumstances override our trust in God’s sovereignty

when the difficulty looms larger than God.


When we give up,

we miss out on what we may be close to attaining

we may discourage others who need to persevere.


This is an end-times story. Jesus just finished a long teaching on the last days. One chapter later He is walking into Jerusalem, initiating His last week, in which He gives more teaching on the end than at any other time. He also closes His parable on prayer with a word about His return, tipping us off to a major theme in the story. He wonders if people will be looking for Him. Most will not.

Jesus is not a pessimist, but He does say in the Sermon on the Mount that “only a few find” the narrow way leading to life (Matthew 7:14). He says that “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). “Most” is a lot. Don’t let “most” include you. In Luke’s version of Christ’s end-time discourse, Jesus speaks about how His return will surprise most people, just like the flood hit people unaware. Jesus starts His story with a strong exhortation to persist in prayer and closes by asking if people will persevere. Let’s be among those who go for it if we’re around when Jesus returns. Two pictures will determine whether you do—your picture of God and your picture of yourself. What kind of people do not give up? Those who have a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Worked before; going to work again. People who believe in God more than in their circumstances.


Perhaps you want to offer this prayer: “Jesus, help me to keep persisting. I give up too easily. I want to be faithful to the end—regardless. I will pray until I have received what I have asked for.”



Our second child, Naomi (39) suffers from epileptic seizures. We have prayed twenty-five years for healing. We will continue until we see results. Wish I were this persistent with other needs.


Jesus tells us when to quit praying—when we get the answer! Only two stories give us the main point from the get-go: The Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Pharisee and Tax Collector. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).  The disciples had already asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). He gave them a model prayer (The Lord’s Prayer), then encouraged persistent prayer by telling about a desperate midnight host who was given a volley of negative answers but went home with the bread. In the parable about the widow, Jesus is again teaching persistence.


Two characters–four short verses:

A widow.  We know nothing about the widow’s character, only about her need for justice. Widows and children are pictures of dependence and need. They are often taken advantage of. Widows have little recourse, no means to leverage a favorable position. Jesus told this parable knowing two things about us: our weakness and our temptation to quit praying and give up.


Passionate prayer is fueled by need, and great need means desperation. How badly you want an answer drives persistence. “If it be your will, please heal me” would be at one end of the spectrum. “I will not take ‘no’ for answer” would come at the other end. Jesus shows an overwhelming bias for the latter. The midnight guest received four “no’s” from his friend who had already gone to bed. A Canaanite woman received the same number of negative responses. Neither gave up. Nor did the widow back off because of a disinterested man on the bench.


A judge. He “neither feared God nor cared about men” (v. 2). Some people who don’t fear God still like people. Some love God but can’t stand humanity. And some have a problem at both ends, not the person we would want representing us in court.


Jesus could have told a story about a judge just like His Father. For the sake of contrast, He told about a judge with two major faults. He was, however, confronted with a persistent widow.  She went to someone who held the authority she lacked. The judge could not have cared less. The only reason he gave in was that she didn’t. Jesus was saying, “Pray like that widow persisted!”


Jesus often used contrasts to make His point, two very different sons, two opposite sisters, two contrasting pray-ers (a Pharisee and a tax collector). He is saying that if a persistent widow can get an uncaring judge to support her, persistence with a caring Judge in heaven who loves justice and cares for His chosen ones will work all the more. Jesus affirms that God “will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:8).


Jesus is telling us something important about the Father and about ourselves. Sometimes God does not answer our prayers immediately that He intends to answer ultimately. In order to teach us endurance, especially in the last days, He wants us to learn to ask and keep on asking. If He answered every prayer instantly, it would not grow the kind of faith that we need in the end times (part 2 coming).


Parents: when you correct your children, correct with content, not with tone. People who hear your tone and not your content should not be able to detect that you are upset. If they do, you are not correcting properly. Using tone, like extra volume or a strident quality is an attempt to change through means other than content. God does not do this.


When we correct with volume or quality of voice, It brings shame through our contorted voice. We don’t talk with friends that way. We are beating them up with our voice. When our kids get to us, we need to back off. Otherwise, we will be building resentment without knowing it. If they come back at us with the tone we give to them, they are echoing our bad behavior, and it easily escalates. What we wanted was a momentary correction and we got an argument, and our tone was to blame. We need the correction more than the kids.


Paul told Timothy to be gentle with those who opposed him. He was not to come with dominating voice as if to say, “I am in charge.” He was to come in a voice of meekness to match the character of Christ. We know whether we have learned the gentleness of Christ when it is time to correct our children for misbehavior that annoys us. If our demeanor changes, we are sacrificing content, and it will not get the same effect. Disciplining in love is purposeful, not punitive (that is, to punish rather than correct). We should be attempting to correct the behavior rather than shaming the child and beating him down with our yelling.


God’s still small voice says, “I love you” and “that was wrong” with the same volume and intensity of love. It makes us want to change and be like Him. He corrected us not out of annoyance but out of the desire that we take on His qualities of love, gentleness, and righteousness. Sometimes the correction of a parent comes because a child is interrupting them from their cooking or TV watching or book reading. The tone says, “I am upset. You are to blame for making me upset. If it wasn’t for you, I could keep doing what I am doing, but now I have to put my good book down and come over and break up a fight. See what you have done. How unkind!” We have just quit serving our child by giving him the needed discipline. We are serving ourselves by telling him to quiet down. Our actions are betraying our intentions, inappropriately applied because we were inconvenienced.


Discipline is done for a child, not to a child. (I think I heard that first from Larry Christenson). We are training them. It is our gift to them to help them grow up. Children are immature, and we are God’s instruments to bring them to maturity, not show them how immature we are by our raised volume and unkind words. Children who grow up thinking they are an inconvenience will resent us and what we stand for. They will take opposite beliefs to spite us.


If your child instinctively hugs you after a spanking, you were doing it right. You are helping him  want to obey. He is repentant and tender. It did not bring shame or anger; it brought affection.  (A blog about spanking coming).



What did we do to build a strong relationship while dating?

  • We consulted with mature people, mentors,  parents, elders of our church. We wanted people to speak into our lives. Some couples may feel that their relationship is their private matter. Neither true nor wise. People we loved prayed for us and with us. We invited them into the discussion about a possible future together. Marriage was a new thing–we needed help.


  • We talked about how we would express the physical side of our relationship. We didn’t let it take over the relationship and derail it. It had a place. We walked in accountability with people we respected. We did not arouse love until its time—marriage. In that way we built trust that continues to this day. Worth building during the dating period. Trust compromised is sometimes difficult to rebuild. We talked honestly about what we would and would not do. And we walked in the light with mentors. (Guys, if you struggle with porn, expose it. Don’t carry it into marriage).


  • We did not spend a lot of time together. We limited ourselves to two times a week. We were looking to our future in which we would be together the rest of our lives. We didn’t need to be together every night to prove our love. That can put pressure on the proper growth of a relationship. We both lived in community, and we honored our household commitments. The purpose of engagement is to agree together that you will meet each other at the altar and live together “until death parts us.” It does not and should not mean that you double the amount of time you spend together. You may need to double your time at work, or with your mentor, or getting a house ready.


  • We did not spend any time together late at night. We did not put ourselves in situations where it would be easy to compromise our guidelines, like alone in an apartment. Familiarity breeds intimacy. That is for marriage. When we kissed, our feet didn’t leave the floor and our hands didn’t wander. It was not easy to hold to these commitments, but because we had asked for the help of others, we knew that we would be sharing with them if we stepped over the line. Walking in the light does not mean walking in perfection. It means exposing the darkness so you don’t live there.


  • One month of our short engagement (two months and two weeks) was spent away from each other. It is a good way to develop creativity in love’s expression. Couples who must be apart don’t need to panic. Historically, the man was gone the whole engagement period getting the house ready. Remember–Jesus the Bridegroom left to prepare a place for us.


  • We prayed for each other and with each other, but not until we knew we were in love and were heading to the altar. People who get overly spiritual too soon can also get physical too soon.


  • Neither Karen nor I put all our marbles as single people in the marriage basket. Of course, we wanted to get married. But we managed as single people to find our joy in God. We knew that He was the center. Try not to make marriage the answer to your misery, or you might put pressure on your spouse.. May you find your life in Christ more than sufficient. As St. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.”


1 “Father” and “friend” are two different words. Kids need a dad. Let children their age be their friend. They need someone to bring order in the house (eating together, communicating, doing chores, having family devotions). Fathers who do not do these things should not be surprised if there is more chaos than peace in the home.

2 Be a child first. You are a son of the Father. The more you understand sonship, the better you will get fatherhood. The closer you are to the Father, the better you will father your children.We have been adopted into God’s family, chosen by the Creator, and we will always belong. We will never be alone, never without purpose, never without a future. Translate those realities to your children.

3 Understand vulnerability. I wish all fathers could have a meeting like we had a few years ago. It started with Andrew writing an email to his siblings, acknowledging his shortcomings as an elder brother. It continued when Gabriel, second brother in line, asking forgiveness of his siblings for sometimes arguing and joking. The atmosphere in the air led to a meeting that changed the way we did life at our house. When parents are vulnerable, they release grace into the air, making it easier for their children to share their struggles and failures. I wish my dad and I had talked more about hard issues. Dads, how about asking your kids to share with you where you have failed them as a father?

4 Serve your wife. The children will know if you are laying down your life or primarily going after a career. If the kids see that you are not in unity, they will play one off against the other. Unity at the top brings unity to the family. The best marriage advice I received came from Jesus, not about marriage–about life: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It took me a long time to learn how to lay down my life, but when I got it, things changed. Marriage is not about doing your own thing.

5 Discipline with love. The discipline that comes from heaven is deliberate, not reactionary, and is given to strengthen character, purposeful rather than punitive. God doesn’t go from a 2 to a 7 in ten seconds. He is slow to anger. You don’t ever need to raise your voice. My dad didn’t–ever. We grew up knowing we were loved and cherished.

6 Be present. Many children have father wounds because of absentee fathers who have convinced their children that the job environment is more important than the home environment. They seem to say to the wife, “You raise the kids; I will raise the money.” Family does not work that way. We worship a Father who is the most accessible person in the universe. “I called–He answered.” Be available to your children and especially in their times of greatest joy and greatest sorrow.

7 Emotions matter. You want more than the facts. Find out how your kids are feeling about you, life, school, themselves, God, the opposite sex. Probe. Where are they struggling, hurting, questioning? What are they afraid of, hoping for? Wish I had done more of that.

8 Focus more on identity than behavior. If you focus primarily on behavior, you will not get the behavior that you are desiring. My dad said often, “Remember who you are.” Identity drives destiny!


Here’s my answer: yes and no!


When I heard that an American had won a gold in Korea, I was happy. Elated? No. I’d probably be as glad if some underdog from Zimbabwe had won. Healthy patriotism, not overdrawn, probably helps us fulfill Paul’s admonition to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (I Timothy 2:2), a duty incumbent upon Christian citizens of a nation. So we pray for our leaders whether they are to our liking or not, just as Paul did.

It’s normal to appreciate the culture of one’s country. Culture is an expression of a nation’s art forms, like dance or music. National boundaries are God-given (Acts 17:26), and we will see the best of culture in the new earth (Revelation 22:24-26). Just as it is natural to appreciate one’s family of origin more than the neighbor’s, it is also understandable to meet someone from the States in Uzbekistan and feel a connection. We are brothers in a national sense. We don’t stop and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” together, but we are fellow Americans, and it feels good. We have some things in common. We express our patriotism by pledging allegiance to our nation or voting for the candidates of our choice without letting it tamper with our highest allegiance.


Patriotism to the extreme morphs into nationalism, the demonic side of love for country. Think Nazi. Ultimately, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). We bow the knee only to the King! Jesus gave no time to the zealots and their desire to throw off the Romans, though He did bring one on as a disciple. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). So in that absolute sense, Christians are a-political. Our highest loyalty is to the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords. If government tries to interfere with our submission to the King, “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

However, that can be taken to an extreme. I know some Christians who are hiding out in the hills of Kentucky (literally), who do not pay taxes because they consider it idolatry. Wrong. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). And Paul said to pay “taxes to whom taxes are owed…honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7). That honor, surprisingly, even included a pagan emperor (I Peter 2:17). So we do the dance between turning patriotism into an idol or turning other-worldliness into gross disobedience.

Healthy patriotism and love one one’s country is downplayed by globalization, an international outlook, political and economic. God answered the first attempt of total globalization, the tower of Babel, by dispersing “them from there over the face of the earth” (Genesis 11:8). National identity is God’s idea, and it is likely to have an expression in eternity.