How Should We Pray?

How should we pray?  Many people are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer.  You know, the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.  It begins: “Our Father which art in heaven….”.  Jesus taught this prayer to his followers  not so that they should merely repeat its words, but to provide a guide for regular prayer.

Who are we talking to?

Focus for a moment on the first section of the prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven: hallowed by Thy Name.”  These are significant words. What are they teaching us about prayer?  First, these words remind us that we are talking to a person. We are speaking with the God who is real and personal, not an impersonal Force as the Star Wars movie series depicts God.  Then, God is called Father.  According to Jesus, prayer is to be directed primarily to the Father–the first person of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Yes, there is only one God, but he apparently exists in a way that is beyond our understanding: one in essence, yet three in personhood.  Jesus, the incarnation of the Son, teaches that our prayers should be directed to the Father.   Jesus emphasizes that God is “our Father”.   Remember that Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples rather than to the crowds.  Those who have put their trust in the Father’s Son may call God Father.

What kind of God are we praying to?

The prayer reminds us that God is in heaven.  That means that he is in a position to hear our prayers and do something about them.  An earthly father is limited in what he can do, but our heavenly Father is not limited in either wisdom, or power.  Finally, God is said to be holy (hallowed be Thy Name).   Many people don’t have trouble thinking of God as loving, —possibly because this concept of God is so appealing.  But a holy God – one who is pure and perfect, one who is not like us, one who has no sin or wrong associated with him in any way – is a problem for some folks.  We need to be reminded of this aspect of God’s nature because it determines both our attitude in prayer and the kinds of things we request of Him.  He doesn’t think like we do.  He is not motivated by some of the things that motivate us.  He is holy.

What is the goal of prayer?

Once we understand who we are addressing in prayer and what kind of being he is, we can focus on the next portion: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  When we pray like this, we are asking God to do those things which will honor Him and serve His own purposes.  Praying like this should immediately remove any selfish elements in prayer.  By focusing on the goal of God’s Kingdom coming on earth, we are wiping the slate clean of wrong, self-centered, or impure motives.

Praying for God’s Kingdom to come also causes us to focus on exactly those things which he has already promised to hear and answer.  Though we may not always know what to ask for specifically, praying like this automatically narrows our requests and intercession to the kinds of things that we are aware of that God favors and is likely to grant.  For example, the types of things the Bible says are according to God’s will might include:

  • that people will hear and respond to the good news that they can be forgiven, remade, and restored to God through faith in Jesus
  • that people may grow in personal goodness and godliness
  • that God’s people may be purified and have a positive influence in the world
  • that the basic needs of family, friends and people’s in general will be met.

Maybe you can think of more.

But if we are praying for God’s will to be done above all else, then we must submit each our will to God’s will before our prayer can proceed to other things.  Submitting our wills to God’s will means that we must consent that God’s will can take place in our lives — if nowhere else.  We must be willing for His Kingdom to have its effect in the things that are dearest to us, even if it means that our plans are changed, and the direction of our lives alters drastically.  We must not harbor those sins of attitude that resist the coming of God’s Kingdom.  In other words what we are saying to our Heavenly Father as we pray is that our greatest desire is to have what God desires.  We are saying that we will be pleased to see his glory and his purposes worked out in our lives.  We are saying that God has permission to use us in this process of accomplishing his will on earth.

What kinds of requests should we make?

Jesus teaches that prayer should include things that we are concerned about. He lists several types of things that are legitimate requests in prayer:

Daily bread.  God knows that we need basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, the means to make a living and the health necessary to maintain life.  Notice that there are no luxury items mentioned.  The Bible does not condemn extras in life by any means.  But Jesus’ prayer focuses on the basics needed to maintain life and productivity.  This focus reminds us that we can be content with simple things, and that we should not become caught up in chasing more and better as so many people in contemporary society are.

Forgiveness.  Aside from the very few people who really don’t see that they have ever done anything wrong, all of us know we have sinned.  We know in our hearts that we have hurt people, that we have shamed ourselves, and that we have offended God’s standards in one way or another.   We know this because we recognize that we have violated common standards of right and wrong, but also because we feel guilty and ashamed.  At the core of the good news is that Jesus died to secure our forgiveness, cleansing and empowerment to live differently.  In asking to be forgiven of trespasses, we are in effect asking to receive the  benefits of Christ’s atonement.  Part of that request is the realization that forgiveness has indeed been granted in Christ.

The partner to the request for forgiveness is that we forgive others.  How can we who have experienced God’s forgiveness refuse to forgive those who have offended us?  While perhaps our forgiveness from God is not contingent on whether we fully forgive others, Jesus presents them as a package deal: “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Protection.  “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  Very simply, we beg God to protect us from ourselves when under temptation and from people and situations that would bring harm.

Though not all experts agree that this final phrase was part of Jesus’ original teaching, traditionally Christians have included, “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.”  It is certainly fitting that our prayers may end with a recognition that all good things belong to God.  So, with these things in mind, let us pray in the way that Jesus taught His disciples!

Advanced Bible Quiz: Answer Key

Answer Key
Answer Key

This advanced Bible quiz answer key will help you measure your Bible knowledge.  Don’t be discouraged— many Christian leaders would struggle with some of the questions.

 

 

Basic Information

The Old Testament contains (1) 39 books. The New Testament contains   (2) 27 books. Together they form the entire canon of Christian scripture. The Old Testament was written mainly in the (3) Hebrew language; the New Testament was written in the common (4) Greek language of the First Century.

The Old Testament

Genesis begins with God creating the earth in a complete cycle of (5) seven days. The first man and woman (6) Adam and (7) Eve lived in the Garden of (8) ­­­­­Eden, but chose to turn away from trusting in God and embrace the wisdom of the (9) Serpent (or Devil). For this, they were banished from the garden and forbidden to eat from the (10) Tree of Life. Their first two sons, (11) Cain the firstborn and (12) Abel, quarreled and the elder murdered the younger. A third son, (13) Seth, was born afterward to continue the godly line.

The following generations saw humanity sink deeper into sin and degradation. God planned to send a (14) Flood to judge the human race. He chose a man described as “righteous in his generation” to survive this disaster by building an (15) ark and saving his family as well as pairs of all types of (16) animals. This man’s name was (17) Noah. His three sons, (18) Shem, (19) Ham and (20) Japheth are the ancestors of the current nations of the earth.

After the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the (21) tower of Babel, God chose (22) Abraham to begin a new line of faith. This man’s son (23) Isaac was born when his mother, (24) Sarah was too elderly to bear children naturally. God blessed this child of faith and his wife, (25) Rebecca with twins, Esau and (26) Jacob. This man later had his name changed to (27) Israel. He became the father of (28) 12 sons and a daughter, primarily through (29) Rachel his beloved and (30) Leah, her sister who were his wives. These sons were the founders of the tribes of Israel. Among these, the son with the greatest faith was named (31) Joseph. He was sold as a slave by his brothers and sent to the land of (32) Egypt but later saved them from a devastating (33) Famine, which afflicted the entire region.  The story of Israel’s escape from slavery is told in the book of (34) Exodus. After their escape, Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Their leader, (35) Moses, met with God on Mount (36) Sinai and received the law binding Israel in covenant with God.  (37) Joshua is the book which recounts Israel’s conquest of Canaan. To defeat foreign enemies and rescue his people, God later gave them a succession of leaders called (38) Judges. At the end of this period, in response to the people’s demands, God gave them kings through a man named (39) Samuel.

The three kings who ruled over all Israel were: (40) Saul, (41) David, and (42) Solomon. The second of these kings is famous for several events, which took place in his life. His killing of a mighty Philistine warrior named (43) Goliath earned him the reputation as a hero of faith. However, his affair with (44) Bathsheba, the wife of a trusted soldier, brought lasting shame and disgrace. The third king over a united Israel, was renowned for his great (45) wisdom: so much so that the Queen of (46) Sheba traveled a great distance to learn from him. During the reign of the fourth king, the kingdom split in two. The northern kingdom was known as Ephraim or (47) Israel, while the southern kingdom was called (48) Judah.

Ministering in the north were prophets whose role was to call the nation back to faith in God. One of these, a fiery prophet named (49) Elijah, met with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and demonstrated through his faith that the LORD was the true God. His successor, (50) Elisha, is sometimes called the helpful prophet. Due to their unfaithfulness to God, the northern kingdom was eventually conquered and scattered by the (51) Assyrian Empire.

A little more than a hundred years after this, the southern kingdom was exiled to the country of (52) Babylon.   The two prophets who ministered in this land were the priest, (53) Ezekiel and (54) Daniel, a member of the nobility. The fact that many of the Jews in exile were able to return to the Promised Land after (55) 70 years is recorded in the books of (56) Ezra in which proper worship was restored and (57) Nehemiah, in which the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.

(58) Psalms is the book that served as the hymnal of ancient Israel. It is followed by two books of wisdom: (59) Proverbs, a collection of practical truths for daily living and (60) Ecclesiastes, which explores the meaning of life. Included in this wisdom and poetic collection is a love song, entitled               (61) Song of Solomon. It expresses the devotion of a king for his lovely bride. Also in this collection, the book of (62) Job deals with the issue of suffering which seems to be undeserved.

The prophetic books of the Old Testament are divided into two groups: the (63) major prophets and the (64) minor prophets, which are distinguished purely on the basis of length, not importance. The prophet whose book contains the most messianic prophecy is (65) Isaiah. Jerusalem’s destruction was witnessed and described most fully by the prophet (66) Jeremiah. The prophet (67) Jonah attempted to run away from God’s calling, but repented after he was swallowed by a fish and ended up fulfilling his task. Another prophet, (68) Hosea was told to marry a wayward woman to demonstrate God’s commitment to his unfaithful people.

The group of books, not accepted in Protestant versions of the Bible, but which is included in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the scripture is called the (69) Apocrypha.

 The New Testament

The period between Malachi in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament era lasted roughly (70) four centuries. The New Testament begins with the record of Jesus’ life and ministry by the four gospel writers: (71) Matthew, (72) ­­­­­ Mark, (73) Luke and (74) John.  In the first verses of the fourth gospel, Jesus is described as the eternal (75) word (or logos) which was with God and was God and through whom all things were created. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (76) Mary and born in the city of         (77) Bethlehem.  He was later raised to maturity in the northern region of (78) Galilee. Jesus taught truths about the Kingdom of God through a kind of story or illustration called (79) parables. He spent the approximately three years of his earthly ministry focusing on the training of his (80) 12 disciples. He also performed many (81) miracles to validate his claims of being the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. Jesus was put to death by the Roman governor, (82) Pontius Pilate, during the Jewish festival of (83) Passover (technically during the Feast of Unleavened Bread), but afterward rose from the dead on the (84) third day.

The book of (85) Acts is the inspired history of the early church. The majority of the New Testament letters were written by one man: the Apostle (86) Paul. Next to him the most New Testament books were written by the Apostle (87) John, who wrote a total of (88) ­­­five.   Two short, but powerful letters, found near the end of the Bible were written by the disciple who once denied Christ. His name is (89) Peter. The theme of the letter to the (90) Romans is that, though everyone is guilty before God, anyone may be saved through faith in Jesus.   It is often thought to be the most systematic explanation of the gospel.

(91) Hebrews is the book which encourages Jewish followers of Jesus that, as the Son of God, Christ is greater than Moses or even angels. The letter whose key word, “joy” is found throughout its four chapters is (92) Philippians. Two letters were written to a church known for its immaturity and “fleshly” living. This church was located in the ancient city of (93) Corinth. (94).  Philemon is written to a man whose escaped slave had become a Christian and was now returning home.

The letter stating most fully that we are saved by faith apart from the Law is  (95) Galatians. However, the letter of (96) James makes it clear that faith without works is dead. Three books were directed to two young church leaders named (97) Timothy (98) and Titus. The pair of letters, which most emphasize the “man of sin” and Christ’s return were addressed to the church in (99) Thessalonica. The book of (100) Revelation fittingly climaxes the New Testament, closing with Christ’s second coming and kingdom.

How did you do? A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!

 

Advanced Bible Quiz

Bible Quiz
Bible Quiz

This 100-point advanced Bible quiz is designed to measure your knowledge of the key people and facts in Bible’s storyline and motivate you to dig deeper into the Bible itself.

Basic Information

The Old Testament contains (1) ______ books. The New Testament contains   (2) ____ books. Together they form the entire canon of Christian scripture. The Old Testament was written primarily in the (3) ________________ language; the New Testament was written in the common (4) ______________ language of the First Century.

 The Old Testament

Genesis begins with God creating the earth in a complete cycle of (5) ____ days. The first man and woman (6) _________ and (7) ________ lived in the Garden of (8) ­___________, but chose to turn away from trusting in God and embrace the wisdom of the (9) ________________. For this, they were banished from the garden and forbidden to eat from the (10) __________ of Life. Their first two sons, (11) ___________ the firstborn and (12) __________, quarreled and the elder murdered the younger. A third son, (13) ________, was born afterward to continue the godly line.

The following generations saw humanity sink deeper into sin and degradation. God planned to send a (14) ___________ to judge the human race. He chose a man described as “righteous in his generation” to survive this disaster by building an (15) ________ and saving his family as well as pairs of all types of (16) _______________. This man’s name was (17) ____________. His three sons, (18) __________, (19) __________ and (20) ______________ are the ancestors of the current nations of the earth.

After the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the (21) ___________ of Babel, God chose (22) _______________ to begin a new line of faith. This man’s son (23) _______________ was born when his mother, (24) _________ was too elderly to bear children naturally. God blessed this child of faith and his wife, whose name was (25) ________________ with twins, Esau and (26)__________. God later changed this man’s name to (27) _____________. He became the father of (28) _____ sons and a daughter, primarily through (29) ___________ his beloved wife and (30) ___________, her sister. These sons were the founders of the tribes of Israel. Among this sons, the one with the greatest faith was named (31) _____________. He was sold as a slave by his brothers and sent to the land of (32) ___________ but later saved them from a devastating (33) _______________, which afflicted the entire region.

The story of Israel’s escape from slavery is told in the book of (34) __________. After their escape, Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Their leader, (35) ____________, met with God on Mount (36) _____________ and received the law binding Israel in covenant with God. (37) ___________ is the book which recounts Israel’s conquest of Canaan. To defeat foreign enemies and rescue his people, God later gave them a succession of leaders called (38) ______________. At the end of this period, in response to the people’s demands, God gave them kings through a man named (39) _______________.

The three kings who ruled over all Israel were: (40) ________, (41) ____________, and (42) _________________. The second of these kings is famous for loving God deeply. His killing of a mighty Philistine warrior named (43) _______________ earned him the reputation as a hero of faith. However, his affair with (44) _________________, the wife of a trusted soldier, brought lasting shame and disgrace. The third king over a united Israel was renowned for his great (45) _____________: so much so that the Queen of (46) ___________ traveled a great distance to learn from him. During the reign of the fourth king, the kingdom split in two. The northern kingdom was known as Ephraim or (47) _____________, while the southern kingdom was called (48) ____________.

Ministering in the north were prophets whose role was to call the nation back to faith in God. One of these people who spoke for God, a fiery prophet named (49) ___________, met with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and demonstrated through his faith that the LORD was the true God. His successor, (50)___________, is sometimes called the helpful prophet. Due to their unfaithfulness to God, the northern kingdom was eventually conquered and scattered by the (51) ________________ Empire.

Just over a hundred years after this, the southern kingdom was exiled to the land of (52) _______________.   The two prophets who ministered in this land were the priest, (53) _______________ and (54) _______________, a member of the nobility. The fact that many of the Jews in exile were able to return to the Promised Land after (55) _______ years is recorded in the books of (56) __________ in which proper worship was restored and (57) _________________, in which the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.

(58) ________________ is the book that served as the hymnal of ancient Israel. This book is followed by two books of wisdom: (59) ________________, a collection of practical truths for daily living and (60) ______________________, which explores the meaning of life. Included in this wisdom and poetic collection is a love song, entitled               (61) ____________________________. It expresses the devotion of a king for his lovely bride. Also in this collection, the book of (62) ______ deals with the issue of suffering which seems to be undeserved.

The prophetic books of the Old Testament are divided into two groups: the (63) ____________ prophets and the (64) ___________ prophets, which are distinguished purely on the basis of length, not importance. The prophet whose book contains the most messianic prophecy is (65) _____________. Jerusalem’s destruction was witnessed and described most fully by the prophet (66) ________________. The prophet (67) _____________ attempted to run away from God’s calling, but repented after he was swallowed by a fish and ended up fulfilling his task. Another prophet, (68) _____________ was told to marry a wayward woman to demonstrate God’s commitment to his unfaithful people.

The group of books, not accepted in Protestant versions of the Bible, but which is included in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the scripture is called the (69)   ____________________.

 The New Testament

The period between Malachi in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament era lasted roughly (70) _______ centuries. The New Testament begins with the record of Jesus’ life and ministry by the gospel writers: (71) _________________, (72) ­­­­­ __________,   (73) ___________ and (74) ____________. In the first verses of the fourth gospel, Jesus is described as the eternal (75) __________ which was with God and was God, and through whom all things were created. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (76) ____________ and born in the city of (77) ______________________. He was later raised to maturity in the northern region of   (78) __________________. Jesus taught truths about the Kingdom of God through a kind of story or illustration called (79) ______________. He spent the approximately three years of his earthly ministry focusing on the training of his (80) _____________ disciples. He also performed many (81) __________________ to validate his claims of being the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. Jesus was put to death by the Roman governor, (82) __________ ___________, during the Jewish festival of (83) __________________, but afterward rose from the dead on the (84) _________ day.

The book of (85) _____________ is the inspired history of the early church. The majority of the letters of the New Testament letters were written by one man: the Apostle (86) ____________. Next to him the most New Testament books were written by the Apostle (87) _____________, who wrote a total of (88) ­­­______.   Two short, but powerful letters, found near the end of the Bible were written by the disciple who once denied Christ. His name is (89) ___________. The theme of the letter to the (90) _________________ is that, though everyone is guilty before God, anyone may be saved through faith in Jesus.   It is often thought to be the most systematic explanation of the gospel in the New Testament.

(91) ___________________ is the book which encourages Jewish followers of Jesus that Christ is greater than Moses or even angels. The letter whose key word, “joy” is found throughout its four chapters is (92) _________________. Two letters were written to a church known for its immaturity and worldly living. This church was located in the ancient city of (93) _________________. (94) __________________ is written to a man whose escaped slave had become a Christian and was now returning home.

The letter stating most fully that we are saved by faith apart from the Law is (95) ___________________. However, the letter of (96) ______________ makes it clear that faith without works is dead. Three books were directed to two young church leaders named         (97) ________________ (98) and ____________. The pair of letters, which most emphasize the “man of sin” and Christ’s return were addressed to the church in                                         (99) ______________________. The book of (100) __________________ fittingly climaxes the New Testament, closing with Christ’s second coming and kingdom.

How did you do?   I know this was a challenging test.  Even some Christian leaders might struggle on parts of it.   A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!

Intermediate Bible Quiz: Answer Key

Answer key
Answer key

How did you do on the Intermediate Bible Quiz?  Here are the answers.

Basic Information

The Bible commonly used by Protestants contains a total of (1) 66 books. It is divided into two main sections: the (2) Old Testament and the (3) New Testament. The first section was written mainly in the ancient (4) Hebrew language; the second section was written in the (5) Greek language of the First Century.

 Bible People and Storyline

The book of Genesis describes the first humans as living in a garden named (6) Eden. There they fell into (7) sin by eating forbidden fruit. To prevent the complete corruption of the human race, God later sent a devastating flood while saving a remnant under the leadership of (8) Noah. Later, the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the Tower of (9) Babel. After this, God called a man named (10) Abraham to begin a line of chosen people who would represent him to the rest of the world. The great-grandson of this man was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. His name was (11) Joseph.

After several generations of slavery, the descendants of this former slave and his brothers became known as the nation of (12) Israel. They were delivered from their slavery under a lawgiver named (13) Moses. Although God promised them the land then known as (14) Canaan in which to establish themselves, they showed a lack of faith and many of them died in the wilderness. After forty years of wandering, God raised up a man called (15) Joshua to lead them into this Promised Land.

In this new land, the nation was at first ruled by servants of God called   (16) judges, one of whom was a woman named Deborah. Later the nation was ruled by a series of (17) kings, the best known of which was David. When this line of rulers became foolish and disobedient to God, he divided the nation in two, with the northern capitol in Samaria while the south had its capitol in (18) Jerusalem. Though they were warned to cease worshipping idols and devote themselves to the true God, the people continued to disobey, with the south eventually suffering exile in (19) Babylon. A book of 150 musical poems, some of which were written during this time, was used by God’s people in worship. It is entitled (20) Psalms. Though called to represent him in the world, God’s people often needed correction by men and women speaking on God’s behalf. These people were called (21) prophets.

The second main section of the Bible begins with the life and ministry of (22) Jesus. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (23) Mary and born in the city of (24) Bethlehem. He performed many (25) miracles to validate his claims of being the Son of God. After being accused of blasphemy, he was condemned and put to death by the cruel method of (26) crucifixion. After (27) three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead. The book of (28) Acts is the history of the early Christians. They formed a new people of God, known as the (29) Church. The basic Christian message, called the (30) gospel is the good news that, though people are guilty before God, anyone may be forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in God’s Son.

The associate of the Lord and main spokesman for the earliest Christians had been a simple fisherman. His name was (31) Peter. The majority of the letters in the second section of the Bible were written by one man: the Apostle (32) Paul. Other letters were written by various Christian leaders. One of these letters makes it clear that faith without works is dead. It was written by (33) James, who was probably a brother of the Lord. Several other letters were written by the Apostle (34) John, who was especially close to the Lord during his lifetime. The book of (35) Revelation fittingly climaxes the Bible, closing with the promise of the Lord’s return and the establishment of his Kingdom on earth.

Never be discouraged.  A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!

 

Intermediate Bible Quiz

Intermediate Bible Quiz
Intermediate Bible Quiz

This 35-point intermediate Bible quiz is designed to measure your knowledge of the key people and facts in Bible’s storyline and motivate you to dig deeper into the Bible itself.

Basic Information

The Bible commonly used by Protestants contains a total of (1) ______ books. It is divided into two main sections: the (2) _______ _____________________ and the (3) _______ _______________________. The first section was written mainly in the ancient (4) _________________ language; the second section was written in the (5) ______________ language of the First Century.

 Bible People and Storyline

The book of Genesis describes the first humans as living in a garden named (6) __________. There they fell into (7) ________ by eating forbidden fruit. To prevent the complete corruption of the human race, God later sent a devastating flood while saving a remnant under the leadership of (8) __________. Later, the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the Tower of (9) ___________. After this, God called a man named (10) _________________ to begin a line of chosen people who would represent him to the rest of the world. The great-grandson of this man was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. His name was (11) _________________.

After several generations of slavery, the descendants of this former slave and his brothers became known as the nation of (12) ______________. They were delivered from their slavery under a lawgiver named (13) ____________. Although God promised them the land then known as (14) _______________ in which to establish themselves, they showed a lack of faith and many of them died in the wilderness. After forty years of wandering, God raised up a man called (15) _____________ to lead them into this Promised Land.

In this new land, the nation was at first ruled by servants of God called                           (16) ____________, one of whom was a woman named Deborah. Later the nation was ruled by a series of (17) ___________, the best known of which was David. When this line of rulers became foolish and disobedient to God, he divided the nation in two, with the northern capitol in Samaria while the south had its capitol in (18) _______________. Though they were warned to cease worshipping idols and devote themselves to the true God, the people continued to disobey, with the southern kingdom eventually suffering exile in (19) ______________. A book of 150 musical poems, some of which were written during this time, was used by God’s people in worship. We know this collection as the book of (20) _______________. Though called to represent him in the world, God’s people often needed correction by men and women speaking on God’s behalf. These people were called (21) _______________.

The second main section of the Bible begins with the life and ministry of                (22) _____________. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (23) _____________ and born in the city of (24) __________________. He performed many (25) _____________ to validate his claims of being the Son of God. After being accused of blasphemy, he was condemned and put to death by the cruel method of (26) ____________________. After (27) _____________ days in the tomb, he rose from the dead. The book of (28) __________ is the history of the early Christians. They formed a new people of God, known as the (29) _________________. The basic Christian message, called the (30) _____________ is the good news that, though people are guilty before God, anyone may be forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in God’s Son.

The associate of the Lord and main spokesman for the earliest Christians had been a simple fisherman. His name was (31) ____________. The majority of the letters in the second section of the Bible were written by one man: the Apostle (32) _____________. Other letters were written by various Christian leaders. One of these letters makes it clear that faith without works is dead. It was written by (33) _______________, who was probably a brother of the Lord. Several other letters were written by the Apostle (34) ____________, who was especially close to the Lord during his lifetime. The book of (35) __________________ fittingly climaxes the Bible, closing with the promise of the Lord’s return and the establishment of his Kingdom on earth.

How did you do? You can access the answers in a separate blog–Intermediate Bible Quiz–Answer Key.  A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!

 

Basic Bible Quiz

Basic Bible Quiz
Basic Bible Quiz

This 15-point basic Bible quiz is designed to measure your basic knowledge of the overall storyline of the Bible .  Fill in the blanks to see you much you know!

The Christian Bible is divided into two main parts, the (1) ______ Testament and the (2) _____ Testament. This first book in the Bible, called (3) ________________ tells the story of the origins of the universe and of human civilization. This book describes the first humans as living in a place called the Garden of (4) __________.   They disobeyed the command of God and followed the temptations of the (5) _______________.

 After a devastating flood in which humanity was preserved through the family of (6)__________, the Bible continues with the establishment of a chosen people known as (7) _____________. These people were delivered from slavery and received God’s Law under a leader called (8) __________.   Though this nation was to represent God in the world, it often needed correction by people who spoke for God. This type of corrective leader is called a (9) ______________.

The second section of the Bible begins with the record of the life and ministry of  (10) __________. His followers were later organized into a new people of God called the (11) ____________. The first leaders of this new people of God were called (12) _________________.   One of these leaders named (13) ____________ was a former fisherman, who had denied his Lord in a moment of weakness. Another of these leaders preached the Christian message in many places and wrote at least twelve letters to various groups of believers. History knows him by the name of Saint (14) __________. The book of (15) ________________ closes the Bible by promising the coming of God’s Kingdom at the end of the Age.

How did you do? You can find the answers in the key to this Level 1 Quiz posted as a separate blog.  A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!

Basic Bible Quiz: Level 1 Answer Key

Answer key
Answer key

How did you do on Basic Bible Quiz: Level 1?  Here are the answers:

The Christian Bible is divided into two main parts, the (1) Old Testament and the (2) New Testament. This first book in the Bible, called (3) Genesis tells the story of the origins of the universe and of human civilization. This book describes the first humans as living in a place called the Garden of (4) Eden.   They disobeyed the command of God and followed the temptations of the (5) Serpent (or Devil).

 After a devastating flood in which humanity was preserved through the family of (6) Noah, the Bible continues with the establishment of a chosen people known as (7) Israel. These people were delivered from slavery and received God’s Law under a leader called (8) Moses.   Though this nation was to represent God in the world, it often needed correction by people who spoke for God. This type of corrective leader is called a (9) prophet.

The second section of the Bible begins with the record of the life and ministry of (10) Jesus. His followers were later organized into a new people of God called the (11) Church. The first leaders of this new people of God were called (12) Apostles.   One of these leaders named (13) Peter was a former fisherman, who had denied his Lord in a moment of weakness. Another of these leaders preached the Christian message in many places and wrote at least twelve letters to various groups of believers. History knows him by the name of Saint (14) Paul. The book of (15) Revelation closes the Bible by promising the coming of God’s Kingdom at the end of the Age.

If you missed some answers, don’t be discouraged.  A knowledge of the Bible is something that comes with time.  Keep reading!

 

Can I Trust the Bible? Yes you can!

We can trust the Bible
Study the Bible with confidence!

Many so-called experts claim that we cannot trust the Bible.  They assert that the written documents of the Bible were not well preserved and that the copying process resulted in many mistakes.  Yet Christianity and Judaism have traditionally claimed that the Bible we read and study today represents the Word of God faithfully handed down through the centuries by God’s people. But which claim is true?  How can we be sure that the Hebrew and Greek copies scholars use for translation into English are faithful to the original documents?  In other words, can we really trust the Bible?

Where did our Bible come from?

Let’s begin with how the Bible came to be preserved and passed down.  As far as anyone knows, none of the manuscripts of the Bible that were written by the original authors are still in existence. This fact leads to the legitimate question of whether what we read in the Bible today accurately represents what was written down by Moses or Isaiah or Paul.  Because of the lack of original material, scholars must rely on early copies of the original manuscripts.  Experts in the discipline of manuscript study can compare the various early copies available in order to sift out the small percentage of variations in the text and synthesize the original content. Over the years, this process has yielded a very high degree of confidence in the texts of both the Old and New Testaments.

Evidence for the Old Testament

The manuscript evidence for the Old Testament is quite strong.  It might seem obvious that most of the books of these Hebrew scriptures were written in the ancient Hebrew language, but a few of the later portions were actually composed in a related language, called Aramaic. These books were probably written over a nearly 1,000-year span between 1400 and 400 B.C. by several dozen different authors, including Moses, Ezra, David, Solomon and others. Until 1947, the best and earliest manuscripts for the Old Testament were known as the Massoretic Texts. The Massoretic Texts were copies of still earlier manuscripts (now lost) made by Jews in eastern Europe between 800 and 1000 A.D.  Many critics of the Biblical text argued that the accuracy of these manuscripts, which date from the Middle Ages, was probably very poor due to the more than 1, 200 years between the original documents and these copies.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

But in 1947, through the providence of God, the accuracy of the Massoretic Texts was confirmed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This large collection of miscellaneous writings dating from 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. included dozens of much earlier copies of Old Testament books. The scrolls were found carefully preserved in desert caves in the Qumran area of the Dead Sea. What scholars have discovered in studying them is that, apart from a few very minor differences, there had been virtually no change in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures for more than 1,000 years. So, almost overnight, doubts about trustworthiness of the Old Testament suddenly became much less convincing.

The Septuagint

In addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is also an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament made around 200 B.C, known as the Septuagint.  The Septuagint also confirms the copying accuracy of the Old Testament.  So, based upon the evidence of the extreme care with which the Jews copied their scriptures, as well as the insight provided by the Septuagint, we can have confidence that the material of the Hebrew Scriptures is highly accurate.

Evidence for the New Testament

When it comes to the New Testament portion of the Bible, the evidence is even better. The books of the New Testament were probably written in Greek between A.D. 45 and 100.  The very earliest copies we have of the original books date from just after A.D. 100.  For example, there is a fragment of chapter 18 of the Gospel of John, which dates from around A.D. 110. Since the Gospel of John was probably originally written around A.D. 90, that puts the time from original to earliest known copy at about 20 years. An even earlier manuscript portion, known as the Chester Beatty Papyrus, dates from around A.D. 100. Since Paul probably wrote this portion in the years A.D. 55-65, that puts the time lapse from original to copy at less than 50 years. These examples illustrate the very strong evidence for the reliability of the New Testament compared with other works of ancient literature.

All told, there are something like 5,000 early Greek copies of the New Testament in existence today, as well as hundreds more in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic and Armenian translations. With the aid of computer software, scholars are able to do intensive comparisons of the available copies in order to “weed out” any copying mistakes and synthesize the original text of the New Testament.  More evidence for the trustworthiness of the New Testament comes from the writings of the Christian Church before 400 A.D., called the Patristic writings.  These early Christian works quote so extensively from the New Testament that it can be virtually reconstructed from these writings alone.  One expert estimated that only one half of one percent (.05 %) of the New Testament is now in any doubt as to its original wording.  Most of this small percentage of uncertainty has to do with word order, rather than content.  For example, there are a few passages that are unclear as to whether they said Christ Jesus or Jesus Christ – hardly a reason for doubting the reliability of the New Testament.  So, just as with the Hebrew Scriptures, the text of the New Testament has been shown to be highly accurate.

Conclusion

All of this evidence points to the conclusion that the Bible we use today is extremely reliable and can be trusted.  It has lost very little, if anything, in the copying process from the original writings of the authors.  While none of this by itself proves the Bible’s inspiration, it does support Christianity’s ancient claim that the Scriptures are the word of God, fully inspired and authoritative for the ages.

How to Pray for People

Have you ever wondered how to pray for people?  Are you tired of the standard prayers typically prayed by Christians? Perhaps you can relate to what I am talking about: “Dear God, please bless so-and-so with (health, a job, salvation, a renewed spiritual interest, an easier life, etc).” Not that there is anything wrong with these things. They may be legitimate matters for prayer, but it seems to me that we Christians often settle for so little when we make requests of God.  What follows is what I hope is a remedy for these routine kinds of prayer

Do we know what God wants?

Maybe the problem is that we don’t really understand what to ask God for. Maybe we just get caught up in responding to the urgent felt-needs of those around us. Maybe we have become creatures of habit, falling into the set patterns of our particular circle of friends and church associates. Whatever the reason, I sometimes find typical prayer sessions to be bland and all-too predictable: the same categories of prayer; the same focus on immediate physical and material needs; the same salvation requests.

The problem of group dynamics

Prayer sessions can easily be dominated by two or three people who either don’t mind sharing most of the prayer requests or who enjoy being the perpetually needy ones. Maybe you can relate to feeling like this at a prayer gathering, “Here we go again. Brother Sam has been feeling upset again this week. He is requesting that we ask to God to remove the source of his frustration. Beside him, brother Ned needs a job for the third time in the past year. Sister Sue is asking for her son’s salvation just as she has since we have first known her years ago. Another Christian lady has urgent health issues and can hardly function in her daily routines. (But, if so, how is she well enough to come to this prayer-gathering?) Across the circle, sister Mary is sharing another compelling story she came across on the Internet this week. She wants prayer for an individual a continent away who has been “on her heart” for days but whom none of us has ever met. So we bow our heads and ask God to intervene.

Let me be clear: I am not condemning such prayers or the people who pray them. In my experience, the motives of those who make these kinds of requests are usually good. They care about people and they want God’s blessings on those people and circumstances they care about.  Yet I have become increasingly discontent with prayer requests which go no further than these kinds of things.  It is entirely possible that, as a pastor, I have simply been jaded by attending many dozens of these prayer sessions.   Part of the solution is to set ground rules for prayer times that limit one or two people from dominating the agenda.

Getting beyond the routine

Maybe I am also frustrated by the lack of discernible growth in these dear folks whose prayers seem to be on the same level year after year. It could be argued that these types of prayers simply reflect poor biblical teaching on the part of their leaders, including me. What I do know is that we ought to be asking God for much more.  So, I have put together a collection of prayer requests that I believe are more in line with those modeled in scripture. I am urging that, along with praying for jobs, and protection, and the solving of various problems—-all of which may be valid—that my fellow believers should consider praying “outside the box”. But what does a biblical, yet edgy prayer request look like? Let me give some examples. Try praying for these things:

  • That people develop a deep love for God
  • That people have thoughts, words and actions controlled by the Holy Spirit
  • That our friends become willing to accept a life-changing direction from God
  • That we experience a sacrificial attitude in marriages, families and other relationships
  • That those we are concerned about come to genuine repentance
  • That together we are a voice for Christ’s Kingdom when one is needed
  • That people develop the mental commitment and toughness to resist temptation
  • That Christians demonstrate our oneness in Christ
  • That we all become competent in applying the truths of scripture to our own lives
  • That we strive for personal excellence as a visible result of honoring God in all we do
  • That Christians are seen as models of tolerance in situations in which tolerance pleases God
  • That Christians model godly family living
  • That Christians face their own blind spots
  • That we decide to be content with what cannot be changed
  • That we develop consistency and skill in their work
  • That believers respond to conflict with truth, righteousness and mercy
  • That our friends acquire the ability to persevere through hardship and failure
  • That we all learn true forgiveness
  • That our churches grow in their ability to speak about their faith in ways which ring true with the unchurched and unbelieving people around them
  • That we discover joy in giving to others
  • That Christians commit themselves to basic spiritual disciplines
  • That we develop healthy eating and exercise routines
  • That we stop judging others’ motives
  • That folks learn the difference between explicit biblical teachings and their own inferences based on certain verses of scripture
  • That we all become amazed at God’s care and provision in their lives
  • That troubled people find God to be the acceptance and beauty that they have been looking for
  • That stubborn folks find God to be tougher and smarter than themselves
  • That all of us desire to become more than they have dreamed possible for God’s glory
  • That we find deep enjoyment in the life God has blessed them with
  • At all times that God’s people show themselves as models of God’s grace

I could add many more requests that are biblically-based and relevant to the society we are currently living in.  It could be that if we consistently prayed for ourselves and others like this, we might actually turn the world upside down!

Michael Bogart

 

A Neglected Female Perspective on Jesus’ Resurrection

Women at the tomb

A female perspective on the Resurrection of Jesus is desperately needed in our divided times. Though male myself, I have tried to see the resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the women who went to his tomb as recorded in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12.  The following is my attempt to tell their story in a single narrative.

The Women’s Story

It was an early Sunday morning twenty centuries ago.  Actually, we would probably describe it as night because the darkness had not yet been mixed with the faintest light of dawn.  A small group of women–three or four–were on their way to do something that would break their hearts. They were going to finish preparing the body of their dear friend and honored teacher for his final burial. Over the past days, these women had experienced an emotional ups and downs.  Just seven days earlier they had been convinced that their teacher, leader, friend was finally going to be acknowledged as the Messiah that their people had been expecting for centuries.

The Previous Week

Such excitement; such hope!  Only a few days ago their expectations were all coming true.  Now it had ended so suddenly, so tragically.  The previous Sunday–just seven days ago–Jesus of Nazareth had arrived in Jerusalem to the acclaim of the cheering multitudes. He had entered the holy temple and called out the corruption of its leaders.  The packed and eager crowds hung on his words.  Though Jesus’ enemies had tried to discredit him, they were unable to counter his answers, and went away, publicly embarrassed.  It had looked like the Messiah and his Kingdom had actually arrived at last.

Then on Thursday, Jesus and his closest followers sat down to the annual Passover meal–the traditional celebration of their people’s deliverance from slavery long ago.  During that extended meal he taught them as usual about God’s coming Kingdom.  But this time the teaching was more personal.  Jesus addressed them as friends.  It was hard to believe, but he had seemed to be saying that the covenant between God and Israel had been fulfilled, and that a new covenant was being established based on himself. There was talk of blood sealing this new covenant–but then he had always spoken in symbols and metaphors.

Later that night, though, the metaphor turned into reality.  Jesus was arrested by his enemies. The next day, Friday, he was tried before the high Jewish council and, later, by the Roman governor. To the disbelief of his followers, he was quickly and unfairly condemned and executed after public humiliation and torture. Within forty-eight hours the women had gone from excitement and expectation to numbed grief and devastation.

The Lord is Dead

All day Saturday they were haunted by the memory of taking his shattered body off that cross. Along with two kind men–Joseph and Nicodemus–the only two members of the high council who sympathized with Jesus, they carried his body to a nearby tomb that Joseph donated in this hour of need. Together, they had done what they could to prepare Jesus’ body in the short time before the Sabbath came at sundown. The Romans sealed the tomb with a heavy stone and posted a guard.

Sunday

Now the Sabbath was over and the little band of women were picking their way through dark lanes and streets of Jerusalem and then out of the city gate to the tomb where the final preparations would be made to lay their beloved master to his final rest.

Arrival. Shock. Confusion. Are we at the wrong place? No, this is surely the right place. How could we forget this scene of crucifixion so etched in our memories barely thirty-six hours ago? But something is dreadfully wrong. The tomb is standing open. That big, heavy stone door is laying way over there. How? There is a man sitting on it. Who is he?  He is terrifying, powerful. Light seems to be radiating from him.

What is he saying? “Jesus isn’t here. He is alive from the dead.” What does that mean? We must look inside the tomb. Another man in shining clothes. An angel? ” Where is out master?” “See for yourselves,” he says: “He is not here.” We look at the niche where we placed his body, now just the empty shroud lays there.

Outside now.  Bewildered. Where has he gone?  “You there, sir.  Are you the groundskeeper?  What has happened to the body of our teacher?  Where are the soldiers?  Please help us!”

“Mary!” That familiar voice.  Recognition!  Tears.  Fear.  Joy.  Alternate laughing and weeping.  Questions.  He is saying, “Don’t detain me. Don’t hold me–not yet.  Run and tell my disciples that I am alive and I will meet them soon.” ” No, Lord.  We don’t want to leave you.  Don’t send us away.  Alright.  Yes Lord, we will go tell the others.”

The First Eyewitnesses

Stumbling, hurrying, running into the waking city as the light grows stronger. Pounding on the door of the safe house where the men are staying. We tell the story with words tumbling out of our mouths. Interrupting, talking one on top of another. Those infuriating blank looks from Peter and the others.  More urgent attempts to make them understand.  Questions.  Disbelief.  Off they go to see for themselves–just like men!

But oh the joy, the relief. Our hope is renewed.  Morning has come.  We sit down to an improvised breakfast.  More talk. Is this a dream?  More tears. Irrepressible joy.  Nothing will ever be the same!