WORD Sent Forth #21


Search me, O God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.  (Psalm 139:23-24)

The verse above is probably one of those passages that I know by heart. I use these words as part of my effort to fulfill a challenge that our Lord Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). In context, this was His conclusive statement to the sermon’s lesson of ‘loving thine enemies’

You’re probably wondering what Psalm 139:23-24 has to do with Jesus’ challenge to be perfect. Well, this psalm, which was written by King David, speaks of the inescapable presence of God and His intimate knowledge of all of us. From verses 1 to 17, David’s song had that expressed feelings of praise and exultation, but then we come to verses 19-22. David’s tone changed from exultation to deep bitterness (at least, in my mind). He wrote…

If only You would put the wicked to death, God; Leave me, you men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies. (Psalm 139:19-22)

Since the time when David stood his ground against Goliath, for over 50 years, he had to contend with enemies of God from both within and outside his kingdom. Since David, who was the apple of God’s eyes, had written this, it may seem right that we should emulate this zeal.  Afterall, as Christians, are we not expected to hate sin? This was probably in David’s mind when he composed these four verses. In his elation, he exulted in what he thought was righteousness. But then suddenly, like someone stepping hard on the brakes, David drastically changed tone from the thrilled self-righteous hater of God’s enemies to one of humble realization. Where he probably thought he stood proud on a pedestal, David remembered that God who knew him so well was before him scrutinizing his very heart. David may have also remembered that his own sense of righteousness had gaping holes in them. For the Lord God had said that he too was filled with bloodshed (1 Chronicles 22:8) and was himself a hater of God (for a short while). God forgave David but he was denied the privilege to build the Temple for God.

This was a lesson for me. Though I walked with the Lord for over 30 years, my walk may not be as exemplary as I want. Like David, I too have sinned. Those mistakes that I know of, I was able to repent and correct. But there are many errors that I committed that I may not be aware of but yet it may have tainted my testimony or worst yet, tarnish the Lord’s name by my action or lack of.

If I am to do what is right in the Lord’s sight, then I must pray what David pleaded for at the end of Psalm 139. I must always ask that the Lord provides me a close and honest look at myself so that there be no hurtful way in me and that the road I’m on is still the everlasting way.

BIBLE Q&A with Johann #18

The Judas Iscariot Question

By JQuisumbing

Did Judas repent? Did God forgive him? 

The story of Judas Iscariot is always a sad one for me to tell. Throughout history, his name is forever synonymous as the betrayer of our Lord. 

While I was with them, I protected and preserved them by Your name, the name You gave Me. Not one of them has been lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:12)

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)

His name had been branded as being the worst of mankind. But in truth, Judas Iscariot’s situation may actually represent humanity’s situation today. I include myself in this (at least in the beginning anyway). What do I mean? Let me use my early life as an example. I mean before I was born again. 

Like Judas, I had the privilege of knowing a little bit about Jesus. I was taught about Him in Catechism and what the heck, even His name is my middle name. Like Judas, I was drawn to Him. Of course, Judas got even closer to Him. After all, he was one of the chosen twelve and was even given the power to cast out demons. Judas was protected, preserved and was even considered as a close friend (John 17:12; Psalm 41:9). Sure, he betrayed Jesus, but then, so did His other disciples when they abandoned Him to His fate. Even the proud and boisterous Peter denied knowing Jesus three times while Jesus was being mocked and beaten just yards away. We all have failed Him in one way or another. I myself had sinned against Him by rejecting many times the opportunity to accept the gift of salvation which He paid so dearly with His life. But it is here that Judas’ and my story went down different paths.

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” …And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and left; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Here lies the saddest part of his story. Judas had forgotten what Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” (John 11:25) Judas gave in to his despair and killed himself. If he just waited, he would have seen Jesus resurrected and I truly believe that Jesus would surely have forgiven him.

BIBLE Q&A with Johann #17

To go or not to go to church? That is the question!

By JQuisumbing

Can someone believe in God but not attend church?

If you are asking, does one have to go to ‘church’? I’m assuming that that person doesn’t want to go to church and be instead a hermit Christian. There is no such thing as a MAVERICK Christian. A maverick is defined as being unorthodox or independent-minded. In a sense, he/she would want to do their own thing their own way. This is hard to do especially when you disagree with the commandments of Jesus Christ who definitely calls you to do hard tasks like ‘Love your enemies’. Heed the words of the Apostle Paul if you have thoughts of going on it alone.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:3-5)

It may be that you are asking this, because you have a hard time being around lots of people. This I can understand. I used to go to a mega-church. I actually found it hard to develop meaningful relationships with thousands of people every Sunday. But I still go and join the brethren mainly because the Lord desires it. As the Bible says…

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8) 

For us modern day worshippers, Sunday is our Sabbath day. Of course, I realized that the Sunday Services were not really meant for very close fellowships. The usual two hour services are mainly for WORSHIPING and gaining divine instructions. The implementation of God’s instructions, however, can only be achieved effectively among the close relationship of a few. Consider why Jesus chose twelve men from among the multitude to disciple; and even from among them, He focused on three (Peter, James & John). Jesus had set for us a model to follow so that we can apply the Great Commission.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you… (Matthew 28:19,20)

Do we need to go to church? You bet!

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25) 

Remember! Sunday services are for worshiping God collectively with the congregation, whether of a hundred to tens of thousands. To grow and become fruitful, I encourage you to be part of a small group even if it is only among two or three persons.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  (Matthew 18:20)

BIBLE Q&A with Johann #16

Crown of Thorns

By JQuisumbing

What Is the Significance of the Crown of Thorns? Is there meaning behind the ‘crown of thorns’?

Recounted in all 4 books of the Gospel, Jesus was brought before Pontus Pilate by the Jewish leadership & the priesthood. Their purpose was to have Him executed for blasphemy. Interestingly enough, Pilate found no fault in Jesus and would have released Him, if it were not for the priests goading the crowd into a frenzy. To appease the mob, Pilate sent Him to be flogged. The Roman soldiers whipped Him cruelly. Then to add insult to injury, the soldiers went one step further. 

And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”   (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17,18; John 19:2-5)

I found this from a blog that was answering the same question…

While a crown of thorns would be exceedingly painful, the crown of thorns was more about mockery than it was about pain. Here was the “King of the Jews” being beaten, spit upon, and insulted by presumably low-level Roman soldiers. The crown of thorns was the finalizing of their mockery, taking a symbol of royalty and majesty, a crown, and turning it into something painful and degrading.1

As to the meaning behind the ‘crown of thorns’, read this response from the same blog.

For Christians, the crown of thorns is a reminder of two things: (1) Jesus was, and is, indeed a king. One day, the entire universe will bow to Jesus as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). What the Roman soldiers meant as a mockery, was in fact a picture of Christ’s two roles, first of suffering servant (Isaiah 53), and second of conquering Messiah-King (Revelation 19). (2) Jesus was willing to endure the pain, the insults, and the shame, all on our account. The crown of thorns, and the suffering that went with it, are long gone, and Jesus has now received the crown of which He is worthy. “But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, emphasis added).

There is further symbolism embodied in the crown of thorns. When Adam and Eve sinned, bringing evil and a curse upon the world, part of the curse upon humanity was “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18, emphasis added). The Roman soldiers unknowingly took an object of the curse and fashioned it into a crown for the one who would deliver us from that curse. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). Christ, in His perfect atoning sacrifice, has delivered us from the curse of sin, of which a thorn is a symbol. While intended to be a mockery, the crown of thorns was, in fact, an excellent symbol of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish.1

[1] – https://www.gotquestions.org/crown-of-thorns.html

BIBLE Q&A with Johann #15

Easter or Resurrection Day

By JQuisumbing

Why do we call the Resurrection ‘Easter’? What does the Bible say about Easter? Why is Easter called Easter and why do we celebrate it?

Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox (aka vernal equinox). The vernal equinox is two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator and day and night are of equal length which usually occurs around about March 20 or 21. Christendom knows of this time as the end of the Holy Week when Christ Jesus rose from the dead, the 3rd day after He was crucified and died on the cross. But during the times of the Old Testament, when Easter came about, the Israelites celebrated the festival of Pesach, better known as the Passover. 

The Passover commemorates the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt and the “passing over” of the forces of destruction, or the sparing of the firstborn of the Israelites, when the Lord “smote the land of Egypt” on the eve of the Exodus. [from http://www.britannica.com]

Is it blasphemy to say ‘Happy Easter’, thinking that it may have been a pagan practice?

Remember that Easter was marked by early observers as an annual celestial calendar event. At the time of Creation, God had set this event in the heavens as a sign.

Genesis 1:14

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.

If you worship anyone other than God, then you are blaspheming.

How about the Easter Bunny and hunting Easter eggs?

The Easter Bunny is just a fictional character and should be confined in fantasy. However, the Easter Egg Hunt is an annual teaching opportunity for the kids. You see the Easter egg itself can be a symbol of the Resurrection. Just as Jesus rising from the tomb, represents the guaranteed promise of our own resurrection from the dead, then the egg symbolizes our new life in Christ. This is what should be taught to the kids before they hunt for the eggs.

For myself, I can say HAPPY EASTER but for accuracy sake I prefer to declare…


BIBLE Q&A with Johann #14


By JQuisumbing

Are tattoos acceptable to God? Does God support tattoos? What would God say about tattoos? What does the Bible say about tattoos?

According to the ancient authorities, the practice of tattooing prevailed among all nations of antiquity, both among savages and civilized nations; the slave had impressed upon his body the initials of his master; the soldier those of his chief; and the worshiper, the image of his tutelar deity. But for all Israelites, Moses wrote this…

Leviticus 19:28

“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”

For us who are Gentiles or not Israelites, the commandment above may not apply in this age of grace, however it does tell us that the Lord God likened it to a form of idolatry.

For those who already have art permanently impressed in their skins, you may wonder about what the Lord may say. Well, more than likely, the Lord will not heed the art as much, but what is in your heart is another story.

Proverbs 16:2

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

Proverbs 21:2

A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

By the way, if the skin art depicts any form of evil, consider blotting it out or removing it by laser. The choice is yours.

WORD Sent Forth #20


By JQuisumbing

In my email, I received my daily Bible Verse of the Day (1/13/2023) from Bible Gateway.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20

…namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their wrongdoings against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

What caught my attention was the phrase we beg you. I must have read this verse many times and I admit that I have been remiss in paying closer attention to this part of the verse. It does kinda sound desperate that an ambassador of Christ would beg {ie beseech, plead} people to seek reconciliation with God. 

Why the urgency?

Well, someone who was very dear to me had recently passed away. That person, I knew with certainty, did not accept the gift that God had provided for all mankind. To this day, I am still saddened by that individual’s choice. For I know what that person will face.

And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment… (Hebrews 9:27)

I kick myself, for maybe I could have been more ‘desperate’ in pleading with that person. Am I wrong to think this way?

God’s message of reconciliation is a desperate directive to all sinful people. For they either know not the eternal danger they are facing or they just don’t care what happens. How much in danger are they in?

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and ALL LIARS, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

The desperateness of the message is not just the telling of how much in trouble the world is in. We who are enlightened must put all our sweat and effort to declare what Jesus Christ has done for them. Again, why the urgency? The truth of these verses paints a stark reality.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)

It pains me that only a few will find salvation, but yet I am not to give up, for the Lord has entrusted me with a desperate message that begs to be told.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

What is the BEST DECISION you’ve made in your life?

We make different kinds of decisions.

• SIMPLE or TRIVIAL  [“Where to eat?” “What to wear?”]

• SIGNIFICANT [“What career should I pursue?”]

• LIFE CHANGING [“Who do I marry?”]

Today, you are about to make a decision that will impact you for…


There are four important truths that you must know…

Truth #1


…and desires that you have eternal life with Him and… 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

…and that you have an abundant and meaningful life with Him. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

But most people are not experiencing a meaningful life and…

They are not sure that they have ETERNAL LIFE because… 


MAN has a SIN problem that separates him/her from the Holy GOD


Romans 3:23 says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;”


“For the wages of sin is death, …” (Romans 6:23)

Death is a reality that is not hard for us to imagine because we see death happening everyday of our lives. But the death that we witness is a separation of our physical body from our soul (or spiritual self).

The greatest BAD NEWS though for us is that there is a another kind of death that we cannot avoid. That is a SPIRITUAL DEATH or the ETERNAL SEPARATION FROM GOD known as the…


“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and ALL LIARS, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)



We often think that RELIGION, GOOD WORKS, & GOOD MORALS are the solution. 

But there is only ONE solution from God.



In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”


“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God”  (1 Peter 3:18)


“the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:3–4)


“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.” (John 3:36)

Merely knowing what Christ has done for us is not enough.




“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Based on Ephesians 2:8–9, if salvation can be expressed in a formula, which do you think is the correct one?



The right answer, of course, is Formula #2. 

How about all our GOOD WORKS?

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that good works were always meant to come as a by-product of salvation: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

GOOD WORKS are not the means to salvation. So, if Jesus Christ alone paid for our sins, what is our part?

Do you remember this verse?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

How do you show your belief in Jesus Christ?

Accepting His gift of Eternal Life

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Note: A gift can never be earned. It can only be accepted or rejected. 

This is all that God asks of you; to have FAITH in Jesus. 

When He sees your faith, God promises that you will surely know that you have ETERNAL LIFE!

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  (1 John 5:13)

Perhaps you have trusted God for many things, but today He is asking you to trust Him alone to save you. He is offering you forgiveness and eternal life, and He wants to have a personal relationship with you.


  1. Consider what you just read very carefully. 
  2. Ask yourself if you truly want Eternal Life.
  3. Then, pray this in faith:





A museum a day keeps the cobwebs away

By JQuisumbing

Oh, how I do love Museums. 

Just recently, I watched Sidney Poitier’s 1967 movie, To Sir, with Love. One of my favorite scenes was when Sidney Poitier’s teacher character brought an unruly class of teenagers to the London Museum for the very first time. Seeing the  fascination on their faces, brought back my own memories of my first time. 

We were living in Santa Rosa, California, around the mid sixties. I just had a cast removed from my last corrective orthopedic surgery and I was again up and walking on my wobbly legs. My father announced that he had a treat for me. And so, he packed up the entire family into our brown Pontiac Bonneville station wagon and off to San Francisco, we went. When my Dad was pestered relentlessly (not by me, of course) on where he was taking us, there was a loud collective sound of ‘aw’ in the car, when he said the museum. Some of my siblings were hoping for a day at the zoo or at the Embarcadero where they can eat fresh crab and shrimp cocktails on the wharf. But my dad wanted to take us to the California Academy of Sciences and natural history museum which was located within the vast Golden Gate Park. It was my first time in a museum. I was 8 years old. The exhibits that were foremost in my memories were the animals of the Sierra Mountains. One in particular was the display of an eight foot tall ferocious grizzly bear towering over me. A lot of the stuffed animals that I have seen that day were giants to me. I could not get enough of it. When I got home, I made a promise to visit as many different museums that came my way. To this day, I have no regrets except that I had not established a small museum of my own… yet.

When was the last time you visited a museum? I sincerely hope that you will visit one soon and bring your kids. Why? Well, if you look closely at the definition of the root word, ‘Muse’, a museum was meant to provoke long and careful thoughts in you. I get some of the best inspiration whenever I go to a museum… any museum.

My wife and I once went to Friday’s Harbor, a quaint island town in the San Juan Islands in Washington. While walking through the town, next to the harbor, I came upon the Whale Museum. It was not a large museum. In fact, it was in actuality, a single room. But it was packed with artifacts specifically dedicated to the mammals of the Puget Sound. I spent 2 hours in that place learning about seals, humpback whales and the orcas. I enjoyed my time in that small museum so much that I was inspired to adopt an orca.

These days, I am mostly bedridden but I do make a point to seek out virtual museums on the internet. The effect is still the same. 

Visit a museum soon before the cobwebs get thicker.


Google Maps Tour of the Bible: Christmas Edition – Module 2

by Johann Quisumbing

Click here to go to Module 1

Welcome to Module 2 of the Google Maps Tour of the Bible: Christmas Edition. Here, we will continue to follow the Christmas timeline. We will take a better look at familiar holiday scenes that we grew up with and explore the unadulterated version based only on what the Bible describes. We will also cover the darkest part of the Christmas story, however, I promise that we will end the tour with a joyful scene.

When I mention Nativity, what images come to your mind?

In every Nativity display I have ever seen whether on top of a building, a public square display, in a school/church production and even as miniatures on your own table top, we will always find the Holy family in a humble stable flanked by shepherds on one side and the wise men on the other; at least a cow, a donkey and a few sheep here and there; and an angel as well as the star of Bethlehem. I grew up with this display and I even collected miniatures of the nativity.

It is very interesting to note that tradition’s version of this event was established not back in 1AD. Believe it or not, Christmas was not celebrated by early Christians. You can almost say that the first Christmas celebration was celebrated in 1223 AD led by St. Francis of Assisi, according to legends, of course.


Francis of Assisi, originally known as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, was a mystic Italian Catholic friar. He founded the Franciscan Order, and was one of the most venerated figures in Medieval Christianity. He was inspired to lead a life of poverty and itinerant preaching. Pope Gregory the 9th canonized him in 1228. He was usually depicted in a brown homespun robe with a rope as a belt.


Welcome to Santuario di Greccio, a mountainous area in the heart of Italy. Francis of Assisi longed to do something to help the people of nearby small Italian town of Greccio to feel close to the infant Jesus who was born for them in a stable in Bethlehem. The Saint knew these good folks would never have a chance to visit the Holy Land so he wanted to  make the Nativity a real and personal experience for the faithful.

Before this church was built, in this spot was an open cave where Francis of Assisi orchestrated his Christmas tableau. 


Witness the singular Christmas in the mountains, which Francis wanted to celebrate in Greccio – a place so dear to him – on December 25, 1223. To Giovanni Velita, lord of Greccio, Francesco said: “you have had a manger placed with hay and brought you an ox and a donkey just as they were in Bethlehem. On Christmas Eve I will come up there and, all together, we will pray in the grotto ”.

Christmas Eve arrives: everything is ready in the cave. The nativity scene and a small altar. It was as if Bethlehem, that year, had taken itself to the top of the mountain of Greccio. The priest began the Christmas Mass. Francis sang the Gospel.

The culmination of the celebration: Francis took in his arms that child placed on the hay who, by the faith of Francis, seemed to come to life and be reborn in the hearts of those present.  [www.santuarivallesanta.com]

I must admit that I had always found all those Nativity pageant versions quite magical but were they biblical? I mean, was it presented the way the Lord God intended? Let us see…


So, we pick up the Christmas story where we stopped in Module 1. Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem. Let us eliminate a myth right now – a very pregnant Mary riding on a donkey. 

Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant.  (Luke 2:4,5)

The verses above only narrated the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no other clear description on what was their mode of transportation or the conditions of the journey. It may be that they did travel by donkey as tradition suggests. Afterall, this was a common way of traveling at the time and donkeys were popular among all classes of people. However, there are other considerations found in Scripture that may add to their journey story.

Nazareth is found in the region of Galilee which is about 60 miles as the crow flies to Bethlehem. At most traveling there by donkey using the established roads would take about 2 days. But Joseph and Mary being Jews were faced with a more arduous journey. Why? Let’s look at this map of Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth.

Joseph and Mary could not take the shorter and more direct route because to do so, they would have to travel through the region of Samaria. Jews avoid traveling through Samaritan territory. Why? The people of Samaria were hated by the Jews. [To fully understand the enmity between these two people, you can open your Bible in several books of the Old Testament.]

So, what would be their route? As Jews, they would have skirted the Samaritan territory by taking the much longer and risky route. This would mean at least a week’s journey time through a hazardous country. To give you an idea of the environs that they went through, take a look at the link below.


Considering this, I really doubted that Mary could have ridden on the bony back of an ass 20 miles a day for a week or so. More than likely, she rode on a cart accompanied with other folks making the same trek to Judea.

So, they arrived at Bethlehem.

Link 4 – CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY [exterior]

Welcome to the plaza just outside the Church or Basilica of the Nativity. This basilica is located in the center of Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestine. This place holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:6-7)

In all the stories told, Mary and Joseph always arrived in desperation to find lodgings because of extreme labor pains. But if you consider closely the words of Luke 2:6, ‘While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.’ I believe that what was implied was that they were already in Bethlehem for at least a day or so and that they were already lodged. 

What about that there was no room for them in the inn (v7)? In modern way of thinking, an Inn is a country hotel, in the business to rent out rooms. But in first century Bethlehem, the inn just meant a lodging place or a spare room. Besides Joseph, who was born there, would not have to rent a room because culturally he would have stayed with family. But because of the census, Joseph’s ancestral home would have been already crowded with kin including the spare room which would have been located on the second floor.

Link 5 – CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY [interior]

Link 6 – GROTTO

The Nativity Grotto is thought to be the cave in which Jesus was born. Around AD 248, Greek philosopher Origen of Alexandria wrote the following about the grotto:

In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshiped and revered by the Christians.  [wikipedia.com]

Such as tradition believes but was Jesus really born in a stable? 

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:7)

Of course, people got the idea of the stable mainly because the baby was laid in a manger. Tradition was half right. Where the Bible only offered conjecture, archaeology may shed some light.

Based on archaeological digs in Bethlehem, the average houses looked almost like the image below.

Most Judean houses had two levels. The upper level comprised of an open area where the household would sleep under the stars during hot nights and an extra room (aka the inn) reserved for guests. The main floor is divided into two areas. The entire family occupied an elevated living area 3 feet off the ground where they did chores, supped and slept. The living area was about two-thirds of the ground level. The other third, that is the sunken area, was where animals like sheep were kept especially during the winters.

Because the upper room or inn and the main living were already occupied, Mary (with the help of a midwife & other household women) would have given birth in that lower level. She would have wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and placed Him in a stone manger just like below.


On that very same night, on the hills surrounding the sleeping village, were flocks of sheep tended by shepherds.


The Shepherds’ Field Chapel or the Sanctuary of the Gloria in excelsis Deo is a Roman Franciscan chapel built in 1953. Located in the area of Beit Sahour, southeast of Bethlehem, this chapel marks the place where, according to Catholic tradition, angels first announced the birth of Christ. It is known for biblical murals & topped by a glass dome & bronze angel.


Originally, this is one of two locations of the Annunciation to the shepherds. The other site is the Greek Orthodox Der El Rawat Chapel on the other side of the valley.



In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had departed from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem, then, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  (LUKE 2:8-15)

Let us put one other myth aside. Tradition says that Jesus was born in December, that is, during winter time. December is the first month of winter in Bethlehem. Temperatures in Bethlehem can reach an average highs in the region of 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius) while the lows hover around 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius). December is also the first month Bethlehem sees snow. That means that the sheep & shepherds would be in-doors than out in the fields. Bible scholars agree that Jesus may have been born around September.

Why would God send the angels to appear to shepherds? Why not the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and Rabbis?

God has a history of using ordinary people and at times, even less than ordinary. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek (gentle), for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:3,5)

Shepherds can relate to being poor in spirit, for Jewish society considered them as having the lowest of jobs. Interestingly enough though, only the shepherd had the right skills and gentleness to raise unblemished lambs which were highly valued by the priests for sacrifices. It is no wonder that the Lord God trusted to them (whom society considered foolish) the sacred privilege to reveal the advent of the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. 

…God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  (1 Corinthians 1:27)

According to the traditional way of telling this story, the shepherds would always knowingly head to a stable to find the Christ child, but picture this. First century Bethlehem probably had a population of about 15-20 thousand (double that during the census). What were the chances that Mary was the only one giving birth that night? Not likely. There must have been several hundred babies born at that time. So, how were the shepherds able to find the baby Jesus. Remember this?

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

The shepherds more than likely searched every household with a newborn babe in it until they beheld Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths lying snuggly in bed of hay in a manger.


According to tradition, as part of the Nativity pageantry, the Holy family had other important visitors besides the shepherds and they brought 3 significant gifts. In other words, all of the Christmas events occurred that same night of the birth. Again, was it all biblical? Apparently, NOT! 

God’s story shows us a lot more. Let us pick up the story in Jerusalem…


You are standing at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. The name “Wailing Wall” or “Place of Weeping” stemmed from the Jewish practice of coming to the site to mourn and bemoan the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD and the loss of national freedom it symbolized. The wall is in actuality an ancient limestone wall; a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall”. It was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. 

And when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord: “EVERY FIRSTBORN MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what has been stated in the Law of the Lord: “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG DOVES.” (Luke 2:22-24)

It is important to note that after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph could not bring the baby Jesus to the temple until after 40 days, which was the required time of purification.

Do you see the covered walkway at the far end of the wall? It leads up to the mount. At the time of Jesus’ birth, some 2000 years ago, there was a grand stair-case that went up to the south-west corner of the Temple mount. It was so wide that 10 men-abreast could have climbed it. The holy family would have used these stairs and when they reached the top, the Lord God wanted them to meet 2 persons.


Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. e She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.   (Luke 2:25-38)


Again… in every Nativity movie and Christmas Pageant I have seen, the Three Kings or Wise men from the East would arrive in their lumbering camels just right after Jesus’ birth in the stable. 

On the golden screens, they followed a visible and very bright star in the night sky. That same star would also send down a single ray of golden sparkling light to pinpoint the spot of where the babe was born. The movies always made it look so magical. That’s Hollywood for you. But what does the Bible really say?

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:1-2)

Who were the magi from the east? To answer this, we go to the middle of modern day Iraq to where once existed an ancient city next to the great river Euphrates.

Link 11 – BABYLON

Welcome to where, once upon a time, stood the ancient city of Babylon. Babylon was the capital city of the ancient Babylonian Empire. What you see are the remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 53 miles south of Baghdad.

On 14 February 1978, Saddam Hussein began the “Archaeological Restoration of Babylon Project”: reconstructing features of the ancient city atop its ruins. These features included the Southern Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, with 250 rooms, five courtyards, and a 30-meter entrance arch. The project also reinforced the Processional Way, the Lion of Babylon, and an amphitheater constructed in the city’s Hellenistic era. In 1982, the government minted a set of seven coins displaying iconic features of Babylon. A Babylon International Festival was held in September 1987, and annually thereafter until 2002 (excepting 1990 and 1991), to showcase this work. The proposed reconstruction of the Hanging Gardens and the great ziggurat never took place. [wikipedia.com]

Why in Babylon? The obvious answer is that the wise men did come from the east and of course, Babylon is east of Jerusalem. But that is not the reason why we are starting here. In Matthew 2, we have to ask, how did they know to come to Jerusalem? How did they know about the King of the Jews? Well, the answer to that can be found in the Old Testament, especially when I researched the word magi or magician. The result eventually led me to the time of the Judean exiles in Babylon in the book of Daniel. The reigning king was the famed Nebuchadnezzar. In a nutshell, the Lord had orchestrated one of His chosen prophets, Daniel, to become the trusted minister to the Babylonian king. Daniel was strategically placed to head the court of the magi and he retained this position under several kings up to the Persian Empire. Scholars have speculated that the magi of the New Testament were more than likely descendants of that same order of wise men. 

Since the magi were meant to find the King of the Jews, then it is not hard to conclude that the Lord had installed in His plan a way for them to get guidance from the written word of the prophet Daniel. 


Do you remember the Christmas carol, “A Star, A Star… Shining in the Sky”.

The Bethlehem Star is represented in practically every Christmas decoration throughout the world. Just look at most Christmas trees and you’ll find at its crown a sparkling star. In nativities, you’ll find a star above. In the Philippines, the ornamental lantern parol which can be found outside every building and house represent the star of Bethlehem.

Some say that the Bethlehem Star was a comet or a distant supernova. There are many theories. But was there really a single star that the Magi followed?

Let’s go to…


This view is from an undisclosed location somewhere in the mountains of modern day Iran. I actually found this spot accidently. I chose it because if I was a first century Persian astronomer, then being in these mountains would give me the perfect way to study the signs in the stars. This would be their view.

Link 13 – STAR FIELD

And the Magi did read signs in the night sky. Guess who placed those signs in the heavens.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to distinguish between the day and the night, and let them be signs to mark the seasons and days and years. (Genesis 1:14)

The heavens tell of the glory of God; And their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.  (PSALM 19:1-3)

So, when the Magi of Jesus’ time read the signs in the night sky, they connected the signs to Daniel’s writings and understood the timing of the Messiah’s birth and the sign that would lead them to the place where He would be born.  So, months or even a year after Jesus was born, the Magi arrived in Judea. 

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  (Matthew 2:2-10)

How did I know that the wise men were not following a bright star in the night sky?

Some may argue that the star they followed was visibly spectacular. All I can say is that the Bible says otherwise.

Look at the reaction of Herod in Matthew 2:3 when the magi asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (vs2).

vs3 – When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

If there was a comet or any cosmic spectacle in the night sky, Herod and his own wise men of Jerusalem would have taken heed. But instead he was quite surprised and troubled mainly more because they inquired about another King of the Jews.

I wish we could spend more time in exactly what the magi saw in the night sky. However, if you click on this Youtube video link: THE BETHLEHEM STAR where an astronomer will guide you on what the Magi actually saw in the night sky. I invite you to watch it. It will blow your mind away.

Meanwhile, let us get back to Bethlehem and pick up the story when the Magi left Jerusalem.


Chapel of Saint Catherine is a religious building that is affiliated with the Catholic Church and is located adjacent to the northern part of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank in the Palestinian territories. It works as a parish church and Franciscan monastery. Underneath this chapel is a complex of caves and ruins that may also mark the birthplace of Jesus. In the chapel is this beautiful stained glass window depicting the magi presenting their gifts to the King of kings.

And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

Based on the Bible, when the Magi came before Jesus, he was not a baby anymore. The Greek word used for ‘Child’ here was PAIDION which means an infant between the age of 6 months and older. Clearly, upon their arrival, Joseph and Mary had upgraded their living situation from the animal pens to a house of their own. It made sense. The census would be over by then and the population of Bethlehem would decrease back to normal. Joseph decided to stay in Bethlehem and moved his family to an available house or he built one. Afterall, he was a carpenter and mason. Either way, they were in a house.

So, when the Magi laid their eyes on the Child Jesus, they being from the eastern kingdoms of Persia, Medes and Babylon prostrated themselves before someone considered as a Great One worthy of divine worship.

Gift of GOLD

In those days, Gold had the greatest monetary value among the rare elements of the earth and was mostly given exclusively to royalty. And Jesus is royal enough! Afterall, He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14).


What exactly is frankincense? It is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes. More importantly, it was the incense used by the priests of Israel in the Holy Temple. A few times in the year, a priest was chosen to enter ‘the Holy Place’, the biggest chamber of Israel’s Temple, to burn incense on the Altar of Incense as a way of presenting the prayers of the people to God. So, why did the Magi present frankincense?

Jesus is not just the King of kings, He is also the Priest of all priests (Zechariah 6:13; Hebrews 5:6).

Gift of MYRRH

Myrrh has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine. Its monetary value was high, but you have to wonder what is its connection to Jesus in this context? It will be interesting to note that as Jesus was being buried after his death on the cross, his body was prepared for burial with spices and myrrh.

Was Myrrh given to honor His death? Well, not so much his death but more to honor His sacrifice. Remember, He was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Even as 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)

9 – HEROD 

We come to the hardest part of the Christmas story. It is rarely told around the Christmas tree for it depicts a dark event. But I believe it must be told. To do this, let us go to…


Welcome to the Tower of David. It is the northeast tower of the Citadel of Jerusalem. Other towers named Phasael, Hippicus and Mariamne were situated in the northwest corner of the so-called First Wall, the Hasmonean and Herodian city wall protecting the Western Hill of Jerusalem. They were situated close to where the Jaffa Gate is today and were built by Herod the Great at the same time he built his immediately adjacent royal palace.


Like in every story, there is always a BAD guy. In our Christmas story, the bad guy was Herod the Great.

Though Herod was king of Judea, he was not a Jew. He was actually a puppet-king of Rome. Herod was not loved by the Jews but he gained their grudging respect mostly because he renovated their Temple. One other thing about him was that he was extremely power hungry and not willing to share it. So, when the Magi from the east came looking for the new King of the Jews, the despot in him wanted Jesus dead and he’d do anything to get it done.

Now, the Magi found the Christ child and we will pick-up the story from here.

When it was time to leave, the Magi returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. (Matthew 2:12)

So, when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent his mercenary soldiers to kill all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. This horrendous event was actually foretold.


Ramah, by the way, is the area of Bethlehem.

But God knew what was to come…

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.  (Matthew 2:13-14)

So, let’s get back to why I believe this part of the story should be told around the Christmas tree; yes… even to little kids. How can kids and adults really appreciate the light unless they realize that darkness affects them.

What Herod did was an aftereffect of the original sin. Our history is filled with it. We are constantly surrounded by the darkness of sin.

One thing about darkness though, it cannot stand up to light. For several years, that light… our hope was kept safe in Egypt.


Welcome to the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria. This city was built on the coast of the Mediterranean and had a fair sized Jewish Quarter. The Bible is silent on where the Holy family hid in Egypt, however it can be speculated that they would easily find refuge here especially since they have financial means due to the gifts of the magi.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”  So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and settled in a city called Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”  (Matthew 2:19-23)

That light grew and 33 years later, He said…

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Christmas Season is the time to show that the light of Jesus is there. All you have to do is walk in it. How?