All posts by emmanuelonimisi

Don’t Give Up on Me: Nigeria at 59

Though I be frail in my old age
My past beset with much disgrace
My bones be weak, my spirit bleak
My children cringe to see my face

My best days may yet lie ahead
For my offspring are my greatest blessing
I shall still rise. I can still see
And I still breathe. I can still sing.

Dear children, speak kindly to me.
Your hurtful words cut like a knife.
Comfort me. Help me stand.
Call my dry bones back to life.

You are my face, my hands, my feet.
You are the breath I need to live.
Your strength and faith is what I plead.
You are the best I have to give.

The future has great opportunity
Don’t give up, you still have strength to run
Don’t leave me to wallow in misery.
My children, don’t give up on me.

Personal Note: My initial idea was to represent Nigeria as an old man. But the more it developed, a woman felt more appropriate, to go with the comforting vibe I was going for. Every aspect of the Nigerian economy and polity needs healing. We all do. Say a prayer for Nigeria, please. Put on your strength, and rise.

Nigeria still lives.

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THE VALUE OF ONE

A couple of weeks ago, I misplaced my phone. While it occurred at a very dry time financially for me, I saw some things that I’d like to share. Life, as they say, doesn’t stop for us to contemplate our navels, so I had to start the process of getting another.
The major factor here was getting a new SIM card.
I first had to get a sworn affidavit from the Ministry of Justice to attest that I had indeed misplaced my SIM card, a process that took quite a while. But oh little did I know that I was just getting started. I needed to take the affidavit along with my National ID card to the office of my service provider. And of all times, this was a period when MTN was hosting customers for a new batch of registration. Every time I went to their offices I met crowds so thick I couldn’t even get in the gates. Many had come as early as before 6am to beat these crowds. Over and over, I would get to the offices and not get in.
All of this for a card and microchip tinier than my smallest finger. No, really, I checked!
After days of trying, I was finally able to get it on a Friday morning (yes, I had to go there as early as 6am).
And while this was not the most convenient of times, it was the best time because, in completely unrelated events, that office was burnt by folks agitated by the reports of xenophobic attacks, just days after I finally got my SIM card.
I pursued that SIM because much of my work and friendships are based on contacts and communication, all dependent on the SIM card. Without that tiny card, I was unable to get a lot done. Not to mention the hundreds of valuable contacts that I lost with my old SIM. But with this new one, I’m rebuilding the contacts database and adding new ones, one number at a time.

Through it all, what was impressed on my mind was that I was like that SIM card to God.
Now God is Self-Existent, and He does not ‘need’ me for Him to Be or to do all He wants to. But I was lost and separated from Him. He found me and made me New. Now, not only is He working in and with me, He is working through me to reach out to many. Just like a SIM card.

We are, each and every one of us, valuable to God. His Salvation Plan was much sacrifice on His part. It wasn’t convenient in any way, but He came and died and rose for us. Even the timing of Jesus’ coming was not convenient. His parents were looking for a place to sleep as His mother was entering into labour, for one thing. But, like the Scriptures say, it was in the fullness of times. There were lost souls before He came, and there are lost souls after the time He came, but His one sacrifice is the one we all look to and, believing, are saved.
That was the one time in history where in the land of Israel the prevailing execution style (imposed by the Romans) was crucifixion, in fulilment of the prophecies that His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16)
This was the one time that a civilisation, the Roman Empire, had such a reach through the then known world so that as the Gospel spread in it, seeds would be planted that would reach into every sector and would go to the ends of the world as travels, trade and exploration expanded.
This was the one time in history when the Jewish nation still existed as an entity in their land, where the Passover fulfilment of Christ’s sacrifice would be clearly understood by the nation He was brought into. Every type and shadow illustrated in the Law, such as the Temple, was still fresh and apparent in their eyes, and as the apostles interpreted them in parallels with Christ’s sacrifice, listeners and readers could attest to it. Even non-Biblical sources from that era have documented evidence of Jesus, His miracles, His death and the believers’ beliefs in His resurrection.
This one moment in history, the timing of the coming of God as Man, could not have been at a better time. His teachings and the changes He wrought in the lives of those that believe in Him have been instrumental in much of the world’s systems of morality, emancipation drives, social justice and educational advancement, through the ages.
The world still has problems. Humanity is still in the throes of mortality. But everyone who believes in Jesus and His redemptive sacrifice for our sakes has His Spirit in them, His very Life animating their thoughts and actions and helping them all He made them to be. Just like a SIM card in a phone.
And when He comes to call us to Himself, all who have His ‘SIM Card’ will answer His call. Mortality will be consumed by Immortality, and the ‘Becoming-like-Him’ process we’ve been gradually going through would come to its “full-fill-ment”, just as it’s always meant to be. And will be like Him and with Him forever as He makes all things new.

You are very valuable to God. He would go to the ends of the Earth, to Hell and back, for you.
And, guess what? That’s EXACTLY what He did.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
ROMANS 8:38-39

PS: I have since gotten a new phone too, so, happy ending!

THE RIDER: Wilbur’s Story … The Animated Short

What do you do when a story won’t leave you for two years?

That’s kinda what happened to me.

Hi there! Emmanuel here! I want to present to you a little animated short I worked on and to explain some of the thoughts behind it.

Here’s the vid:

So what’s this all about?

The main character in this short, Wilbur, is a side character in a larger story I’ve been working on called The Rider. Like all my other stories, The Rider is especially dear to me because I see it as a depiction of a journey I find myself on much of the time.

The Rider is a parable of how our lives can be defined so many times by our activities. We find ourselves many times in a pointless race. Many of us are running after achievements and a better life. Many of us are running away from the poverty and strain of our backgrounds. We find ourselves plunged into this throng of motion, we lose ourselves in the midst of it all.

We desire some things, legitimate desires all. But there is one major glitch in the system: we are broken. And that’s why we remain stuck.

Truth is we are all thirsty. When we break down all our pursuits they usually come down to satisfaction, relief, rest, affirmation and acceptance, love. All good things. We pursue them in fame, in entertainment, in career pursuits, in our relationships. But the very problem of our broken nature, of our thirst, is that we cause so much destruction in our wake. We lapse into addictions, sap all the joy out of our relationships, ruin ourselves and hurt those around us, all in the pursuit of our satisfaction.

The thing is, while all these things are good, they wouldn’t satisfy because, and gear up for this, they were never meant to. They were meant to be enjoyed, not abused.

God our Creator became a man like us so that He could tell us that He has the water to satisfy our thirst. But get this, this Water is Alive. He called it Living Water. He said, “…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14 NKJV)

The Life that He gives fills us and overflows, so not only do we not have to thirst again, but we can fill the need of others.

We can enjoy our career pursuits and relationships and journey because our affirmation and satisfaction are not dependent on them. We can live beyond our needs and limitations, and love without fear.

In the short above, Wilbur’s dissatisfaction with his life causes him to leave his family and the life he had. By the time he realises what he has lost, he has already caused so much damage and heartache. He decides to return home to make things right, but he hasn’t the strength to make it back.

Our broken natures are our very weakness. It is why our true journey begins when we come to see that we cannot do this on our own. Surrendering to God is admiting we haven’t got it all figured out. When we trust our lives to Him, He gives us the strength to live and do all we are meant to. To mend what is broken, and to live in His rest.

So why haven’t I finished the story?

Because, even though I’m one of those that have surrendered their lives to God, I still find in myself the predilection to see life from the perspective of thirst. I find myself seeking affirmation and fulfilment in the approval of others, and it never satisfies. It is to people like me that Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)

I constantly need to let His reality overshadow mine. I need to drink of His water, to drown in it so that all I see in life is through His lenses. We all do. So that we don’t live the life of thirst when our very spirits are bursting with His Life.
So, yeah, I’m on that journey through the desert. I haven’t figured it all out. But even if I don’t, I’ll trust in His supply. I’ll soon be done though.

For as many in the desert as well, I hope you find the One Who is Living Water, and find that He is the One that’s been seeking you all along.

God bless you!

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself in similar paths sometimes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

FEAR ITSELF: The Man of Galilee

But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Mark 16:6,7

“…and Peter.”
Those words kept ringing in the Galilean fisherman’s ears all night, filling him with both excitement and dread as his boat bobbed on the waters of the Sea of Tiberias. The salty scent of the sea and the cool breeze had been commonplace to him for much of his life, but after a three-year stint away from the trade, he realized that he’d missed it. The familiarity of the scenery was probably what he needed right about now.
Simon and his brother Andrew had left their fishing business to follow their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Oh, but he was so much more. This miracle-working rabbi had changed their lives with his message of bringing God’s kingdom to the world, and showing that it starts in the hearts of men. Simon – or ‘Peter’ as Jesus called him, the unshakeable stone – and his friends were convinced that he was sent of God and was, indeed, the son of God. Those last three years had changed their lives forever. Most especially, those three days at Passover.
Jesus was killed by the people. It was a spectacle that ruined Passover for the whole nation gathered at Jerusalem. His followers had all gone into hiding in the days that followed, afraid they would be next. And then on the third day, Jesus suddenly was not dead anymore. The grave was empty.
He was alive. Again, it filled Simon with both joy and dread.
…and Peter…
The past few days had been filled with some of the most extraordinary events. The women had seen an angel at the tomb, telling them that Jesus had risen. And, sure enough, Jesus appeared to the disciples and spoke with them. He had since been seen at different places, interacting with the people, walking with some as they travelled, coming and going as he pleased, encouraging them. These were truly exciting times to be alive.
But for Simon, as excited as he was, he needed a return to some normalcy. He had decided to go fishing when some of the others asked to come along.
“Ugh, how you folk do this is beyond me,” Thomas said from the stern. He had not been a fisherman before and had come along just to be among his friends.
“For starters, by not making comments like that,” Andrew came back.
“We’ve been here all night!
John smiled. “We’d make a fisherman of you yet. Like my Pa used to say, no fishin’, no eatin’, no sleepin’. We die here.”
Thomas blinked. “Well, looks like we really don’t have to die anymore, eh?”
James shook his head. “It was just an expression. An anachronism, really—“
“I mean, I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but I put my finger in the nail hole of His hand, man.”
“We were there,” Andrew said over his shoulder.
“We should be out there, showing Him to the world. It’s nothing short of incredible. One moment he’s dead and we think we’re goners, the next he’s right there, standing in front of us.”
John chuckled. “You’ve been going over the same thing all night.”
“I mean, I didn’t believe you guys before. It was going to be the last time I allowed myself to accept the supernatural. But then He called me by name. As if He knew.”
“He always did know,” Nathanael said. “Things men weren’t supposed to know, He knew. Like the time he first met me, he told me where I had been earlier that day …”
And on and on they kept recounting events from their times with Jesus. Words he had spoken before suddenly made more sense in hindsight.
But for Simon, memories were what he was running from. The particular memory of that night. The night he denied knowing Jesus.
He had always known himself to be courageous, strong and always ready to take risks for a worthy cause. Maybe that’s why he had stuck out here all night, to once again prove to himself that he was strong and rugged. Because that one night, in the face of something he should have stood for, he had cowered like a rat.
Jesus had known beforehand too, and warned him.
The night Jesus was arrested Simon was ready to die for him, or to even rescue him. He had even snuck around the high priest’s house during the hearings. But then he was found out.
First it was the servant-girl that recognised him as one of his disciples. Sharply, without giving it a second thought, he retorted, “No way! I’m not!”
It was just strategy, he had thought. Soon enough he would be able to get in and get Jesus out of there.
Then as he warmed himself by the fire, someone asked again. “I am not one His disciples!”
But his accent gave him away. And then he found himself believing what he was trying to say. For that moment, swearing and cursing, he yelled, “I have no idea who you’re talking about! I don’t know this Jesus! I have nothing to do with Him!”
And the cock crowed, just as Jesus had said.
He was Peter, the unshakeable stone, the courageous disciple. The one who had always been with Jesus. The one who had seen Moses and Elijah appear to speak with Jesus. The one they all looked to. But when it really mattered, all of that was gone. For the first time, he saw the weakling that he was. That he had always been. He felt nothing like a Peter anymore. Beneath the unshakeable stone that Jesus had thought he was, he was simply Simon, son of Jonah.
But now Jesus was alive.
The angel had told the women, “Go tell His disciples, and Peter…” Jesus had not rejected him despite his denial. He should feel loved, grateful, thankful … but it made Simon feel small. Weak. Helpless. He did not deserve this.
Jesus had appeared to them, but He’d not mentioned the denials. Would He ever?
Simon turned to his friends and caught John’s stare. The younger man had been there that night, but he had not mentioned that bit to the others. No one knew of his denial of Jesus. They would never believe it.
Just as they never would have believed Judas would betray the Master.
“Got new orders for us, Captain?” John asked.
Simon was about to respond when a voice called from the beach. “Shalom aleichem, young men! Got any fish?”
“This would be embarrassing,” Thomas muttered.
“Not yet!” James called. “But we will! Shalom!”
“Way to keep the faith…”
“How ‘bout you cast your nets to the right of your vessel?”
“Just as well. The spectator thinks he knows how to fish better than us —“
“THOMAS!” they all turned to him, weary of his sarcastic banter.
“What?!”
Simon grunted, pulling up the nets. “We might as well. Don’t make no difference, anywhichways.”
“You know what this reminds me of?” Andrew piped.
“Don’t,” Simon said under his breath.
“We all know this story,” John added. “When you first met Jesus!”
“Don’t need to recount it,” Simon said.
“What’s your deal?” Andrew said. “Why are you so down when we’re all… whoa, didn’t expect that.” He pulled harder at the net. “Guys, are you seeing this?”
Simon was feeling it more than seeing it. The nets were suddenly getting tauter by the second. And heavier. It could be anything … but he knew it couldn’t be just anything except…
“Ah!” Thomas yelped as a fish splashed on his face and down on the deck, to the amusement of the others. And more fish came up. The net was tipping the boat on its side as it filled with more fishes, piling and squirming in.
“Is this really happening?”
“Good Golan Heights, put your backs into it!” Simon yelled. “We’ve hit the mother lode, boys.”
“Oi, again with the anachronisms,” James muttered between pants.
Simon felt a nudge. It was John, looking back to shore. “Isn’t this the kind of thing He’d do?”
Simon followed his gaze. The stranger on the beach was still standing there, a smile barely visible from this distance. Barely familiar, if Simon allowed himself to go that far.
John turned to him. “It’s Him! It’s the Master!”
Simon knew. Like in a dream, he realised he had really always known. He knew with all his heart that—
“Whoa! Hold on!”
But Simon had already grabbed his coat and leaped into the sea. He came up for air. “I’m OK! Tie the nets to the stern and drag it to shore.” And with that he swam, hurrying towards shore. Hurrying towards Jesus.
The Master stood on the shore, grinning. A fire of coals lay by his feet, and sure enough fish was roasting on it. He had bread in his hands. Wait, if He already had fish why was He asking for fish? And He still grinned, a twinkle in His eye.
“Master…” Simon ran into His embrace, still wet and cold.
“It’s about time, My friend.”
The others arrived by the boat, the net dragging behind them. If sight were any judge Peter guessed there were over a hundred fish caught. If he were still in the business this would have been a windfall. Amazingly, the net had not broken. But the Master was here. The disciples hurried over to him.
“You guys have been at sea all night,” He rubbed his palms. “Join me. Let’s have breakfast.”
It was just like old times. After they had laid out the fish to dry they sat with the Master as they caught up on everything that had been going on. Nothing else felt wrong in the world when they were with the Master, even though they could not keep their eyes off the holes in His hands no matter how hard they tried. Even Simon’s fears seemed to hang somewhere in the back of his mind now.
When they were done, Jesus turned to him. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me more than these?”
“Without question, Master.” He felt the gazes of the others bore into him. He felt John’s the one who had been there that night. He had once felt like the Master’s most loyal follower. Not anymore. But he wanted Jesus to know that he did love him. “You know that I love you, Master.”
Jesus nodded. “My lambs, I want you to feed them. Feed my lambs.”
So Jesus still trusted him with responsibility, just like always.
But He wasn’t done. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me?”
He had not put the comparison with the others this time. Simon’s response was less confident. “Yes, Master. You know that I do. Love you.” He gulped. “You know that I love you, Master.”
Jesus nodded. “Feed my sheep.” He sidled closer. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me?”
It was the third time.
Just like the three times he denied Jesus.
He knows! And He’s telling me that He does.
“Lord, you know all things. You know that I really do love you.”
I am sorry, Lord.

“Feed my sheep.”
Peter blinked. Really? Despite all that You know? You trust me to feed your people?
Jesus looked up at the others, bringing them into the conversation. “You see, when you were younger, you could dress up and go and do whatever it is you wanted to. When you get older, others will help you get there. You will be too frail to.” He looked into their eyes. “Sometimes your spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He had said the same in the garden, before his crucifixion. Simon remembered this well, because Jesus had said it to him.
“This is the death that would glorify God. The more you grow in My grace, the more you will see My strength aiding you, empowering you in all you need to do. Your dependence on Me, not by your strength. Not the strength you think you have, but the one I give. The arm of flesh will fail.” He turned to Simon. “It always does. This is the death that glorifies God. The death of self, so that My life may flow through you. Without me, you really can do nothing.”
He placed His hand on his shoulder. “Follow me.”
There was something about knowing that Jesus knew every detail of him – his strengths and flaws – and still accepting him that assured Peter that he was in the right place. In the day of adversity, his strength had failed. But this strength that Jesus was promising, this Holy Spirit that He had been promising to send from the Father would help him to be and do all that he needs to. To stand in the face of adversity, to walk in His Master’s footsteps.
To follow Jesus.
And, yes, now he felt like an unshakeable stone. Unshakeable, because he would be held not by his own power, but by the power of God.
Yes, he knew he really was Peter.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Peter in a letter to the exiles of the dispersion, circa A.D. 65-68 over 30 years after the Resurrection

(1 Peter 1:3-5)

—–

To every one of us, our courage can only carry us so far.
And when our strength fails, it makes us feel less than we thought we were. It makes us doubt our strength.
But God sees that. He does not berate us for acting or being weaker than we ought. No, He comes to our very level to show us His strength and enablement, and by His love brings us to His level. As we grow to trust Him more, our confidence in Him is restored, and we grow in Him. Soon we realise that what made us afraid really is nothing in the face of the Lord who is alive in us.
Like David said, “…when my heart is overwhelmed, ‘Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!’ ” (Psalm 61:2)
God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). His love toward us makes us realise then that He does not come to judge us for our fear. He comes to calm our hearts so we can see Him bigger than our fears, and we can trust in His strength.
And that’s what He delights in. Like a Father, He embraces us and sings in our ears, surrounding us with songs of His deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Telling our hearts of His power to save and deliver. This is how He casts out our fear. Through His words to us.
Therefore, we cannot afford to be distant from God’s Word. It is how He speaks to us, through what He has said as it is written. The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us to give us understanding and to guide us.

This is the ultimate victory over fear, God’s love for us. He showed this completely in redemption, coming as Man to die and rise for our sake, to make us free from the bonds of sin and death.

Our awareness and acceptance of His love toward us is what frees us from fear.

Everything that could ever defeat you has been defeated by Jesus’ death on the cross. Through His victory over death, He has taken away its sting over you. You need not fear death, or anything else. We are more than conquerors ‘…through Him that loved us!’ (Romans 8:37)
I consistently remind myself of the fact that if God loves me that much, He would not let evil befall me. It is not His nature or desire to. So even if there is an appearance of evil looming, like the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil “For Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Your victory over fear is not in your confidence in yourself. Rather, it is in your confidence in God’s love for you and His power at work in you. The more you give yourself to His Word, the more your heart receives His songs of deliverance, and the more your mindset is transformed to see your fears as the shadows they simply are in the face of the One Who is in you. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
So even if you’ve ever given in to fear, it’s OK. All Jesus asks of you, from wherever you are in your faith walk or lack thereof, is what Jesus has asked of us all. Just as He said to Peter. It’s His Way, the only Way that gives you Life, and Love.
“Follow Me.”

FEAR ITSELF: The Man of Arimathaea

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus…’

John 19:38

“Prefect of Galilee. Procurator of Judea. It’s a promotion, they said. It will be a breeze, they said. Well, you know what I say? These Jews are impossible! Every month another uprising. But today, today was the worst!” Pontius Pilate trudged down the steps with his servant barely keeping up.
“It’s not the whole council that’s in the court, sire. Just one of them.”
“What more do they want? To get archers to impale the Nazarene while he’s on the cross too? What, a crucifixion’s not enough? Gods, I’m not shouting all of this, am I? Hope he doesn’t get that idea from me. Sounds don’t carry to the court from this stairwell, do they, Gaius?”
“Not that I know of, sire.”
Pilate grunted. “You were never a good liar, Gaius.”
Soldiers stood at attention as Pilate walked into the courtyard. The Jewish council member turned to gaze at him with forlorn eyes, nodding in greeting. “Most excellent Procurator—“
“Yes, yes, we haven’t got all day.”
“I am Joseph, sir. Of Arimathaea. Member of the Sanhedrin.”
“You lot have interrupted my peace twice today over that man. This had better be quick. You’re here to request for the Nazarene’s body.”
“Yes I am, sir.”
“Tell me this, Jacob, tell me this—“
“Joseph.”
“— you Jews are becoming more Roman with your bloodlust. Never more so than this morning. ‘Crucify him,’ the crowd chanted. ‘Crucify him!’ I understand that you hated the man, but what more do you want with his body?”
Joseph had the carriage of a man familiar with the norms of standing and speaking before authority. But his shifting eyes belied his courage.
“Not all of us ‘hate’ him, sir.”
Pilate arched a brow. “You just didn’t agree with his doctrine.”
Joseph winced. “Sir, I want to give the Teacher the good burial he deserves. I own a sepulchre over by Golgotha. A stone’s throw from the crosses. Whatever the cost, I ask for his body.”
Pilate folded his arms. “This is new. Does Caiaphas and his other cronies know about this?”
Joseph nodded slowly. “They will. Eventually.”
Pilate arched his brows. “And you are ready for their vitriol?”
“Better now than never, sir.”
Pilate took a step closer to Joseph. He too had listened to the Nazarene speak. He too had had his own questions about him. Even his wife had been tormented with nightmares on his account. Something about all this did not seem right. “You were on the Council this morning. You sat there as your people called for this man’s death. But you remained silent.”
“Yes, I did. Because I knew there was much to fear from my people. Hate is a terrible thing in the heart of man, sir, especially when he thinks he hates in the name of God.”
“The man claimed to be God, if I recall. A bold claim among your people. Said he had a kingdom not of this world.”
Joseph nodded, the forlorn gaze remaining in his eyes. “Yes. Yes he did.”
“Seemed to think he really was all that, if you can believe it.”
Joseph looked up at him. “I believe he was who he said he was.”
Pilate smirked. “And yet, he dies on a cross like any mortal.”
Joseph stared away. “Yes, he does.”
“Caiaphas wouldn’t take your words lightly. You could lose your place on the Council.”
Joseph shrugged. “I have considered all of this. I know the cost. But to be silent in the face of truth … I can do that no longer. There are worse things than death, sire. This man did not deserve what he got. My position, my standing … the Council, it is nothing in the face of what is true and right and just.”
Everyone who knows the Truth hears my voice, the Nazarene had said juat this morning.
The sound of Marcellus, the centurion, marching into the hall from outside jolted Pilate from his reverie.
Pilate nodded. “Be that as it may, you would have to wait until after he dies. This may take a couple hours, or days—“
“The Nazarene has passed, sir.” Marcellus said, his helmet in the crook of his hands as he saluted. “He’s dead.”
Pilate grunted. “Now that was fortuitous. One could say a deus exit machina, amiright…”
But the horror on the Arimathean’s face silenced him. This man was grieving.
Pilate pursed his lips. “Few things make a man take the risk you have taken. Love, sometimes. Maybe honour. In this particular case, I am not certain they are mutually exclusive.” He nodded. “You will have his body. Go, give him the burial he deserves, Joseph of Arimathaea.”

———-

Joseph of Arimathaea is another figure that pops up on the stage of Scripture in one or two verses, does something, and pops out. But what he did had an effect on history forever. And it wa an act of courage over fear.
Joseph was a wealthy man and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council of leaders. He was a secret follower of Jesus, ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 19:38). He was likely there when Jesus was being tried, but to expose himself as a follower of Jesus would have risked his position and standing in the community, and even his very life.
But later he courageously went to Pilate the governor to request for Jesus’ body. He had a rock-hewn tomb, something only the rich could afford, and he asked to bury Jesus’ body there.
Going to Pilate was an open statement to all, especially to his colleagues who hated Jesus. This same tomb later caused the priests to request for guards to seal it.I do not blame Joseph for hiding the fact that he followed Jesus at the time. But it tells me something about fear.
One thing that fear does is that it makes us silent in the face of what is right. It makes us comfortable with what is wrong as long as we do not take any risks. But this mindset is what allows evil to be perpetrated, especially in these depraved times.
But Joseph took a courageous step and used his tomb.
Apart from the world outside, for ourselves, fear keeps us from reaching out into the much-more that God has prepared for us. If Joseph had done nothing he would most likely have still had a good life. But he did, and he got into something more fulfilling, being a vessel in God’s hands.

To be a part of what God wants to do in us, vessels in His hands, we need to be courageous.
Do you know that Jesus being buried in that kind of tomb was a fulfilment of prophecy, that he would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9) and that his body would not decay (Psalm 16:10). By acting in courage, Joseph became engrafted into a plan God had set in motion long ago.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, it is doing what is right even in the midst of fear.

For a child of God, our courage is rooted in the knowledge and assurance that God is for us and with is and in us, even when we don’t ‘feel’ it, but because God’s Word says so. And that is Truth.It is why when Joshua became the leader of the Israelites to lead them into the Promised Land, God told him over and over to be courageous. He told him to keep on meditating on the Law, the Words of God. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

You know, Joseph of Arimathaea reminds me of another Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He too had to make a courageous decision, to stick by Mary when she was pregnant, at a time and in a society that would have shunned them. But he trusted in what God said and courageously stayed with her. This was the kind of man God trusted to father his Son.Isn’t it just like God to place two Josephs, one at the beginning and the other at the end, to take care of His Son’s body?

To conceive, bring forth and nurture God’s counsel in our lives and in our world, we need to be courageous. Fear is just an illusion in the face of what God can do through you. Don’t let it limit you.And when we do what He calls us to, then we find our true and best selves.

Trust in His ability.

Be courageous.

Point to consider: What things do you know you ought to do that fear has fear kept you from doing?

FEAR ITSELF: The Man of Kerioth

Nothing more to gain. Nothing more to lose.

“You’ve gotta let me in!”

“Get out of here, you lunatic!”

“Please! I need to see the council! Any priest!”

To the bustling crowd outside the Royal Stoa the unusually uninteresting sight of the man raving at the door before the temple guards barely registered. The past night had been most eventful with rumours of the arrest of that Galilean teacher, the one people claimed was Messiah. The buzz was that he was standing trial before the Roman procurator at the Praetorium. This madman, on the other hand, was of no consequence.

On the contrary, he had everything to do with what was going on. This man’s name was Judas.

“What nonsense is this?” A priest bellowed from the courts beyond as he made his way to the guards.

Judas saw his opportunity then. But as he sprang forward he was tackled to the ground by a guard. “Unhand me!” he snapped.

“Ah, yes…” Disdain dripped from the priest’s voice as Judas stared up at him. “I remember you.” With a wave the guards made way.

Judas pushed himself to his feet. “Sir, there’s been a mistake. That man, Jesus, I heard what you’re doing to him. He’s innocent.”

“Is he? You didn’t seem to mind with your theatrics at Gethsemane.”

Did he remember! But for Judas he could never forget. Betraying wth a kiss, who does that?! He had gone too far this time. How could he have done this? How could I?

“But you can’t!” The priest stared him down. “Are you trying to tell me how to do my work? Know your place, man–”

“To Sheol with it! I-I didn’t know what I was doing!”

The priest slammed a foot on the floor, the sound echoing in the hall. “You would be wise not to insult my intelligence. I know a man with an eye for the bottom-line when I see one. I was there when you came to us. You came of your own will. You wanted to know what we would pay you if you handed him over to us. You knew well enough what we were going to do, but it was just the 30 pieces of silver you desired. That says more about you than it does about us.”

Judas shut his eyes.

All his life, he always looked for the angle that would profit himself. As a businessman it was a skill that helped him. Money would answer all things, but only the smartest could get it. The risk of loss could only be avoided by overstepping the rules.

When the news of the Nazarene reached him, he knew that this was the salvation Israel needed. In the man’s voice was the authority of royal breed. This was somebody he should follow, he knew. Somebody that would be king. Somebody that it would be profitable to be close to.

And amazingly, Jesus made him one of the Twelve. Judas kept the purse for them. Jesus had taught a radical message, but the actions that followed it were alien to Judas’ sentimentalities. Wouldn’t you lose if you turn the other cheek? How can the greatest be slave of all? How does this philosophy usher in a kingdom? How can trusting God solve the pressing problems facing them? As these doubts festered, there were also moments when they seemed to make sense.

Jesus had performed miracles before his eyes. Judas and the rest of the Twelve had cast out demons by the authority Jesus gave him. It had been truly remarkable. Clearly God was with him. But why did it still seem weird? Would they be nomadic followers of this man forever? What did the future hold? This could not be the totality. Even Solomon had written in his proverbs that wisdom was profitable to direct.

Judas stuck with the best that he knew: look out for number one.That’s when Judas started stealing from the purse. It was in little bits that no one could notice. But what choice did he have? This Jesus Movement was clearly going nowhere, so why not make the best profit out of it while it lasted?

And Jesus wasn’t helping matters. He just would not change his message to get the support of the clergy. What leader does not understand the rules of diplomacy? Why would Jesus continue to walk among the poor and lowest of society? None of these were the foundations of a kingdom!

The last straw was at Bethany. A woman broke an alabastar box, pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. How could she waste a year’s worth of wages on the feet of this man? And when Judas voiced his opinion Jesus took the woman’s side.It had been the last straw. Such weakness could not overthrow the Roman occupation. The Jesus Movement was either already over, or it needed a push to take the radical violent turn it needed. It was now or never, but Judas would not miss out on what gain he could accrue.

30 pieces of silver.

Never before had such a bargain felt so empty. It mocked him, reminding him of the despicable traitor he was.

He pulled at his hair. “I don’t care about the money.” He grabbed the bag from his girdle and lifted it before his face. “This, this is blood money.”

“Watch your tongue here,” the priest lowered his voice.

“If he is sentenced, his blood will be on my head.”

“You did not seem to mind when we gave you. What is this? Are you remorseful now? Are you suddenly a believer in that demon-possessed miracleworker? You, a close confidant of the blasphemer, you handed him over for a price. The deal is over!”

“I know. Just take it. Please. It gives me no peace.”

The priest folded his arms. “That is your problem. Not mine. Get out of my sight, and take a bath or something.”

“No! Please!” He smashed the bag to the floor and it burst open, spilling and sending coins bouncing in every direction. “Take it back! I don’t want it!”

“GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE!”

The guards manhandled the screaming man and tossed him down the steps and into the streets.Where is your profit now, eh?

His thoughts mocked him. he could not face the Twelve ever again. Where could he go?

Friend, is this how you betray me?
Jesus had known. Why did he allow it to happen?

Why did I?

Nothing more to gain. Everything to lose.

Everything lost.

The only option left in his mind was the noose.

—–

Judas’ story is a tragedy for the ages. There are many suggestions as to why he betrayed and handed Jesus over to be killed. But one root we can point to is the hold ‘Money’ had on his life.
Fear of poverty or of the loss of what has been acquired can cause a person to pursue and hold on to money and all its provisions for life. It becomes a master, dictating one’s mood and causing impulsive decisions. The worst kinds of such impulsive decisions can be made in our lowest moments. Like Judas hanging himself.
It can cause people to make decisions completely inconsiderate of what is right, just for the sake of a profit.
Fear makes us shortsighted, as if there are no options except those presented before us.
But what fear does not do is to remind us that the things it is causing us to hold on to are fickle and will fade away eventually.
This is not the life God has in mind for us.
Jesus came and died and rose to give us a New Life that is abundant. It triumphs through and over all circumstances. Even in the valley of the shadow of death it fears no evil, confident that “God is with me.”
With the life of God, Money and the good life become no longer a master or a desperate pursuit but a tool to be used and enjoyed with purpose, to be a blessing to all.For Judas, the 30 pieces of silver meant nothing to him after the fact. They coud not give him the peace he needed and that his soul desired. His fear and guilt blinded him from the salvation that God was providing for him, being worked out on a hill not so far away.
Don’t let them blind you.

P.S.: I called him the man of Kerioth because one of the most accepted translations of his name, Iscariot, is the Hebrew Ish-Kerioth which means Man of Kerioth. Kerioth was a town in Judea.

Some believe it was also a take on the name of a militant anti-Roman Jewish group called the Sicarii, and that Judas may have been a member. This would support some of the assumptions of his possible frustrations with Jesus’ non-militant approach. But some believe the Sicarii did not exist until after the time of Jesus.

In this story, I tried to base elements of his character solely or majorly on what is contained in scripture. This does not presuppose that my explanations is more correct than any other. But the lessons the Bible posits are what is most important.

FEAR ITSELF

Ever since the Fall, sin and death have held men and women in bondage, so that life becomes a sprint from birth to death. In the space in between, the enemy has used the fear of death to keep humanity in bondage.
Fear keeps us shortsighted, blinding us to the salvation God has provided.
It keeps is stagnant, afraid to venture out and expand into greater things.
It causes us to base our hopes and lives on variable and fickle things that will crumble.
The fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of loss. All rooted in the fear of death.

But Jesus came to change all that. In His death amd resurrection He defeated sin and death, and came to “…deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:15
He defeated death and turned into into a doorway to the best parts of our eternity, when it is time.
He is ever with us, so we need not fear death.
Yet, in our lives, we encounter fears in one form or the other.

Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting 3 men in the spotlight. These guys were players in the background during the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And each of their stories are pictures of some fears we face. We will look at them and see what we can learn from them, and how they overcame fear (for those who did).
The casualty of fear is a price we need not pay. Jesus did, so we can live boldly and free.
I hope you enjoy this series.
Thanks for coming by.

And, here we go…

The Man of Kerioth

The Man of Arimathaea

The Man of Galilee

The third instalment will be posted on Sunday, April 20, 2019

FACES OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY: The Gift of Immanuel

#FacesoftheChristmasStory

Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel–which, when translated, means, God with us.
Matthew 1:23, quoting a prophecy from Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel: God With Us. What a beautiful concept.
It’s out-of-this-world: a Person that is with us, but is also God. Of course, this was fulfilled in Jesus.
But Immanuel encompasses so much … SO MUCH. Imagine that: if God, the Maker of all that exists, was with you what would that really mean?
Let’s take a little look.
God With Us means that God would be among us. He would become a Man like us. He would eat our food, sleep in our human beds, walk our human roads, be involved in our human conversations, and be an all-round human. This is what God did when He became a man. Jesus grew up like a human would and fulfilled the Father’s plan. He was God among us, and He was human in every way. He felt like we feel and knows how we think. He’s been in our shoes, and He knows what we need at every situation.
God With Us also means that God would be, well, with us. Accompanying us. Involved in all of our things. What does that really mean? In Isaiah 41:10 God says, “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” God, with you, would give you strength, help you, and hold you steady.
Finally, to those who are saved, we can look back through the lens of the Redemption Work of Jesus to see that Immanuel means God is alive in us. That’s as close as anyone can get. He is at work in us, through His Spirit, to make us will (or want to do) and to make us do what will give Him most pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He is transforming us, making us more like Him, through His Spirit in us.
It’s a refreshing and amazing thing to have such a relationship with the One Who made us and knows us.

The Faces of the Christmas Story Project has shown us a glimpse into the lives of a couple of personalities involved in and affected by the coming of God as a man. The Christmas Story. But beyond and through it all, they also show us what God-With-Us means, for it was Him working behind-the-scenes.
The Prophets showed us that God is with us to fulfil His promises.
The Angels showed us that God is with us to favour us.
Zacharias showed us that God is with us in our doubts, and will not leave us even till we come to believe His Word. He is patient with us in our faith journeys.
Elisabeth showed us that God is with us to do His miracles in our lives, even to the impossible. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Caesar Augustus showed us that God is ruling in the affairs of men, even of those in authority, on our behalf.
King Herod’s story showed us that God is with us to affirm us, and that we need not live with a sense of inferiority, seeking the approval of men.
The Magi showed us that God is with us to make us so highly favoured that others will come to our rising, to receive of His Light shining in us.
The Shepherds showed us that God came for everyone, even to the lowliest.
The Innkeeper who had no room for Jesus to be born showed us that wherever Christ enters (even if it is a stable), He makes into something special.
Joseph showed us the life of a faithful man. God is with us through His Spirit to make us faithful.
Mary showed us that God is with us to make us partakers of His purposing, using us to bring it to pass on the earth.
All of these and more are encapsulated in ‘Immanuel’.
Over the past 11 days we have covered these 11 people. And now we are at the 12th person. The tagline of this Project is ’12 Lives Called to be a part of God’s Story.’ If you noticed, each of the previous articles had names of characters as their titles, but this one doesn’t. We’ve talked about the meaning of Immanuel, but do you get who the final person should be?
Who else is called to be a part of God’s Story?
It’s mostly conditional. Because that person is…
YOU.
The relevance of Immanuel to Christmas is that God has come for you. Not just the world, but you. The story is generally celebrated worldwide, but we must understand it at a personal level.
Immanuel is God with you.
Jesus came to die and rise, to make the way for you to come back to God. The way is still open. But at the personal level, it is completed when you receive His gift, and come into this Way.
This is the comfort and confidence and blessing of the Christmas story. At the personal level, the story is complete when you receive God’s gift of Eternal Life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Immanuel is God’s Promise to us. It may have seemed like He had abandoned us, like we were alone, like we were helpless. But no more. He came to be among us, He is with us, and now He is in us.

So what do you say?
Have you received His Gift?
Will you?

And when you do receive God’s Gift, you enter into the line of those who are a part of God’s Story, and He writes the best stories for His characters. He’s with and in every one of them, working things out for their good. In saving us, He has given us His best. And He is still with us.
This way, Christmas for us becomes a celebration of all God is to us and all He gave to us when He came to us. The birth of Jesus was just the beginning.
And now every single day becomes a celebration too, not only Christmas. Because we are never on our own, and never alone.
God has come to be with us.
Immanuel.

Thanks for joining this 12-day journey.
Have a Very Merry Christmas!

FACES OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY: Mary

“…In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary.” Luke 1:26,27

 

One thing we do know about Mary is that her surname was definitely not ‘Christmas’! (Blessed are you if you did not get that terrible pun. My sincere apologies if you did)

But what do we know about the girl chosen by God to be the mother of His Son?

Based on the age of betrothal in those times, we can say she was a teenager. Some believe she may have been from David’s line, like Joseph. Some believe she may have been a Levite, like her cousin Elisabeth. But not much attention is given to her heritage in the accounts. It shows the common ground, that the criteria for God using a person to bring forth His purposes is not dependent on their heritage or experience. Could God have used just anyone to bring forth his Son in this world?

But then, Mary was not just anyone. There’s a lot we can learn from her actions and words.

When the angel told her that she would bear the Son, she believed. She asked how it would occur seeing as she was a virgin and unmarried, but when the angel explained she submitted to God’s will. “I am the Lord’s handmaiden,” she said. “Be it unto me according to your word.”

Oh, if we would have such confidence and trust in God’s Word. Usually, the things He wants to birth in us are much bigger than us or our current circumstances. Yet He calls those things out of us, bringing them forth through us. Ours is to believe His Word, His promise, and trust that He will bring it to pass.

We should always remember that God’s Word and instructions also embody the enablement to bring it to pass. When God said to the first man, “Be fruitful and multiply,” it was not just an instruction. It was a blessing that brought the fruitfulness and multiplication into action. He told Abraham, “Walk before me and be perfect.” He determines the terms of His Word and its fulfilment. His Word is spirit and life. And as such, when His word goes forth, there is the enablement and power in it. Actually, His Word is the power itself. The Gospel, for example, is the power of God unto salvation. Anyone who hears and believes it is saved.

Mary responded in faith to God’s Word.

 

But when she heard it, who could she tell? She was going to give birth to the Son of God? It sounded like a poorly constructed fairy tale, like a young girl’s fantasy. Who could understand this? I am sure she had some questions. She probably felt alone.

The angel had said that her older cousin, Elisabeth, was also pregnant. Mary took the trip immediately to meet her. Elisabeth was six months pregnant already when Mary arrived. When she did, Elisabeth’s baby leaped in her womb. And she exclaimed in blessing, confirming what the angel had told Mary, calling her the mother of her Lord. Mary was encouraged.

In bringing God-ordained ideas and visions to reality, the right association is very important. Surround yourself with, and esteem highly the friendship with people who share your faith and values. Stay in the company of those that have gone some way in the path you are just setting out on. What they have learnt will build you up, and what you bring to bear will strengthen them too. This is fellowship, and is what brings forth growth and inspiration. Like Hebrews 10:24 and 25 tells us, “…let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…”

 

Elisabeth’s words sparked a song of praise in Mary. The enormity of what God was doing was impressed greatly on her and she could see how great God is, and how little she was by herself, and the grace in His workings in her. The more we look at what God is doing or has done, the better we will see and know Him, and His love for us expressed in His grace towards us will engulf our hearts and how we view ourselves. She saw herself in God’s eyes. That in the stretch of time and eternity, the Almighty God had chosen her to be His channel to bring forth a blessing to all mankind.

 

She would still have more children – some of which would be instrumental in Christ’s church— but even to this day, Mary is still noteworthy for the Son that came forth from her. He was the one that defined the rest of her life. In the final analysis, only the things we did that were a part of or in alliance with God’s purposes will count. With God as our priority, everything else falls in line. He defines what else false into place. And we can be sure that, if we major on what counts in God’s eyes, we would live as He made us to. And that’s the best we can ever be.

 

Before I round this up, I’d like to highlight something my sister pointed out to me this morning. Mary’s visit with Elisabeth showed that she esteemed family as important. At Christmas, many of us will return home or receive our relatives at home. Family reunions can be really fun in some places, but also awkward at times. There’s the aunt asking why you aren’t married yet, the uncle who only wants to debate about politics, the sibling who you always end up arguing with, the neighbour who always seems to show up when food is served, the brother-in-law or boyfriend still trying to get the family to like him, the grandma giving her grandkids too much sugar and trying to keep their parents from disciplining them too hard … (these are all just stereotypes I picked off the top of my head). No family is the same, so if you were worried that your family does not look like a Hallmark movie family just know that you are not alone. It is the weirdness factor, or difference, that makes family that much more interesting and special. No matter how weird your family might be, value them. God used them to bring you forth into what and where you are now. Value that at least. There is so much treasure in each and every one of those lives, more than you know.

There may be some relatives you might want to avoid because they hurt you in the past, and I understand that. But make sure you pray for them. God’s love through you could mend relationships and make for an even more fruitful reunion.

Still, even beyond Christmas, value family. Both the family of birth and the family of choice: friends, church, colleagues, sparring partners on the basketball court. Every relationship is a chance for something good to spark in the hearts of others by association. The spark could be an idea, a thought, a decision, a lesson, or just plain fun. And if you have Christ in you, He can cause a spark that can turn into a glorious fire.

I’ll leave that to speak for itself.

 

2 days to #Christmas