Tag Archives: faith

Got the Update?

For weeks the apps on my phone have been reminding me to install the new updates. I’d become quite used to seeing the numerous reminders in the Notifications tray, but I put it off for later.
It came to a head one day when my Twitter app wouldn’t let me open it until I installed the latest updates. According to them, the new update would help to protect my app from recent security issues that previous software definitions were not prepared for. Now I saw reasons not to put off that update, so I set out to do it.
I could go into explaining the lessons I learnt from that experience, but there’s more.
One of the reasons I hadn’t downloaded the updates hitherto was because my phone’s storage capacity was quite full. Every time I tried to download an update my phone would require me to uninstall one of my other apps. All of them were important to me, so I would instead look for photos, videos, audio files or documents that I could delete to clear the space. It’s usually difficult for me because I find it a little hard to let go of these. I can be quite sentimental, I find.
But this time, I had to give in. I deleted I think over a thousand files that day to make room for the new update. Some were dear to me, some were easy to let go of, and others had me wondering what they were doing on my phone in the first place. In the end I cleared enough space and the download could go through.
The app’s now got a couple of changes in its interface but it almost looks exactly the same. I may never know why it needed the update or the security risks it’s protecting me from, and that’s probably for the better. Unless, of course, it’s a backdoor channel for them to monitor me (cue the ominous music: dun dun DUUUNNN!)
Not all my phone apps are updated yet, but I’ll still get to them.

Updates from Heaven

Do you know that just like my phone app needed an update, we also need our God-updates at every point in time? That every day, there are heaven-rooted updates tailored for you?
I’ll explain.
As God’s people we’ve received His Life through the finished works of Jesus Christ in Redemption. Our spirits are renewed so that we can be all God intended for us to be; His children bearing His nature. That’s perfect and, like Jesus said, “It is finished.”

In this world there are new challenges in every season and every day. Like Jesus said in Matthew 6:34,

…Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Now the life God has given us in Christ is powerful enough to face these challenges. Through the power of God at work in us, God is able to do exceeding abundantly above what we could ask or think, even beyond whatever adversity there is out there. But our minds and bodies are exposed daily to experiences in opposition to God’s Word.
Whether we like it or not, there could be circumstances to try and make you feel discouraged, people ready to ruin your day with unreasonable words, and news and online threads ready to order the course of your thoughts and mind-set for the day. It’s not all bad, but more often than not, they are content created without our best interests in mind.
In the midst of this, Lamentations 3:22 and 23 reminds us of the words you probably remember from that song;

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.

Just to put it in perspective, just as the days are evil, the Lord has new compassionate and preserving mercies for you every day. Every. Single. Day.
Tailored for your specifications, beyond and above whatever could be thrown at you. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

One of my former pastors loved to describe it as you having a full tank of water but having an empty bucket. It doesn’t change the fact that you’ve got water ‘cause there’s a supply available with your name on it. You receive from your supply when you turn the tap. He was talking about the grace of God available to meet our needs and help us give, but I think it also applies here.
For each and every task you are given and each circumstance we face, for everything that would lay a demand on the life in you, God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that you can have all you need to have an abundant supply for every good work.

Why you can download the update

No matter how hard I try, that Twitter app update could never work on my computer. That particular update could never work for the Facebook app or the Instagram app on my phone either because it was not made by them or for them. The reason I can download the update on my phone is because the update is made for the app on my phone. It was made by Twitter for the specific version of the app that’s present on my phone.
In the same way, because I belong to Jesus, I am capable of receiving the updates of strength, instruction and grace that are my inheritance as His child. It is His delight for me to receive and walk in them. Because I have His Spirit in me, I can receive from Him.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12 it says

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

When we got born again we received the Spirit of God. And it is because we have the Spirit of God that God can reveal to us His will at every point in time. Like it says earlier in that chapter in verses 8 and 9,

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

God is willing to show you things beyond what you’ve seen, to let you in on secrets beyond what you’ve heard, and to cause you to conceive thoughts and ideas beyond what you’ve ever imagined. Just as He shared His plans with Abraham like a friend, He intends to have that kind of relationship with you. Even much more, because now you are His child.
You are the child of the Maker of all that is. Wow!
So just like a child learns to talk the more he/she hears us talking with, God’s updates are to bring you to His level of thinking so that He can relate with us and guide us well in all the peculiar circumstances that we could face.

So How do I Download the Update?

In Romans 12:2 Paul writes,Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to Him.
Have you noticed that the more time you spend with an individual who makes puns and cracks dry jokes, the more you’d find yourself deciphering puns? Soon you’d probably be the one others will be running after crying, “Don’t leave me! Take me with you!” (someone reading this in 2038 didn’t get this reference. Sorry, kid 😉)In the same way, we let God change the way we think (our mind-sets) by actually spending time with Him, by giving our time and attention to reading and studying His Word and in prayer. That way we can know what His will is and we can do it, empowered by His Spirit in us.
Paul also wrote about the importance of making the best use of time in Ephesians 5:15, 16

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

When we live our lives by the wisdom of God we are walking circumspectly, making the best use of the time, and equipped not to give in to the adversity we may face in the day.This is why it is usually encouraged to start your day with a time set apart to read the Bible and talk with God. Some call it Morning Devotion, others call it Quiet Time, but nobody calls it Steve 🤷🏽‍♂️.Either way, the value is not in what we call it but in Who we’re setting out time for. It helps to set the agenda for our minds and to get His agenda for the day.

Clearing the Clutter

Just as I had to remove some apps from my phone, opening our hearts for His updates may require letting go of some things we’ve held on to.
It could be things we love and prize above all else. It could be our time, some of our friendships, some of our goals, or even the feeling of entitlement from our rightful achievements. It could be our media choices or our online presence. Sometimes the Lord may be instructing us to let go of some of these so that our attention can be on Him. For some of them, it is as He becomes our priority that we can have a healthy understanding of their roles in our lives. Otherwise they could become idols in our lives, distracting us from the Lord and all that’s important for our lives.
It could be things that have hurt us or guilt in our past. We don’t hold on to them deliberately, but they may have a hold on us, defining our approach to things and keeping us from reaching for all God has for us. I touched on this partially in my story, Portal.
For all, Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Offer your past, present and future to the Lord and trust Him with it. It may not be as easy as an instant thing, but trust Him with the process.
When we let go of things that have a strong hold in us, our hands can be open to receive all the Father has been trying to show us.

Spending Time with God

This is a lesson I am still learning. I wish I could come to this article from a place of mastery in this aspect, but I am a learner. And I don’t mean that in the Christianese sense where I’m really a pro trying to be humble, NO! I’ve literally found myself going through days without reading my Bible and I’m trying to work on that too. So, now that I’ve burst your expectations of me, hope you can see that I’m really a learner.
But it’s in spending time with God that we receive these updates.
In 2020 of course most of us may not be able to gather with other people yet, but I encourage you to be part of a church. Be regular and committed to the community. The teaching and fellowship (friendship) are essential for our growth. There are some things God would give you through your fellow believers, and some things He wants to share with others through you.
You can also set apart a specific time for it. You can find moments in the day to spend time with Him, cut off from your phone and other distractions. You can even take a day off to spend time with God. The Christianese term for these are ‘Retreats’. It’s allowed and very essential.
You can have devotionals and Bible reading plans that help you keep at it. Pray about what you’ve read. Bible apps like YouVersion can help with that too.You can have a prayer list of people and things you need to pray for and about. The thing is even as you pray He would show you more that you should pray about.

What if it’s boring?!

Don’t worry, you’re not an evil person for thinking that these times can feel boring sometimes. Sometimes it can feel like we’re not getting anything done. Your mind may have trailed off while reading a chapter and you’d find yourself 50 verses away from the last thing you remember in the narrative. You may have prayed for what felt like an hour only to check the clock to see that only 5 minutes have passed. If you’ve never experienced any of these then you’ve either not tried it out or you’ve got a special gift I really want to receive🙌🏼. Please, share in the comments🙏🏼.In these times, I like to be honest with God. I can sit and just talk with Him, telling Him what’s going on in my mind. Truthfully, these conversations don’t end there. They go throughout the day. Sometimes I get instruction or things become clearer. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening.
But don’t stop. It is in seeking that we find.
Don’t look for a disembodied voice. The primary means of God talking to us is through His Written Word. Every other impression is by the Holy Spirit within us, not compulsorily by an external audible voice. He could use that, but my advice is not to set out looking for the spectacular. Seek Him.
I once heard a quote by someone that said prayer is like starting the day by saying, “In Jesus Name,” then going to bed saying, “Amen.” That’s because throughout the day you were talking with God.
Share your day with God. See what that does to your interactions.

When my heart is overwhelmed…

What about those moments when we really don’t have the strength? When the day has just been terrible and we don’t feel like doing anything ‘spiritual’?
One of my favourite verses is Psalm 61:2

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

David’s desire when his heart was overwhelmed is to be reminded of the One, his Rock, Who is bigger than that problem. Knowing that my world does not revolve around me because I have Someone bigger, greater and wiser on my side and at work in me, gives me courage to face the challenges. It’s one of the reasons we find another Christianese word in the psalms a lot: magnify.

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3

Or even Psalm 35:27

Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.

Ever used a magnifying glass before? It makes things look bigger. It doesn’t make the thing bigger but it makes my perspective of that thing to be bigger.
God doesn’t need to be bigger or more powerful or wiser or stronger. He already is! But sometimes I forget that the Greater One is for me and with me. That’s why I need that reminder.
I need God to be magnified in my eyes.
And that only happens when I look at Him. When I behold Him, I can see Him. Not literally now because I’m still mortal, but as I read about Him in His Word and listen to others talk about Him, as I listen to music that expresses His wonder, as I worship Him, I realise that I really am not as big as I thought, and neither are my problems. He is so much bigger, so much richer in love, and He is so much able to help me more than overcome.
We see this pattern in David’s life. One time when his people’s families were carried away by raiders, his soldiers were angry with him and mutiny was afoot. They were even talking about stoning him. David, whose own family was also carried away, was in great distress. But the Bible lets us know that he ‘encouraged himself in the Lord.’ (1 Samuel 30:6) And right after he asked God for direction, and God told him what to do to get his people back. His stability was in that place where God was bigger than everything else.
Our stability is in the Holiest Place like in the temple (Hebrews 6:19), where Christ is seated having conquered all and redeemed us. Where our sins are forgiven and we obtain mercy and find grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). It is why we have the Spirit of God in us. You, God’s child, are evidence that God is more than able to deal with whatever problem comes your way.
You have access to the King and Conqueror of Eternity, especially at your weakest moments. He’s your stability.
This is what I do. I tell Him exactly what it feels like. Sometimes I just play worship music and sing along to Him. It helps lift my thoughts and feelings, and I worship along.
It takes our attention off our fears and limitations and focuses it on His strength available and at work in us. Like He said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9,

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness

Share your experience

In recent times I’ve had a couple of interactions with friends who are also making a deliberate consistent culture of spending time with God. What’s your experience like? What lessons have you learnt?
Please share with us in the comments. It could be an encouragement to someone too.
Thanks for coming by!

PORTAL: An Afterword

Hi there! Emmanuel here!

If you’re here too then I assume you’ve read my story, Portal. Thank you so much. I’d really love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t already, click on the link right here.

The undercurrent of Portal, is that many of us find ourselves held back by things in our past.

Like Tolu, some of us are encumbered by the fear of the future and its uncertainty.

Like Riley, many of us are affected by the pain and hurts we have experienced in the past.

And, like Frank, many of us are held back by the guilt of the wrongs we’ve done, and by the pain we’ve inflicted on others.

Moving on from these is never easy. I have experienced all three of these, and I have seen how they have influenced my actions, affected how I related with people, and determined the decisions I made. Unknowingly, I was trapped in those points in time and was navigating the present from those places. Influenced by the insecurities of my guilt, protective because of the hurts I experienced, limited by the uncertainties of what lay ahead.

I wish I could say there is a portal of some kind that you can pass through that will makes those things fade away. But then, I have found that there is. This story is a picture of how, through Jesus, we can find the confidence, healing and forgiveness we need to face the future.

For those of us afraid of the future and its uncertainty, He encourages us to trust in Him. Trusting Him means following Him. When we do, He will guide us every step of the way. We may not know where we ought to be five years from now, but at least we know He is with us and we know how He expects us to navigate the times. He is our Light, so we never have to walk in darkness. He has given us His Word so that we can learn of Him and know what He desires. His Word is like a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (Psalm 119:11).

For those of us held back by the pain of our past, who find ourselves responding to people and circumstances from that hurt, He empathises. He promises healing for the broken hearted (Luke 4:18) and joy in the places of weeping (Psalm 30:5). He will carry you and keep you through it all.

And for those of us who can’t get past the fact that we have hurt someone, inflicted pain on someone, ruined something… Guilt is terrible in that it makes us feel we’ve earned the darkness it brings us into. Guilt is painful, no matter how earned it is. And while, yes, conviction is good, Jesus offers to all that come to Him forgiveness. Forgiven, He gives us the strength to forgive ourselves. And for those who we have hurt, we find the strength to apologise, to mend the friendships we can.

As one who is navigating these zones too, I cannot say I have all the answers. Many of these things, I have to keep reminding myself of every single day; that I have hope in Christ, that He has healed me, and that I am forgiven.

Our stories may differ, but there is the One Portal through which, if we take it, He will lead us in the right ways our souls have always yearned for. It’s called ‘the path of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3). We will find our solace and peace in Him, and we can enjoy every moment of every day, just as He intended it.

In His Light, we see that He had given Time meaning.

Time in itself is seemingly amoral, giving as much opportunities for decay and corruption as it does for growth and development. The difference is what we do with it. When we are in Christ, He gives us wisdom on how to navigate these times and to make the best of them.

Ephesians 5:17 puts it this way:

Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days.

Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.

I take special comfort in one of David’s Psalms in 31:15 where he says:

My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

He was confident that, even though he had enemies, he had help because his times were in God’s hands. It reminds me that, it doesn’t matter what season I am in: be it a height or a low, a win or a loss, as long as I am following Jesus, I am in God’s hands.

He will perfect all that concerns me.

From someone who is learning along the way, I pray you find the healing and strength in Jesus to move on. There is so much more to life that He has for you. You’ve got a whole lifetime to discover it.

God bless you all!

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.

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.
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.”


“Thus hath the Lord done unto me in the days wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.”
Luke 1:25
She had grown up watching women get pregnant and giving birth, fantasizing about when she would do the same. She had probably even helped change the diapers of some relatives’ babies on occasion. She got married and couldn’t wait to have a baby. But she didn’t. As the months passed, the questions started coming. Aunts were all too willing to give their unsolicited advice on ‘successful baby-making’. At first it was amusing, until it became frustrating. The months turned to years. Her friends’ babies grew into adults, got married, and were having their own babies already.
The questions dwindled, soon replaced by whispers. Soon those whispers were replaced by silent furtive glances. Everywhere she went, she could feel them. Sure, the people respected her, but it was the things they didn’t say, the things she knew they were thinking, that stung the most. She was the barren old woman from down the street. Barren. A name she had never thought would be hers.
God knows how many times she prayed. Were they being punished for their sins? Her husband was a priest, and she was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first high priest. That alone should have given them points before the Lord, but still no babies came.
Was God hearing her? Was He even there? Questions she didn’t dare put to speech. After years of agony and sadness, she settled for what they had. After all, His ways and thoughts were higher than theirs. They served God faithfully still.
One day her husband returned abruptly from the Temple without sending prior word. Literally too, because he had no words, since he had been stricken dumb. Hours of panicking and frantic sign gestures later (and the mental note to learn sign language ASAP) she was finally able to get him to write down what had happened. Long story short, the Lord had sent an angel to tell them that they would have a baby. A son. (Why couldn’t he speak? You can read about it in yesterday’s post, or better yet, check out the real account in Luke 1:5-22)
It was hard to believe. It took her a while to accept it all, but in the days that followed, she knew. She could feel it … HIM … she could feel him forming in her. “Oh dear God! So this is what it feels like? I really am having a baby?”
It’s not that she had forgotten she had a womb, it’s just that she had not needed it or even had a reminder of its presence in over a decade! But this was new. This was…different.
What would she do? How would she live, taking care of her silent husband and nursing a pregnancy? How could she, a post-post-menopausal woman, move around town with the prominent bump leading the way, an embarrassing reminder that she was carrying something that was not for people her age? She felt ashamed. The rumours would only reach a fever pitch. She couldn’t dare go out again.
But in her heart, she was hit by the reality that God had blown the barriers she had settled for and invaded her space. Prayers she had long stopped praying were being fulfilled, right in her own body. Not her neighbour’s body this time, not a woman from the stories of the days of the patriarchs … but her. “Me…?” And it gladdened her heart. “So this is the extravagant way God wants to take away my shame?”
For Zacharias it was a son, but for her it was personal. She carried the pregnancy. God had done something in her body. Her own body.
It was a miracle. For a long time, miracles were just the stuff from the Scriptures. Like the Lord parting the Red Sea, or stopping time for Joshua’s armies to prevail, or making Aaron’s dead rod bloom. They were the stories she loved hearing as a young girl. But now, a miracle had been wrought in her own life – in her own body. The Lord had chosen her.
Elisabeth’s story is a picture of what Israel was going through. Their history was full of accounts of God’s miraculous intervention time and again. But for the past 400 years or more, precious little had occurred beyond the ordinary. Reality overshadowed them as foreign nation after foreign nation invaded and took over their land. Even the prophets seemed an order of the past, so there was little if any hint of divine intervention. Where was the arm of the Lord? For many, even if they did not admit it, the miracles were a thing of the past. Those historical accounts were little more than myths to some. God and His ways were probably just a coping mechanism, just in case. Still, Israel felt abandoned.
But God had not forgotten them. He was coming to them, and He was coming in a BIG way, in a way that would be so grand it would be embarrassing.
Like a soldier returning from war to meet his fiancé after years of separation, who lavishes her with lots of gifts, lots of money, a new car, teaches her to drive, and spends quality time with her … all on his first day back. Her friends are watching, bewildered as they whisper among themselves about all the attention she’s getting. And just when his fiancé has gotten embarrassed enough, a troupe of mariachis that he’s paid comes out of hiding to serenade her (she loves Mexican music … Why is it always Mexican music?). Her family has been in on the surprise, and they join the circle of onlookers with knowing grins as her Romeo drops to his knee, pulls out a ring and asks her the question…
“Will you … go see The Last Jedi with me?”
I’m just kidding. He asks her to marry him, while everyone stands in awe, literally going, “Aw…” The lady wipes a tear. (Hey, was the ring an onion ring?) You get the picture. He is with the love of his life, and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. He will ‘spoil’ her with enough to make up for the lost years, and enough to set up their new life together. Enough to show her his boundless love for her and his delight in her.
This was God’s promise to Israel. He’d said, through His prophets, that He would not only save them from their enemies, but would also lavish them with His goodness, would give them a great kingdom with a great king, so that all the world would see His faithfulness. And He came to save, not only Israel but all the world, totally overshooting the ‘save-them-from-their-enemies’ bit, giving a new life and an inheritance to all who receive His salvation, making them part of His endless kingdom, where He is King. He is awesome like that, always doing exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think. He saves to the uttermost.
That’s the big picture, and I’ve not even come close to describing it.
But Elisabeth’s story shows us something even extra special. “God has come, for ME.” The blessing of God, in the form of her son, was a flashing neon sign to everyone around that God had done something supercalifragilisticexpialidociously AWESOME in the life a woman well past her prime. Everyone knew her as Barren. Now she was Fruitful. God had visited her life and left His fingerprint for all to see.
It’s the gift of God being with us, among us, in us, coming into our very situation and changing it with the peace and blessing of His very presence. Immanuel. God in the life of a person changes everything, setting things right.
It’s what He did in salvation. It is a blessing upon many, and a blessing upon each one that receives Him. A blessing upon you. That men will see His awesomeness in you as well.
It’s what He can do in your life. If you’re His child you are so much more set up for His hand to work wonders in your life.
And He does. Though our lives may seem to define ordinary, He has set things in motion on your behalf.
Sometimes we don’t think we see His miracles because they don’t all seem spectacular. How wrong we are. I think it was Max Lucado that wrote, “A coincidence is a miracle where God chooses to stay anonymous.” You walk into a building and the first person you meet gives you the information you need to avoid unnecessary stress. You feel a prompting to take a certain route on your way home from a stressful workday, and on that route you meet an old friend whose presence lifts your spirits. Sometimes miracles are like that.
Some miracles are a little more direct. Let’s go back to Elisabeth for a moment.
Remember she’s expecting a baby and supporting her mute husband. She’s going to need a lot of help. So what does God do? He’s set up Mary, her younger cousin, to come down all the way from the other end of the country to visit her (Luke 1:36-40). Mary stayed there until the Elizabeth’s baby was born. Many times, just like this, God uses people to help us. He may use someone to call you with words of encouragement at a moment when you’re feeling down. Someone else may be ready to mess up your day with an annoying Whatsapp chain message, but that person is suddenly distracted by joy at the news of his daughter finally gaining admission to the university of her choice. Wheels within wheels, God is working miracles just beyond our sight.
He may even use you in the working of a miracle in someone else’s life. He did that with Elisabeth. Mary had just been told that she too would have a baby that would be the Son of God. The young lady was still going over the ramifications of this when she entered Elisabeth’s house. Suddenly, the baby in Elisabeth’s belly leaped and she, suddenly spoke words that confirmed what Mary had heard from the angel, further establishing her confidence in God’s promises. God used them both to encourage and build each other’s faith. That’s His desire, to use us to bless one another. But first, like He placed the babies in the women’s wombs, He must give you His kind of heart. That is the kind of person He can use to do His will and be blessing. That’s what Jesus’ coming was all about, to make you that kind of person.
And, yes, God does overt miracles too, through the hands of His children. You can be used of God to heal the sick, cast out devils, and even raise the dead. These are the qualities He’s promised to all who believe in Him and His work of salvation (Mark 16:15-18). If you are Christ’s, this is your nature and ability. It’s all His gift to you.
There is so much more we can learn from Elisabeth’s story, but I’ve kept you here long enough. It was not an accident that the writer of the Biblical account told her story together with her husband’s, Zacharias (spoiler alert: he gains his speech back in the end). While Elisabeth’s story shows us that God can do great miracles, even the impossible, in our lives, Zacharias’ story teaches us about faith in God, even in what looks impossible. Needs are a very common part of the human experience, both those that can be met and those that are a bit harder to meet. In all things, let your faith be in God, and you will see His hand at work in your life.
Don’t let your heart get weary. Miracles are not alien to God’s children.
After all, they are our Father’s specialty.
Remember that, this Christmas.
May you grow stronger in faith, established in the knowledge of His faithfulness in Jesus’ Name.
“…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of the things that were spoken to her from the Lord.”
Elizabeth speaking to her young cousin, Mary, in Luke 1:45

Faces of the Christmas Story: THE PROPHETS

‘Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries.’ Hebrews 1:1

When we think of the prophets, much of the time we imagine old men with flowing beards bellowing words of doom with glazed eyes, ready to rip their clothes at the slightest hint of blasphemy from their audience. Well, some of them were like that. But some of them were kings like David and government officials like Daniel.
Whenever God wanted to let His people in on what He was doing, He spoke to His prophets who would then speak to the people. So, no, these prophets were not ‘fortune-tellers’.
The people of Israel lived through some of the worst times. From slavery to finding a homeland, to raising a kingdom, to occupation by invading armies, to a scattering and an exile and the plundering of their land, to their return to that land, to another invading army coming in … phew! Talk about a rags-to-riches-to-even-more-rags story! But in all this time, God did not leave them alone to face it. He had His prophets among them, men who would speak to them exactly what God needed them to hear. Sometimes theirs were words of judgment, sometimes they were words of comfort. But one thing the people of Israel knew was that God had not abandoned them. These prophets were given to God, faithful to Him so that they could be effective mouthpieces for Him to inspire His people.
In the midst of their prophecies and teachings, the prophets were inspired of God to utter and write about His Big Plan: God was going to save them! God was going to raise someone who would bring them to a prosperous place, a King that would bring them home and restore their glory. While these prophets had glimpses into these plans, they did not fully understand it, but they wrote the prophecies as they were inspired by God. Some had their contextual interpretations, but they did not fully know.
They told of how he would be born from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8), from the family of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1) and a descendant of King David. They told of a ‘son’ that would be born to rule them in a peaceful and never-ending kingdom, who would also be the ‘Mighty God’ (Isaiah 9:6-7). They told of how He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
What they didn’t realise was that they also spoke of the same Person when they prophesied about an anointed one that would be killed for the sake of others (Daniel 9:26), a suffering servant that would be scourged to bring healing to others, be rejected and despised, stricken for the sins of the people (Isaiah 53). They probably thought they were describing their own pain and agony when they wrote about someone that would be forsaken by God, be pierced (long before crucifixion was even invented), and whose clothes would be gambled over (Psalm 22). They probably didn’t even link it all together when they wrote about someone who God would not leave in the land of the dead, but would raise to life (Psalm 16:10). They didn’t know this was all God was talking about when He talked of giving them new hearts so they can always do what is pleasing in His sight (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Only later, by the inspiration of God’s Spirit, would the apostles look back and see the road map God had prepared long before, telling of what He was doing. They could look on this, gain more understanding, and edify one another, confident in God’s faithfulness to His Word. (1 Peter 1:10-11)
The Prophets lives were not wasted, however, because in the time before God would become a Man and set things right, these were the people He used to bring comfort to those around them. Telling them that God was still with them. They too were human with their failings and doubts, fears and questions. But God used them. And they knew there was something more coming, and they looked forward to it.
And God fulfilled His promises, by Himself. He became a Man and fulfilled all He had promised He would. Just as He had said.
Like these Prophets, the circumstances around us may seem to cloud our understanding of God’s Word. They may even make us doubt if He is even there. It may look bleak, like we are all on our own. But we are not. The grace they prophets looked forward to has arrived in the Person of Jesus. He has promised to never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and He is true to His Word. He is alive in you, making you who He wants you to be. His promises for you are true, and He makes sure they come to pass.
Even when it doesn’t look like it. He is faithful and reliable, and you can trust Him, and in Him. Trust in His Word, in what He has said.
You don’t have to be in the dark about His faithfulness to you anymore. He won’t leave you in the dark. The Light has come. This was what the Prophets looked forward to. Now God can be known by all. Everyone.
Even you.
Trust Him.
The more you experience His love, the more it becomes a part of you beyond facts, and the more you can be a blessing to others. And they will see Him in you. That’s a life fulfilled.
It’s what God intended.

‘Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries.
Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son…’
Hebrews 1:1 and 2


Why so Puddleglum?


What do you do when all you’ve ever known to be true suddenly doesn’t feel so true anymore?

NOTE: If you want to read about the Art of Puddleglum, i.e. the picture up top, you can follow this link.

Puddleglum is a character in The Silver Chair, the sixth book (or fifth, depending on your point of view) in C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia. He was a marshwiggle, a weird creature who lived by a swamp, and had a mildly amusing pessimistic outlook on life. In the story, he joins Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole on their quest to find the lost Prince Rilian, following a set of clues given to them by Aslan.

I would have told you the story, but I feel that it’d be a mega-spoiler (and you’re like, “C’mon! The book’s like 50 years old already!”). Let’s just say that by the time they find the prince, he’s the brainwashed prisoner of the evil Lady of the Green Kirtle. They release him, but then the Lady walks into the room.

She doesn’t snap at them, but she cheerfully hypnotizes using the enchanting tune of her harp and the whiff of a secret powder she dumps on the fireplace.  With every word she speaks, with every strum on her harp, she almost fully convinces them that everything they’ve known to be true was made up, all in their heads.

First, they knew that they were in the kingdom of Underland (yes, it was literally miles underground). They knew they had come from Overland, the land above the surface. Or had they? Were they really sure there even was such a land among the rocks and mortar in the roof of the cavern? (Another character later comments on how weird it would be to live in a world like ours, a world without a roof, with just open sky above) She made them believe there was nothing beyond the dreadful world underground that they could see at the moment.

Then they asked about the Sun. About Narnia. About Aslan the Great Lion. And she convinced them that those concepts were merely flights of fantasy based on things they could see around.

Her words (however enchanted they were) made them reconsider their beliefs in these things; things they had always accepted to be true. Sure they had fleeting memories of daylight, of their home world, of the Lion, and of words spoken to them before. But these memories were fading as she spoke and strummed on her harp (or maybe it was a ‘lyre’ … see what I did there? 😉 ), the mist of the ‘Decepto-powder’ filling the room.

Until Puddleglum stomped out the fire and ended the enchantment, to the Witch’s horror.

Here’s that part of the story and what he said:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”



I like Puddleglum because of his decision to believe in the Truth –to fight for it— even when his mind did not agree. Even when he was being convinced otherwise, he still held on in faith. It was not easy, but he did.

Life may present us with a couple of facts. But that’s what they are: Facts, and nothing more. But don’t let them make you doubt the Truth. The facts are like holograms, translucent 3D images in space. They last for a while, but they only appear under certain conditions. They would change with time. They look real, but they are not necessarily real. We may feel them, but our feelings are really subjective neural experiences (OK, enough geekspeak from me).

The Truth, like Ted Dekker (one of my top favourite authors) loves to say, is just beyond the skin of this world. Beneath and beyond all we can see is another realm where everything is the way they really are. It’s the Kingdom of God, a world where everything is in obedience to God. You’d see that something actually happens when you pray, that something happens when you speak, and that there’s a lot more going on around us than we can see with these eyes.

Jesus is the Truth, and what He says is true. No matter how the facts appear, don’t make the mistake of thinking the facts are the Truth.

You may have no family with you now (FACT) but that does not mean you’re abandoned.

You may not have money in your pocket at the moment (FACT), but that does not mean you will never be successful in life, financially or otherwise.

You may have failed a course or two … or more (FACT), but that does not mean you’re a failure.

You may have prayed for the sick and nothing seemed to happen (FACT) but that does not mean Jesus was lying when He said you would pray for the sick, and they would recover. It doesn’t mean that your salvation is inferior, either.

I guess Faith counts when its feels like there’s no reason to believe. That’s when it counts. And that’s when it’s hardest. We can’t do this on our own. We weren’t made to. Hang on. Ask for His help. He will help you. You’re not alone in this.

I should know. I’ve been there. A lot of times, actually. One of such times I cried and cried for strength, but it didn’t seem to come as suddenly as I expected. I was too scared to let anyone in on what was bothering me, so I slapped on my trademark smile. I didn’t want my doubts to bring them down too. I felt so alone deep down, desperate to scream, to breathe. Trusting in God suddenly felt futile. I know I encourage others to remember that He is always with us, but I didn’t feel Him near right then. I didn’t feel Him at all, period. I felt like a fraud, like I was just going through the motions. I gotta tell you, it was scary.

But He was there. Is here. Man, He is. He’s been here all along.

You know what? I guess I got used to feeling that way. I preferred to ignore God. And when I didn’t, I felt as though I was the one person in all history that He had wronged. It felt easier to ignore Him and His things. But He had not wronged me. What had just happened was that, like the kids in the story, my ears were filled with the wrong tune and that’s what I was listening to. The Liar’s lyre.

So what did I do? I don’t know, really. I’m supposed to tell you that I prayed more and studied the Bible more, and that that’s I got more strength, but that’s not what happened. To be honest, I didn’t feel I’d get anything from praying. When I read the Bible, it was as if there was no life. That’s where I was. I was supposed to stir up strength from my spirit within, but I felt too weak. Worn. Tired. And because my mindset was warped, so were my decisions. And, sure enough, somewhere deep inside, I blamed God for all of this. To most readers this scenario may sound weird, especially to those that know me personally. But I hope there’s someone out there that understands. Even if no one does, it’s OK. You don’t have to go through that. Just keep your mind on the right stuff. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thank God for exposing me to the right words. Like that verse that talks about how God is our Hiding Place, Who surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Though I was blinded to see His faithfulness towards me, I could see His faithfulness toward others, so I knew He was still out there somewhere. It’s like being in a dark basement, with a few pinpricks of light stealing in through cracks in the wall. I sought those spots where the light was peeking through, ‘cause that’s where I felt safe.

I realized that though I may be special, I’m not so special that His loving kindness would extend to all except me. I was hearing His words, but I wasn’t listening. For the longest time, I wasn’t listening. But He got through. Ha! He made sure He did. No matter how long it took, He hung on.

Why did it drag for so long? I guess I was a hard nut to crack. God did not leave me be. He kept making sure His words broke through the thick clouds around me, until I could finally really hear His songs of deliverance again. His words of Truth and encouragement.

He was trying to get to me all along.

That’s the annoying thing about Grace. No matter how hard we try to earn points on His scales, He shows us that He’s the One that gave us whatever points we’ve got. He’s the One helping us up.

I still have lots of questions, I won’t lie. I still do. But I’m learning to trust.

I’ll trust.

Man, I don’t usually get so personal in my writing. I prefer using a character in a convenient story to pass the message across, but I guess I just wanted to do this. Hope it’s worth something, though.

This is real life, man.

But, enough about me. Back to the point.


Sometimes the lies look like facts. Sometimes it’s easier to accept the lies than to fight to listen to God’s Voice of Truth.

We may be walking in caves as dark as Death with no light in sight (FACT), but we must not let that make us forget that there ever was a Sun. That there is still a Sun out there.

Don’t let circumstances make you forget that there’s a Son, either. And He’s not just ‘out there’, He’s ‘right here’ with you. The Son of God that died and rose to make you fully free – free to live, free to be! He’s alive! He’s broken the chains and blown the prison doors and nuked the concentration camp and placed you in another country, so you have no excuse for allowing the tunes of the Liar’s lyre to become your reality. God is holding you up, so trust Him. Let His words, His songs, break through to your heart. They are working on you. He’s working on you.

You may not feel it, but He’s after you. He’s surrounding you. Ah, if you could see His hands around you, trying to squeeze the darkness away. If your eyes could be opened so you can see what’s really going on!

There’s a battle going on, my friend. A battle for your soul. There’s a wooing going on, and each side is desperate for your heart.

One in seduction, One in Love.

One for destruction and One for Life.

The Liar wants to keep you shrouded in a cloud of darkness. The Truth wants to make you free, and truly free at that.

His words are real and true. Let them be your reality. Keep on studying what He’s said, and talking with Him. It’ll change your mindset.

Your feelings may not all change in an instant. But they also could. But whether they do or whether they don’t, you’ll be fine. Even when you mourn, Jesus says you will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). It’s not His desire for you to mourn, but even if you do He’s got you covered.

You see, the lies may be like those holograms. Holograms are particularly crafted to appear through some optical hijinks, subject to the directed lighting in the room. But the Truth has always remained. It’s the Pure Light that drives away all illusions.

And the Truth is that God loves you, and He’s got you. He would not let any evil come to you, and He would help you make an impact so great it would blow your mind (in a good way J ). His plan is for you to be satisfied and fulfilled in life. To thrive, not just to try to survive. What’s waiting beyond is so much better than anything there’s ever been. We can’t even imagine it, but He reveals it to us by His Spirit in us, His children.

So trust Him. He can be trusted.

And when you do, that’s when you’ll find the strength to stomp out the lies and shine Light into the Darkness, to encourage and comfort others.

To remind them that our Father has never left us. He’s right here.

Even in the deepest throes of Underland.


‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…’

PSALM 139:7, 8



<<Episode 1: LOVE

John 11_faith

We did not set out for Bethany until two days later. Lazarus was, no doubt, dead by then. Mary and Martha were in deep mourning by that time.

When my disciples were gathered I told them. “We need to get ready. We’ll be setting off for Judea today.”

To say they were astonished would be like saying the Jordan is wet.

“But, Master … Judea?! They’re out to kill you over there. It’s not safe to go now.”

“We’re just coming from there.”

“Can’t it wait?”

I turned to them. Yes, there were logical grounds for fear in Judea. But fear is never a good option. “Wouldn’t you rather walk in the day, when there’s light?” I told them. “Or would you prefer to walk in the night, when there’s no light? That’s an invitation to stumble.” Besides, I needed to be in Bethany. I wanted to get to my friend.

But they could neither see it, nor understand it. Not yet.

“Our friend, Lazarus, is asleep. I’m going over there to wake him up.” Oh, what a glorious sight it would be. Sickness thought it had its day, but Lazarus would not stay dead.

Andrew perked his ears at that. “Oh, so you’re saying he’s better now?”


“I mean, if he’s asleep, then he must no longer be sick. He’s alright. That doesn’t require a visit now.” The others nodded in agreement.

“Wisdom is profitable to direct,” Thomas counseled. Interesting. “These times are dangerous in Judea.”

I eventually had to use the ‘D’-word for them to understand what I was saying. I wanted their faith to be strong enough to see these things the way I saw them. But for now, it’s just one step at a time. “Lazarus is dead.” The room fell silent. “And I’m glad that I was not there earlier, for your sakes. You’re about to be given new grounds for your faith.”

The silence lingered for a moment.

“He’s dead?”

I stood. “So it’s settled then. Let’s get ready to tell the others. We’ll leave after lunch.”

I could feel their stares as I walked out of the room.

“He is serious … isn’t he?”

“Does anyone understand the Master these days?”

“You did see him leave the room. He means to leave now!”

“Sometimes I worry about him.”

“He’s been talking about dying and stuff. Now this?!”

“This is trouble, I tell you. Is he suicidal?”

“Don’t say that! You know who he is…”

“OK, alright. But still…”

“We’ve sworn our lives to him.” A loud sigh. “We might as well go and die with him.” That was Thomas’ voice.

I shook my head. Not even my closest friends could trust me on this. They just couldn’t see the Bigger Picture. They however trusted me enough to come along with me.

Looks like it’s just You and me, Father.


For as long as sin has existed, man has been subjected to death and the pain it brings. I’ve seen and felt that pain many times. I should know … my father on earth, Joseph Bar Yacov, died years ago. The pain of separation can be gut-wrenching, from this side of heaven. Death has been holding humanity in its grasp, bringing fear, oppression and despair in its wake.

But there is another side to these things. I am the One that brings life to the dead. There was Jairus’ daughter back in Capernaum; and there was also that young man in Nain. I brought them back to life.

But one day, I will be the death of Death itself … by my own death. It sounds crazy to the human mind now … but the Father knows what He is doing. We know the evil principalities will orchestrate my death, not knowing that they are bringing Life to Death’s very doorstep. It will be painful … torturous … the pain of the punishment for millennia-worth of the sins of men … Sometimes I wonder how I can go through it all. But I trust my Father to give me the strength when I need it.

In many ways, this whole experience reminded of me of my own coming sacrifice. Like Lazarus, I too will die. But I will rise. My friend has been given a front row seat on one of the greatest stories of all.

By the time we approached Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days already. We were still about a mile away from the village when I noticed the woman in black coming down the path towards us. Even from that distance I could tell who it was. Martha. The news of our coming had reached her already. I hurried ahead of the others, extending my hands for the embrace. She just stared at me as I approached, her face quivering. She had cried so much, her eyes were red. She willed herself not to cry anymore. With Lazarus gone, she and her sister would be at the mercy of their relatives. At least, that’s what she probably expected. Oh, Martha…

“It’s OK,” I whispered as I embraced her.

“Four days, Master,” she whispered into my shoulder. “Four days. If … if you had been here … my brother would not have died.” I stared into her face. What could I say? I knew waiting would hurt them, but I could not have done otherwise. If only she knew the great miracle waiting ahead. Would she understand? She inhaled deeply. “But I know that God will still give you whatever you ask.”

She still believed in me? Underneath all that pain and hurt, could she see what was really going on? Or did she think God was unfair in granting my requests but not healing her brother? “Your brother will rise again,” I told her.

She avoided my gaze. “I know. I know that he’ll be raised up too at the Resurrection at the end of time, when all the dead will rise—“

“Martha! Don’t be afraid to get your hopes up. You don’t have to wait for the end! I am —right now— Resurrection and Life. Even if they’re dead, if anyone believes in me they’ll live! And everyone who believes in me while they are still alive will never ultimately die. Do you believe this?”

It must have been hard for her, I know, demanding such faith. But it’s the truth. After all this, she would be able to believe in God for anything. That’s what I want. She nodded. “Yes, Master. All along, I’ve believed that you were … are the Messiah, the Son of God come into the world.” She knew and believed all that, but now it probably just felt like nothing but words. Was she reassuring herself? Did she really believe? She inhaled deeply. “Ah … I must go, get the house ready … please excuse me—“

“We’ll go with you—“

But she was already hurrying back into the village, desperate to keep the tears from falling in our presence. It was definitely not going to be easier. There was so much fear and doubt out here. It hurt that my friends had to go through so much pain. Was it necessary?

Father, thank You because in the end … it is all worth it.

“He really is dead, isn’t he?” Peter said behind me.

I turned and nodded. My disciples, the ones that would be my witnesses when all this is over. “For your sakes, I’m happy I waited.”

“You said so before. But…”

“Trust me,” I said. “This is so that you all –everyone— can see what my Father is capable of. Through me.”

We waited for the others to catch up. We had barely left that very spot when Mary came hurrying toward us. Friends and family, all in mourning, accompanied her. Many halted when they saw my friends and I. But my attention was on Mary alone. She did not hide her tears. She had believed in me for so long, and I had not come when her brother was ill. How should I expect her to feel?

She fell to her knees at my feet, crying. “Master! If only you had been here, my brother would still be alive!” No, she was definitely not happy.

“Mary –“

“It’s too late! Now my brother is dead. He died, Jesus. Lazarus is … gone.”

This was more difficult. She was crying. The pain… It was as though we were swallowed by this barrage of wails, as the mourners raised their voices with her. Dear Father…

Father, they’ll know this was worth it in the end. Let their faith be strengthened.

The fear and gloom and despair out there left a bad taste in my gut. Death had left its footprint, and it was a painful sight. Death, you will be the last enemy I will defeat.

I felt a lump in my throat when I asked, “Where was he laid?”

“Master, come and see,” one of the mourners said.

And they led us to the graveyard outside the village limits. It was a bare wasteland that reeked of loneliness and gloom – the opposite of what I have come to give humanity. These were my enemy’s stomping grounds, and my friend had been brought there as its trophy. Just like all humanity.

Lazarus in a grave.

Before I knew it, I was crying. I let the tears fall. I let the sobs turn to wails. Pent up feelings gushed out to the surface in that instant … and I wept. My disciples were troubled to see me cry, but I couldn’t help it. This was man’s lot because of sin’s curse. Death. So far, so opposite from what We intend for them.

But I will end this.

I will surely end this.

It is worth it, Father.

“Aw, he must really miss his friend,” someone said. “See how he loved him.”

They did not know that it was because I loved him that I had delayed my coming.

“Love, schmove! If he really loved him, why couldn’t this ‘Healer’ make his friend well before he died, eh? But call him to make a blind man see and he’ll show up. But for his friend? Meh!”

Not on a day like this. Not adversity now; not today. It will be worth it, my friend. It will all be worth it. You may deny me now, but this is for you too. Your faith will be energized.

No one saw what I was seeing, or expected what I was expecting. But in the midst of the doubt and adversity, the fear and gloom – I held on to my Father’s words.

Lazarus, I’m bringing you to life today.

When we got to the grave I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me!”


To be concluded… in Hope


NOTE: I understand that this interpretation of the story may cause some questions. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’ll also share mine. Thanks! 😀

The John 11 Story: Love

<<INTROJohn 11_love 2

We were all refreshing ourselves – that’s me and the Twelve, and many of my other followers— by the banks of the Jordan. I love these guys. Many of them have left their families to follow me. Some have brought their whole families along to join us. These people received the words of life into their hearts like bread, and I hoped that they would digest it. Just like we were digesting the meal we were eating at that moment. And it was a very refreshing one, I remember, especially after hours of teaching.

Andrew brought a young man to me. “Master, this is Ethan,” he said. “He brings news from Mary and Martha in Bethany.”

I recognized Ethan from the brief times we spent in Bethany. “Peace be to you, Ethan.”

“And to you, Master.”

“All the way from Bethany? You must be exhausted from the journey—”

He shook his head, barely blinking. “Your people have been very kind to me, sir. But I could not eat now, even if I wanted to.”

I nodded. “And why would you not want to?” I noticed the shadow over his features. Andrew knew it too. He had mentioned only Mary and Martha. “And how is my good friend, Lazarus?”

Ethan looked up at me. “That’s why I’m here, Master. Lazarus, your friend, is terminally ill. He needs you. Master.”

And that was the moment. The moment that altered the rest of the week.


With a word I could have healed him in that moment. Human logic and emotion required me to. I would have loved to. Lazarus. He has been a faithful man, taking care of his parents’ estate since their deaths. No ordinary suitor could take his sisters, not while he was around. And his generosity is overwhelming. His doors are always open to my disciples and I every time we pass through Bethany. Always willing to understand my teachings, Lazarus is a man I am glad to call my friend.

Healing him would bring joy to his sisters. They’ve been troubled long enough because of this sickness.


But I am never alone in these matters. My Father and I go through them together. He knew what was going on. He knew when the foul spirit of sickness took my friend’s body, and His ears were not silent to his cries and those of his sisters. But He had a much better, much Bigger plan.

That was how I knew that Lazarus, my friend, would die.

But the story would not end there. Like I said, We had a Bigger plan:

We would raise Lazarus to life from the dead! 😀

It would be amazing. This would build faith on a grand scale. Especially for Lazarus. He would have a front row seat on Resurrection before most people would. How great his faith would be at the end of all this, for all to see!

This will turn the eyes of many up to my Father, a big boost to their faith. They will see how awesome He is, and what He can do; that He can do anything! They will believe in me, the one He has sent. And my disciples, people like Andrew and even Ethan too, will be stronger witnesses of me and the Life I have come to give.

In the end, this would be best for Lazarus.

But to Ethan, Lazarus was still sick. He still stood there, staring at me, waiting for a response.

“This sickness would not end in death,” I said to him. “But it will be an opportunity for everyone to see how awesome God is, and what He can do. And His Son will be glorified as well.”

“So … you’ll come and heal him then?”

I smiled. ‘Healing’ would not cut it. Just not in the way they were expecting. Ethan bowed and left with a finality, sure that Lazarus would be fine, wondering why I did not follow him.

Mary and Martha would not be pleased at first. Death has always brought pain and despair, especially to the families of those it takes. It would no doubt bring more here. We take no pleasure in that. I am here to bring an end to Death’s tyrannical rule over mankind. But until then, the pain would still linger.

I know there is a glorious end to these things, but the journey to that end would be painful for me and for my friends. For Mary and Martha.

But my Father loves them much more than any human could. The pain and disappointment this death could cause were temporary and inconsequential compared to the Greater Glory waiting beyond this. When God is glorified, what they’ll have is much better than if it were another healing. I loved him too much to settle for that. Something much greater awaited him. There’s a Bigger Picture here.

I love my friend, Lazarus.

And that’s why I waited and let him die…

…For a time.


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]

Therefore [even] when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was.

JOHN 11:5, 6 (The Amplified Bible)

To be continued…in FAITH

 >> and HOPE