The ventriloquist God

As one of America’s premiere ventriloquists, David Pendleton will make you believe that anything can talk! As a 20-year veteran  entertainer and born again Christian believer, David uses his humor and stellar techniques to keep the audience engaged and laughing from start to finish, mixing in the truths of God’s plan for their lives. He has created a series of puppets for his characters that he uses in his shows and brings them to life by projecting his voice through them. Until the puppets start to talk, they are simply lifeless, but when, what is in the mind of David’s is projected through these puppets, it seems as if the lifeless puppets are alive.  See David can only use puppets that are lifeless for his show. If he was to use an organism that had a mind of its own and one that could verbally express it’s feelings, emotions and thoughts, then David cannot really use that organism to tell his story.

Similarly, we are created in the image of God. We are dead (lifeless) spiritually and until the voice of God which in the beginning said “Let there be light (that dispels the darkness)” is heard and received by those dead in sin, we remain lifeless. Jesus Christ is THE Light that dispels the darkness of sin and until He is received by you and me, we remain in spiritual darkness. When we hear God speak and when we respond, we can be used by Him to tell His story of grace, mercy, and love to the world that is in audience. Just like without David, the puppets can do nothing. Without Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We are merely God’s mouthpiece. It is not our wisdom or words that brings life, but it is the voice of God that is communicated through our lives that bring life to the lifeless and in order for God to work through us, we must be lifeless and have not a mind of our own. Instead, we are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed (more and more) into God’s likeness by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).

Point(s) to ponder:
Does the world around you hear the voice of God projected in and through you?

John 15:15 (KJV)
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Lessons from a blind man

Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43 records the healing of the blind beggar man Bar-ti-mae’-us (i.e., son of Ti-mae’-us) whose sight was restored when he pleaded and cried out to Jesus, asking Jesus to have mercy on him. This encounter starts with Bar-ti-mae’-us crying out to Jesus when he comes to know that Jesus was passing by. The people rebuke him and ask him to keep quiet, but Bar-ti-mae’-us does not succumb to peer pressure. He cries out even more with the same plea “Jesus, have mercy on me”. Interestingly, the Bible records that Jesus stood still and commanded that Bar-ti-mae’-us be called to him. When those who carried the words of Christ to this blind man, came to him, they said “Rise” for “Jesus is calling for you”. And casting away (laying aside) his garments, Bar-ti-mae’-us rose and came to Jesus. When Bar-ti-mae’-us reached Jesus, Jesus asks a question which on the onset may seem rhetorical and even absurd to some. Jesus asks Bar-ti-mae’-us, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?”. Was it not obvious that Bar-ti-mae’-us wanted to be able to see; to have his sight back. Bar-ti-mae’-us responded, “Lord, [what I will that you should do is] that I might receive my sight”. Jesus tells Bar-ti-mae’-us that his faith [in the Faithful one] has made him whole and asks him to go his own way. Immediately Bar-ti-mae’-us receives his sight (is able to see) and followed Jesus in the way.

Though this account may on the surface seem to be yet another miraculous encounter with Jesus, closer introspection of the text reveal treasures hidden in it that can edify us. What are some of the lessons we can learn from this blind man?

  1. Bar-ti-mae’-us took the initiative to call out to Jesus and plead for his mercy. If Bar-ti-mae’-us had not cried out, he would have died a blind man. Those who don’t know Jesus or those who have forgotten their first love (Jesus) are very much in the same state as was Bar-ti-mae’-us; blind spiritually. If we are one of them, we must cry out to Jesus and ask for his mercy to remove the darkness.
  2. The people rebuked Bar-ti-mae’-us and charged him to hold his peace (i.e. keep quiet). The world today is no different than the people in Jesus’ times on earth. When they hear someone call out to the Savior, you invariably find the world rebuking and charging all those seeking mercy to be quiet.
  3. Bar-ti-mae’-us cried out even a great deal more. We must not succumb to peer pressure or pressures of this world, when we are calling on Jesus. When the cry for mercy reaches the son of God, Jesus Christ, he stands stills. He does not pass anyone by, because He paid it all, for all, and the will of God is that all be saved.
  4. The message that was brought to Bar-ti-mae’-us was “Rise” for “Jesus is calling for you.” and Bar-ti-mae’us rose and went to Jesus. We must rise from our sinful and fallen state when we know that Jesus is calling for us. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. When we call out to Jesus, don’t be surprised, when he calls back for you. We must rise to meet the RISEN one. But did you notice, that before Bar-ti-mae’-us rose to meet with Jesus, he cast away his clothes. We must in like manner lay aside every thing that besets us and rise to meet Jesus, the resurrected risen Savior.
  5. When Bar-ti-mae’-us reached Jesus, he was asked a question as to what he willed that Jesus should do. What a powerful question that is. Jesus is asking you and me the same question. What is your will that I must do? Often we see that we are asking for God’s will, but our God is not a puppeteer. He asks us as to what we will, that He should do as well. Bar-ti-mae’-us responded that “He would like to receive his sight” and Jesus granted him that request. Imagine for a moment, if Bar-ti-mae’-us had asked for riches or for some other selfish gain. Do you think Jesus would have satisfied his request. Well, Jesus could have but should Jesus have. Note, Jesus did not ask, what he COULD do, but instead asked, what he SHOULD do. If you hear the words of Jesus, asking you what he SHOULD do, tell that you would like have the spiritual darkness lifted so that you and I may see. It is our confession and request for redemption that Jesus wants to hear. For when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
  6. Jesus heals Bar-ti-mae’-us telling him that it was his faith that healed him. Faith in the Faithful One makes all those who are  incomplete to be whole.
  7. Finally, note how Bar-ti-mae’-us was asked to go his way. Jesus did not ask Bar-ti-mae’-us to follow Him. Nonetheless, when Bar-ti-mae’-us could see the very One who could make the blind to see, he did not go his own way, but instead followed Jesus. Bar-ti-mae’-us was not just restored physically but spiritually as well. When spiritual darkness is lifted and we receive sight by faith in Jesus Christ, we must resolve to not go back to our beggarly (sinful) lifestyle and follow Jesus.

Mark 10:46-52 (KJV)
And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.
And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

All in One – Priest, Judge, Prophet, and King

Before the time of the kings, the modus operandi was theocratic in nature and the voice of the Lord was heard by His people via priests, judges, prophets and kings. While the old testament priests had to enter into the Holy of holies with a sacrifice to atone, first for their own sins, and then intercede on behalf of the people, Jesus was made a High Priest by God Himself, because he showed up empty handed to the sacrifice and offered himself on behalf of all mankind (Hebrews 9:24-26).  The last judge and first prophet of Israel, was Samuel which is variously translated “The Name of God,” “His Name is God,” “Heard of God,” and “Asked of God.” Many prophets and kings followed Samuel. Just a Samuel was the last Judge of Israel, Jesus will be the final judge for all mankind (Rev 19:11) and as Samuel was a prophet, so is Jesus a prophet from Nazareth (Matthew 21:11). While many kings ruled over God’s people after the time of the prophets, Jesus Christ is the only one who is given authority and a name above all kings as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).

No longer is the voice of God needed to be audible to us through God’s prophets, because Jesus Christ is not just the voice of God, but the very  WORD of God (John 1:1). In Jesus Christ, we have THE High Priest, THE final Judge,  THE Prophet and THE King of kings and when we believe that Jesus Christ is THE Lord and Savior, there is no more need for priests, judges, prophets and kings. Jesus Christ is the All-in-One!

“Have you believed in THE All-in-One?”
“Do you belong to THE All-in-One?”

Hebrews 9:24-26 (KJV)
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

What is to be or what was!

June 24th, 2010 goes down in the annals of Tennis as one of the days that is historic; a day in which an epic battle ensued between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut on the tennis courts of Wimbledon. This event was rightfully referred to, by Mahut, as the greatest match ever in the greatest place to play tennis in the greatest tournament (Wimbledon 2010). The match was as 5 setter with each contestant having 2 sets and battling for their 3rd set. The match continued for 11 hours and 5 minutes, spanning 3 days, establishing several unprecedented records by both players, until  Isner finally won with a 70-68 game count in the 5th set. After the match was over, to honor the players and the umpire, a memento was presented and the players interviewed. When Mahut was questioned on his mental fortitude as he served to stay in the match and the pressure each time he came off a time break, Mahut replied “I was not thinking about this, I was just thinking about wining the game I was playing, the point I was playing, again and again. It was very long but I think we both enjoyed it.” Mahut did not think about the past, irrespective of whether he had won or lost the point. He kept thinking about what was to be and this helped him fight as no one has ever fought before. He did not dwell on the past but sought to think solely of the future.

We ought to be likewise in our Christian walk with God as well and as Paul expressed, we need to press on (run and fight) with our focus for future glory (Philippians 3:14). We need to stop dwelling on our past and press on thinking about the future. God does not dwell on our past and graciously He remembers our repented sins no more (Hebrews 6:17). The devil on the other hand not only remembers our repented sins always but he seeks persistently to remind us of our past. In fact, the devil strategy is to whisper temptation one moment and then bring down the hammer of guilt in the next.

Point(s) to ponder:
Where is your/mine focused on?
What is to be or what was!

We should not be dwellers in the past (what was). We need to be future thinkers (what is to be), looking forward and unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Hebrews 6:16-18 (KJV)
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

Philippians 3:14 (KJV)
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

It is time …

The renowned author of the “7 habits of highly effective people”, Dr. Stephen Covey, dedicates a section of his best seller to time management as he expresses that highly effective people, put first things first. But even with the best of time management, many of us often complain that there is not enough or no time for the things we need to have done. We find ourselves to be incredibly busy. Partly this could be because we don’t put first things first; in other words, we don’t give our time, preeminence and priority to the people and things that matter most. But there is more to this than just time allocation. It is also about time control, and by this, I mean recognizing who is in control of our time. Most of us try to do all the things we need to get done, all on our own strength. We try to control time by our own strength and abilities. Herein lies the problem.

The Bible tells us that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and that God makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Notice, it is His time that matters, not ours. It is God who needs to be in control of our time. He has ordained twenty fours hours in a day for us, but that time is really His and when we recognize this and that we are merely stewards of His time, only then can we be highly effective for him. We need to be like the Psalmist who exclaimed “It is time for thee, Lord, to work” and trust that He will carry His work through our lives. Let us not continue to exhaust our time trying to work for our lives but instead let us give to God our time so that He can work in our lives. At this juncture, let us also recognize that when we submit our time to God for Him to work, let it be in totality. Say you ask painter to paint your portrait. Do you think that painter can output a beautiful work of art, if you keep grabbing the brush from the painter’s hand upon each brush stroke?  Likewise, once we give to God our time, let us not meddle in his work.

When we give to God our time, then the added benefit is that we have less time for ourselves and our selfish sinful desires and when He works in our lives, He always makes every thing beautiful (in His time).

Psalm 119:126a (KJV)
It is time for thee, LORD, to work: …

Ecclesiastes 3:11a (KJV)
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:

Searching eyes of God

2 Chronicles 16:9 informs us that the eyes of the Lord are going to and fro. In other words, the eyes of the Lord is searching and this raises questions that warrant answers. Fortunately, the answers are given in that same verse.

Question: Where is the eyes of the Lord searching?
Answer: The whole earth

Question: Who is the eyes of the Lord searching for?
Answer: For those whose heart is perfect toward Him.

Question: Why is the eyes of the Lord searching?
Answer: To show himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.

What can we learn from this?

Firstly, note how it is not only someone but something in someone that the Lord is searching for.  It is a “perfect” heart that the Lord is searching for. When man looks for outward characteristics, God looks inward at the heart. Think about this. If God had looked at outward appearances, the brother’s of King David (arguably the greatest King of all Israel) would have superseded him, but God chose David, because his heart was after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Since God is perfect, to have a perfect heart toward him, is to have our heart after God’s own heart as David did. Finally, God is searching for a person with a perfect heart, so that He can show His strength on behalf of that person. It is God that is to be glorified by the display of His strength through that person.

Point(s) to ponder:
If the Lord’s eyes were to see you/me today, would he find you/me to be one with a ‘perfect’ heart – a heart that is after God’s own heart?

2 Chronicles 16:9a (KJV)
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

Message or Messengers of Christ Jesus

Many Christians (present company included) often view their roles as being the messengers of the Gospel to those around them. The great commission in a sense mandates that we ought to be messengers but the scripture also counsels us that we ought to be, not just messengers but the message of the Gospel itself (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Sometimes we are eager to share the Gospel (as the messenger) but seldom do we remain still for others to read us as the message of the Gospel. When Jesus dealt justly with the woman caught in the act of adultery, he did play the role of a messenger of God and share with her accusers His salvation story, but instead he was the message of Salvation to her questioning her as to where those who needed Salvation were. He was in the midst of those who needed to read the epistle/message of God in Him and without sharing a word, he spoke volumes.

Point(s) to ponder:
1. We ought not to be just the messengers of God but also the message of the Gospel itself.
2. When those around us view our lives, will they see the handwriting of God in our lives; Will they see us as His epistle?

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (KJV)
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

What kind of a father is Jesus?

We all celebrated father’s day 2010 yesterday and I thank God for having granted me the privilege of being an earthly father to Reuben Abishai Paul (RAP). As I reminisced about father’s day, I was reminded of my own biological father, Dr. R.A.C. Paul,  who on the 30th day of September, 1986 passed away from this ephemeral world to enter into an eternal kingdom. And as my heart wandered to wonder about why I was deprived of a father-son relationship, I was promptly reminded from the scripture that God is the father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). Jesus Christ addressed Almighty God as Holy Father (John 17:11) while affirming that He and the Father are One  (John 10:30).

But what kind of a father is Jesus/God?

He is a
Friend of the sinner (Matthew 11:19),
Alpha/the First (Revelation 1:8),
Teacher from God (John 3:2),
Holy (Mark 1:24),
Emmanuel/With us (Matthew 1:23) and a
Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4) on whom we can depend.

And to all who believe and receive Jesus, He gave them the power to be called the sons of God (John 1:12) and because we have received the Spirit of adoption, we can call God, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Our relationship with God is that of a father-son relationship only because of our Spiritual Father, Jesus Christ; it is by adoption, and not by ancestry.

And as children of God, what kind of father’s do we need to be?
We need to be
1. the friends of those who are lost (who have not believed and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Father);
2. the first (alpha) to pass the baton of faith to our earthly children;
3. the teacher of the fear of the Lord;
4. holy as God the father is Holy;
5. always with and for our children and loved ones; and
6. the rock on which our children and loved ones can depend on.

John 1:12-13 (KJV)
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Ephesians 6:4 (KJV)
4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Through The Bible

American clergyman and author, Phillips Brooks, who served as the Bishop of Massachusetts in the Episcopal Church during the late 1800s is known to have said the following about the Bible. “The Bible is like a telescope. If a man looks through his telescope, then he sees the worlds beyond; but if he looks at his telescope, then he does not see anything but that. The Bible is a thing to be looked through, to see that which is beyond; but most people only look at it; and so they see only the dead letter.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee in his radio ministry “Thru the Bible” exposited chapter by chapter and verse by verse with the mission of proclaiming the whole Word to the whole world. Brooks and Dr. McGee had the right perspective. The Bible is to be looked through.

From the page that begins with “In the beginning” to the final words which ends with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”, it is a revelation of God’s great love story. In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1) a.k.a., the Word that became flesh and dwelt among man in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14) and the Word was with God and was God (John 1:1). Note how in the beginning, there is no mention of anyone other than the Godhead – God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ (the Word) and the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:1-2). We were not there in the beginning, but the good news is that all who believe in Jesus Christ will be there in the end. The final word in the Bible is the word “all” as the Bible ends with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”, penultimate in position, only to affirm that so be it (Amen). The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ does not exclude anyone and is all inclusive. It is freely available to all; from the penitent sinner to the practicing saint.

When we look at the Bible, we merely see a dead letter of God to man. But when we look through the Bible, we see not only God’s story, but we see THE GRACE story. In other words, we see Jesus Christ revealed in the pages of the Bible.

Point(s) to ponder:
1. When you read the Bible, who do you see?
2. Someone said your life may be the only Bible someone may read. If this is true, if someone see through our lives, will they see Jesus Christ or are we about showcasing ourselves that people don’t see through us but at us and find our lives to be a dead letter?

To be still or not to be

In the movie, The Karate kid, Jackie Chan expresses that to be still does not mean you are doing nothing. When training his student, he asks the boy to look into the water and asks him as to what he sees. The boy replies that it is his reflection that he sees. Now the master stirs the water and asks the same question, to which the boy responds that the image is blurry. It is only when the water is still and clear, can the reflection be seen. Unfortunately, from the time of Adam in the garden, man’s selfish pursuits have often put him in a grind for things that don’t matter. We are constantly seeking answers to all unanswered questions and a solution to every problem we encounter. Sadly, to be still is often misunderstood to be “useless”, “non-engaging”, or even worse “doing nothing”. So what does it mean to be still?

When Jesus rebuked the raging storm of wind and waves that threatened His disciples in the boat, He said, “Peace, be still” and the wind ceased and there was great calm (Mark 4:38-41). When the winds and the waves obeyed Him and became still, the disciple questioned “What manner of man is this?” In the stillness and the calmness of the elements was a question that surfaced which sought to answer and exposit “What manner of man Jesus is?” a.k.a. “Who Jesus is?” God’s image was reflected in Jesus, in the calmness of the sea and they questioned as to who He is. Likewise when we are still, our calmness needs to reflect who Jesus is and have those around us, ask “What manner of man/God Jesus is?”

In a world that is constantly on the rush with its ephemeral pursuits,  we often blurry the image of life that God has ordained us for. To be still does not mean we are doing nothing. When we are still, God’s image can be clearly (not a blurry image) seen and this should lead those around us to recognize who Jesus is, the (manner of) man in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily (Colossians 2:9).

Point(s) to ponder: Is your/my life calm that we are reflecting Jesus Christ and making those around us ask as to who Jesus Christ is.

Psalm 46:10 (KJV)
10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

In a world that is constantly on the rush with its ephemeral pursuits,  we often blurry the image of life that God has ordained us for.