BIBLE ALIVE 18: Hearty Thanksgiver

BIBLE ALIVE 18: Hearty Thanksgiver

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” cried out the ten lepers with one unanimous and importunate voice. They were standing about ten feet away from Christ who was headed for Jerusalem and was now at the border between Galilee and Samaria.

These lepers had heard about Christ, how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. If there was one disease that could be described as ‘the oppression’, plunging the bearer into ostracism and complete worthlessness in the society, it was leprosy. So, on seeing Jesus and the crowd around him, they trailed Him until he entered a certain village, hoping on Him, as saviour and deliver, to take this yoke of disease from them.

On hearing their voice, Jesus stopped and turned to face them. Weary as He was, he did not put them off, nor adjourn their cause. His disciples and the crowd too that were tagging along stopped. Jesus nudged them aside to get a clear view of these men. The lepers moved a little closer to Christ but maintained a distance, knowing that by the law, their disease obliged them to keep their distance.

Christ beckoned on them with His hands and spoke on top of His voice saying, “Go show yourselves unto the priest!” What! The lepers must have thought. It wasn’t what they were expecting. One of them murmured saying, “Let him either cure us or say that he will not, and not send us to the priests on a fool’s errand.” The others hushed him, reminding him that it was Christ’s command, whose words never fell to the ground. It was a tough thing to do; for one only goes to the priest after cure, for confirmation, to be pronounced whole. In unison, they turned, to go to the priest. It was a test of their obedience, and they passed it.

As they walked and talked about other matters on their way, suddenly they discovered they were healed. They shouted for joy, touching each other, feeling their skin; they even hugged one another for a while, then continued their journey, now in a haste, to see the priest. They couldn’t wait to be looked upon by the priest and have a certificate from him that they were clean, to be discharged from his confinement.

Then one of the lepers, the only Samaritan among them, stopped abruptly on the way. The others turned to look at him, and with their eyes, demanded what the problem was. He spoke up saying he had to get back to Jesus before going to the priest. The others asked, “For what?” “To thank Him.” He replied. “Please that can wait.” someone said. But he ignored them, turning around to get to Jesus, the Author of his cure. For he desired Christ to have the glory of it, before he derived the benefit of it.

He ran back, jumping at some point and walking at other, the joy in his soul bubbling out. In no time he got to Jesus. On hearing this man shouting, Jesus stopped and turned again in His journey. This time, the cleansed Samaritan got to just a hand’s breath from Christ. With a loud voice, with singing and dancing, with a hearty and affectionate countenance, he glorified God and praised Him, who had healed him. He fell down on the ground in front of Jesus, face down in the dust, thanking Him for what He had done.

Then Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the nine? Only this Samaritan came to give God the glory?” For this Samaritan had distinguished himself; for the Samaritans were separatists from the Jews, not knowing the true worship of God.

Jesus, holding his hand, lifted him up saying, “Stand up and go. Your faith has made you whole.” For the other nine had their cure by the wholesale spoken word of Christ, and were headed to have it confirmed by an earthly priest, but he had his cure, and by the singular act of thanksgiving, had it confirmed and perfected by the High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.

Food for thought: (1) We have to be speedy in our returns of praise, less time wears out the weight of the mercy received. (2) Thanksgiving, done heartily and affectionately, perfects and makes permanent what God has done.

Scriptural reference (s): Luke 17:11-19

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BIBLE ALIVE 17: Floating Axe head

BIBLE ALIVE 17: Floating Axe head

There was a college of the prophets located in Gilgal near Jordan, in which Elisha was a visiting professor. Everyone flocked to him for the advantage of his instructions, counsels and prayers.

Over time, their number in this college increased, Elisha’s miracles doubtless drew in many. The hostel and meeting venue, which they built in a tent fashion with oak wood and thatched roofs, were too small to contain them. So they approached Elisha to inform him about their plight and plans.

“Permit us to go to Jordan where each of us can get a beam of wood and let us make a tent house there where we can meet and dwell.” These prophets were so poor that they had not wherewithal to hire workmen, but must leave their studies and work for themselves; nor to buy tools, but must borrow of their neighbours. They were industrious men, willing to take pains. They desired not to live like idle drones, upon the labour of others, but to be permitted to work with their own hands.

“Go!” Elisha said, permitting them. They stood before him, staring at themselves for a while, then spoke again, requesting, “Please come with your servants, not only to advise us in any exigence, but to keep good order among us, that, being under your eye, we may behave as we ought.” This they requested showing the reverence they had for Elisha. They were not willing to go fell tree without his company. Elisha responded, “Okay then, I will go.”

They walked down to river Jordan as one company, and in no time got to the river side. They divided themselves into groups and started working. Some trees were by the river, having their trunks shooting out of the water. Others were some distant from the water. They had to climb the trees with the help of a rope, tied around their waist and the tree trunk, and systematically using it to climb, reaching the tree branches.

One of the prophet was on one of those trees by the river. As he hewed the stem, the axe head fell off from the handle into the water. This man shouted in dismay, raising an alarm that attracted everyone’s attention. He came down from the tree and went to the river bank. At this time, others had stopped working and came to meet him. Elisha who was walking about supervising their work was also now standing before him.

He said to Elisha, “Sir, help me. I’m finished. The axe, it was borrowed.” Elisha placed his left hand on his right shoulder and said, “Relax, do not be perturbed. Where did it fall?” The young prophet pointed to the spot on the river. Then Elisha left them, cut a stick from a nearby tree, came back and threw it into that spot on the river.

Then suddenly, the axe head surfaced on the water and started floating. Elisha immediately commanded him, “Lift it out!” Then the man bent down, stretched forth his hand and grabbed it.

Food for thought: (1) We ought to take good oversight of the belongings of others, left in our care. (2) Expect the miraculous in your every (mundane) activity; for the God of nature is not tied up to its laws. (3) God’s grace can raise the stony iron heart which has sunk into the mud of this world.

Scriptural reference (s): 2 Kings 6:1-6; 

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BIBLE ALIVE 16: Bible Vigil

BIBLE ALIVE 16: Bible Vigil

It was a Sunday evening and the church in Troas were gathered together in an upper room to break bread, celebrating the ordinance of the Lord’s supper. It was the last of the seven days that Paul stayed with them, and he gave them a long farewell sermon, pouring his heart to them.

The meeting started at about 5:30pm. After the usual formalities, Paul was called on to speak. He started speaking at 6pm and continued till midnight. There were candles set up, many of them to light the place, that the hearers may turn to the Scriptures Paul quoted, to see whether the things he told them were so. 

The people were very eager to hear. Here was the great apostle that brought forth and taught the gospel of Christ with power. They had been listening to him for the past six days but it seemed like they had not had enough. They wanted to get as much as they could, seeing he was leaving them the next day. So, they denied themselves the pleasure of sleep, if it be but for this moment. In doing this, some stood up and paced about for a while, and sat down. Some maintained the standing position. Others that felt standing would be a distraction, pinched themselves with their finger nails or with a pointed objects, all in a bid to stay awake. 

A young man named Eutychus (whose name signified one that had good fortune) was found in this struggle against sleep. It would be a great loss for him to give into the claws of sleep and miss out on the weighty teachings spewed out by the apostle himself. After pacing awhile, and standing awhile, he sat in the window which was unglazed, and leaned against its post. As the cool breeze from outside caressed his skin, he lapsed into the oblivion of sleep.

Eutychus being fast asleep now, lost all his reflexes, and his body went limp, falling backward from the window of the third story and down to ground below, smashing his head on hard concrete. The impact of the fall was so great that the brain matter within his skull was yanked off from its inner surface, resulting in a massive intracranial bleed. With blood oozing from his nostrils, ears and eyes, he died instantly.

There was a great uproar in the meeting room upstairs when everyone discovered that Eutychus had fallen down. Paul had to immediately stop his teaching and dash down. As he alighted the stairs, he prayed with his spirit, speaking in other tongues. It was obvious this was the devil’s ploy to disturb this assembly and reproach him. He was going to fix his heart on God, and God was going to get all the glory.

When Paul got to Eutychus, he was laying dead on the floor, surrounded by some people who had gotten there before him. They were already making pitiful remarks and sobbing. He shoved them aside and got to the dead man on the floor. He fell on the dead man and embraced him, signifying what great compassion he had for him, and the descent of that divine power of God to raise the dead back to life again. As his body rested on this dead body, he inwardly, earnestly and in faith, prayed for him.

After a while, Paul stood up in full assurance that God had healed the young man, bringing him back to life. He looked from the body still laying dead before him and turned to the people saying, “Trouble not yourselves, and be not in any disorder about this; for his life is in him and he is not dead but he sleeps. Lay him a while upon a bed and he will come to himself.”

The people were puzzled at Paul’s statement. Some remained standing with the dead body, while others followed Paul as he went back upstairs. Paul had spoken, and he was sure a servant of God. So they did as he had said, and laid him on a bed.

Paul got up to the meeting venue and summoned everyone, continuing the meeting like nothing tragic had happened. They continued by breaking bread and eating together in a love-feast, after which Paul continued teaching and interacting with the people till daybreak.

Before they parted in the morning, they brought the young man Eutychus alive into the congregation. Everyone started rejoicing and congratulating him on his return to life. The people left this vigil greatly comforted, with all readiness to propagate the gospel.

Food for thought: (1) Let us watch and pray that we enter not into the temptation of falling asleep while reading or hearing God’s word. (2) Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves (as believers) together, for therein, we are edified. (3) God is able to show miraculous mercy, even the raising of the dead.

Scriptural reference (s): Acts 20:7-12; 17:11; Matthew 26:40-41; Hebrews 10:25;

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BIBLE ALIVE 15: Labile perception

BIBLE ALIVE 15: Labile perception

Paul, other prisoners, Julius the centurion and other travellers with Paul found themselves on an island in the Mediterranean after their ship of Adramyttium was shipwrecked, they escaping as by a whisker. 

The island on which they found themselves was called Melita. It was an island lying between Sicily and Africa, twenty miles long and twelve miles broad, sixty miles from Sicily (being the farthest from the continent of any island in the Mediterranean). On this island resided a barbarous people (because they did not, in language or custom, conform either to the Greeks or Romans).

These survivors had swum to the shores, coming on broken pieces of the ship and were sadly wet. As if this was not enough, to complete the deluge, waters from above met those from below, for it rained cats and dogs, drenching them to the skin. As they walked into this island shivering, the people received them warmly, showing great hospitality, led them to a large hall.

Paul and his companion needed warmth more than anything. So the people made room for them around the fire and bade them welcome, without asking either what country they were of, or what religion.

Now the fire was to be made bigger, so that more people could benefit from it. Paul joined the company that went out to gather sticks and was as busy as any of them in doing so. Paul was an industrious active man, and loved to be doing when any thing was to be done, and never contrived to take his ease. He was a humble self-denying man, and would stoop to any thing by which he might be serviceable, even to the gathering of sticks to make a fire. Though he was free from all, and of greater account than any of them, yet he made himself servant of all.

Paul had gathered sticks that were old and dry. And as it happened, there was a viper among them that laid still as dead. But when the sticks came to the fire, the venomous beast felt the heat and being provoked, flew at him that unawares threw it into the fire, fastening upon his hand. 

Now Paul stood beside the fire unperturbed, with the viper hanging from his hand. The beast appeared not to put him into any fright or confusion at all. He did not shriek or start, nor, as it would be natural for most people to do, throw it off with terror and precipitation; for he suffered it to hang on so long that the people had time to take notice of it; the scripture upmost in his mind were the words of Christ to His disciples, “they shall take up serpents…”

The barbarous people on noticing the venomous beast on Paul’s hand concluded saying, “No doubt this man is a murderer, has shed innocent blood, and therefore, though he has escaped the sea, yet divine vengeance pursues him, and fastens upon him.” Now the people around Paul drew near and surrounded him to behold this hideous sight.

Before them all, he carelessly shook off the beast into the fire, without any difficulty, calling for help, or any means used to loosen its hold. Those that thought he would have swollen and fallen down dead suddenly, looked a great while, but saw no harm at all come to him – God intending to make Paul remarkable among this barbarous people, to make a way for the entertainment of the gospel among them.

In utter amazement they watched as Paul turned from the flames and walked towards them. On seeing he remained unharmed, they changed their minds and concluded that he was a god – magnifying him as much as they had before vilified him.

Food for thought: (1) Every stormy wind fulfils God’s counsel, to them that love God. (2) It is our duty to be compassionate to those that are in distress and misery, and to relieve and succour them to the utmost of our ability. (3) We should reckon nothing below us but sin, and be willing to condescend to the meanest offices, if there be occasion, for the good of the brethren. (4) Popular opinions are many a times uncertain and labile, turning with the wind.

Scriptural reference (s): Acts 28:1-6; Hebrews 13:2; Mark 16:17-18; Romans 8:28;

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BIBLE ALIVE 14: Inordinate affection

BIBLE ALIVE 14: Inordinate affection

Amnon, the eldest son of king David, laid on his bed in his room feigning sick. He had been without food for about three days now because of the raging sexual passion inside him that he couldn’t satisfy. He was strongly attracted to his step-sister, a feeling he found difficult to resist. Her name was Tamar, the younger sister of Absalom, whose stunning beauty all could behold.

Upon counsel of his friend and cousin Jonadab, he was malingering, laying in bed all in a bid to attract his father’s attention, and then his sister’s, seeking occasion to sleep with her. David, being an affectionate father that he was, on hearing that Ammon was sick, came to see him.

“My boy! On hearing that you are sick, I came at once to see you.” David said. “Yes Dad! I’ve been having a fever for three days now and I can’t seem to keep anything down.” replied Ammon. “Sorry dear, just take time and rest. I would send the royal physician to see you later. We know nothing happens by chance. God has a purpose for this.” David admonished. He continued encouraging him, “Take time and seek God’s face and make the right use of this affliction.” David held the hands of his son and prayed with him.

Before leaving, David being an indulgent father asked, “Is there any thing that you will need, that I may procure for you?” “Yes sir! replied the dissembling son, “My stomach is weak, and I know not of any thing I can eat, unless it be a cake of my sister Tamar’s making, and I cannot be satisfied that it is so unless I see her make it, and it will do me the more good if I eat it at her hand.” David saw no reason to suspect any mischief intended. So, he immediately ordered Tamar to go and attend to her sick brother.

Tamar innocently went to her brother’s apartment, not dreading any abuse, in obedience to her father and love for her brother, to be his nurse. She, though being a princess, was a great caterer. She went to his kitchen and kneaded and baked cakes. When it was time to serve Amnon, he asked all his servants to leave, and that Tamar brought the cakes to him in his bedroom. Tamar obliged him, wanting to grant the every wish of her sick brother, her chaste and virtuous soul had not the least thought of that which this polluted beast was full of.

On getting to his bedroom, Amnon did away with his pretence and shoved the food aside. He pulled her by the hand and said, “Come to bed and lie with me, my sister.” Tamar pushed his hands off her, and with surprise and great terror turned to make for the door. Amnon sprang to his feet and dashed to the door, bolting it.

Tamar stood before her brother, trembling. In her widest dream she would not have thought her brother to make a request this demeaning. It was a base affront to her virtue to think it possible to persuade her to consent to this great wickedness. But when she saw how determined he was to satisfy his beastly desires, she resorted to employ reasoning, if by so doing, she could dissuade her brother.

The twine were now standing face-to-face. Tamar stood with the pleading facie and Amnon, set as a beast ready to devour its prey. She reprimanded him, “Brother, you know it is unlawful for you to marry me, much more to debauch me.” She continued, entreating him, “Please do not force me. It is folly and great wickedness. Such abominations should not be committed in Israel – God’s own people.

“For my part, how will I cause this shame to go away? How will I be able to look my friends in the face?” She continued her advocacy, “For your part, you will be looked upon as an atrocious debauchee, the worst of men; you will lose the respect of all and will be set aside as unfit to rule, though the first-born; for Israel will never submit to the government of such a fool.”

To divert him from this wicked intent, she threw her last punchline, “Please speak to the King, he will not keep you from being married to me.” This she said, not believing that the king would consent, but that if only he could let her go for this reason, the king on hearing of this wicked desire will take an effectual course to protect her from him.”

But Amnon, the beast that he had become, will not give in to her persuasion, but will prove himself an unreasonable base villain. He pushed her on the bed, tore her clothes off and forced himself on her, raping her.

After the did was done, he stood up from her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than the so called love he had for her earlier on. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

Food for thought: Pleasures of the flesh are deceitful, as soon as they pass away, turn into loathing. 

Scriptural reference (s): 2 Samuel 13:1-19;

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BIBLE ALIVE 13: A wandering eye

BIBLE ALIVE 13: A wandering eye

“Ho-hum!” David yawned, stretching his whole body, his hands in the air and his feet spread apart. It was 4pm and he was just waking up from an afternoon nap. Since he had nothing specific to do, he laid back on his bed and allowed his mind to wander.

It was spring and the season when kings go out to war. David felt he had fought a lot of battles already and needed to rest. So, he had sent Joab in his stead, and the whole Israelite army out to battle. They had destroyed the Ammonites and were now laying siege against Rabbah. 

As David laid supine, his back to the bed, the palm of his hands under his head and eyes peering into the roof above, he heard the voice of his conscience saying, “David, you’re drawing back to perdition. You dozed away the afternoon in idleness which you should have spent in exercise for your own improvement or the good of others.” In defence he replied his conscience, “Man, I’m not getting younger. I’ve paid my dues, I need rest.” His conscience continued, “You used to pray, not only morning and evening, but also at noon during the days of your troubles. Now you’ve neglected to do so.” “I’d pray later.” he snapped.

He turned on his bed, facing the wall, his left side to the bed. He thought about his wives. They were not giving him the sexual satisfaction that he needed. He was a middle-aged man now and he felt he needed a young blooded beautiful woman. He considered taking another wife. He would probably do that at the end of spring.

He sat up from his bed and went to the wardrobe. He pulled out a loose robe – a causal outfit he wore in the evening when he wanted to take a stroll. He was getting bored inside and wanted to sightsee. The best view will be his rooftop. He walked to the edge of his room and took the narrow spiral stairs that led to the roof. The roof was a concrete slab flat roof made up of a structural layer of concrete, finished with a smooth screed onto which a water proof layer was laid.

As he mounted the rooftop at the south end, he took in the cool evening air and stood for a while looking into the sky and enjoying the moment. He walked eastward to the edge of the roof and looked down to see children playing in the sand, others chasing after each other and throwing dust into the air. He walked away, moving northward and looked down over the edge. A man was pushing his cart of two wheels, loaded with timber he had hewed during the day. He sighed, and moved westward and looked down. His eyes found a naked woman taking her bath in the courtyard of her house, carved out for that purpose. David immediately took his eyes away. But his lustful passion was already stirred.

He took a second look at the woman and saw that she was stunningly beautiful; fair, straight legs, well built hips and long hair that hung on her pear-shaped face. His conscience said to him, “Man, you’re lusting. Look away.” He sneered and replied, “I don’t mind taking her for a wife if she’s unmarried. Let me find out.”

He walked down the stairs and called out to one of his servants. “Who is that woman that lives to the west of the palace in a side courtyard house painted yellow?” “Your highness, I’d find out and get back to you.” replied his servant. He servant returned, informing him that the woman’s name was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite. “Send for her!” the king commanded.

“I thought you said if she was married, you’d let her be.” teased his conscience. “I just want to enjoy her company. We will talk and eat together, nothing more.” David replied. 

When Bathsheba arrived, David placed his elbow around her neck, after they had exchanged pleasantries. He took her to his personal dinning room where they ate. After eating and talking for about an hour, being driven by his violent sexual passion, he led her to his bedroom where he had sex with her.

Food for thought: (1) When we are out of the way of our duty, we are in the way of temptation. (2) The bed of sloth often proves the bed of lust.  (3) Eyes not bound by covenant will result in a life prone to sexual sin. (4) No one is absolved of temptation, no matter how great that person has become.

Scriptural reference (s): 2 Samuel 11:1-5; Job 31:1; Proverbs 6:25-29;

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BIBLE ALIVE 12: Flee Fornication

BIBLE ALIVE 12: Flee Fornication

Potiphar’s wife sat down on the cushion of the living room, set aside as a lounge for Potiphar and her. The only person with a privileged access to this place was the Hebrew slave her husband had just gotten, who having been greatly favoured, had risen to become the head of all the servants in her household. His name was Joseph.

Joseph was a handsome young chap, that was diligent and God-fearing. Potiphar’s wife had developed feelings for him. She had been drawn to Joseph for a while now. She had deployed all her seductive tricks in her artillery but Joseph appeared not to be falling for any of them. 

Yesterday evening, she had worn her transparent sleeveless night gown that hung just above midthigh, painted her lips and darkened her eyebrows, as she walked into the balcony where Joseph was relaxing. She had allowed her hair to sway freely in the air, sweeping through her face to conceal one of her eyes, creating a superb seductive effect. But Joseph had not paid her much attention. He didn’t even allow the pleasantries to soak in; he bade her goodbye and dashed away, leaving her to stand all alone in the cold of the night.

She sat on the cushion now planning her next move. She was tired of been systematic and cautious. She was going to take it by force. After all, she was his boss, to whom it was his place to obey and his interest to oblige. She sat up straight, tugging her hair, trying desperately to come up with a plan. She finally resolved that she didn’t need a big plan, she just had to go for it. Tell him you want sex. Lay your hands on him and caress him. No man will be able to resist that no matter how chaste he thinks himself to be. 

Her body could not contain the lustful passion that burned in it. She stood up and paced to and fro in the living room. Her husband was not in. He had gone for an official assignment and won’t be back in days. This would be the perfect time to execute her lustful passion with this Hebrew. She moved towards the cushion and sat down. She allowed her mind to wander, feeding her lust, fantasising about Joseph. Then the door to the living room slammed open, and Joseph walked in.

“Oh, sorry madam. I didn’t know you were in.” he apologised. “I came to get a tool box I left here earlier on.” “No Joseph, it’s okay. I could make use of your company.” Potiphar’s wife replied, speaking with her nostrils and moving her body from side to side in a rhythmic manner, all in a bid to seduce him.

Joseph, sensing the erotism in the air, knew it was unwise for him to linger in the living room; for he had sent other servants into the field, and had just returned to get this tool box. He dashed to the stool on which the box rested and picked it, made a U-turn and headed for the door. With haste his mistress sprang from the chair and latched on to him. She held his left arm with both of her hands and begged, “Joseph, I love you. Please come and lie with me. Keep me company.”

Joseph shrugged, saying “My master has left me in charge of everything in his house, except you. Because you’re his wife.” He paused for a while then continued. “How then could I do this great wickedness and sin against God? I will not do it.” He said, sweating profusely. “Please, please. Joseph please. Just this once.” begged his mistress, holding on tightly to his left arm with her right hand and reaching for his shirt button with her left hand.

“Ma, let go of me!” Joseph barked. He tried to push her away, but she was not going to bulge. I must run away. This woman is bent on defiling me. He thought. With all the strength he could muster, he pushed her away. She fell on the cushion, taking with her his shirt, which snapped from his body, her hands been fastened to it. Joseph was now left with nothing over his torso, his master’s wife holding his shirt in her hands, laying flat on the cushion. To hell with the shirt! He thought. He swung around, and made for the door, fleeing for his life.

Food for thought: (1) All sin is wickedness, and fornication, great wickedness. Call sin by its own name, never go about to lessen it. (2) The antidote to fornication, is to flee. To do otherwise would be counterproductive.

Scriptural reference (s): Genesis 39:7-12; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:22;

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