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What Is COVID-19 Pandemic Teaching You?

Having concluded the series on Pandemic Joy (which, as I write this, has been developed into a 170-paged book that will be out before the end of this month), I thought to also add a post on what lessons we are learning from the pandemic. I’m hoping that this will, in fact, be an open forum so that, beyond the few lessons highlighted here, others, too, can chip in other lessons they are learning from the incident in the comment section. I have highlighted below just 5 lessons I am personally learning through this season:

1. THE INVISIBLE IS MORE IMPORTANT/POWERFUL/DANGEROUS THAN THE VISIBLE.

Who would have thought that an invisible virus could wreak as much havoc as COVID-19 has done in these past few weeks? It reminds me of one of the basic things I learnt from studying Microbiology — how abundant and invisible to the naked eye microorganisms are. Every moment of our lives, we are surrounded by billions upon billions of microbial cells. They are on your skin, in your mouth, on your phone, on your computer screen, on the table where you work, inside your fridge—everywhere, literally. And they are PLENTY!

Guess what? So are the angelic forces ministering to us and working in our favour. I’m reminded of when Elisha and his servant were rounded up by the Syrian army. I pick up the story from 2 Kings 6: 15-17 MSG:

“15 Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.” The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!”

The only thing that strikes me more than the fact that there are always more angelic forces fighting on our behalf and ensuring our protection than whatever the devil may throw at us (according to that passage) is the last two words in verse 17: “…surrounding Elisha.” In other words, when the eyes of that servant were opened, the bible did not say that he saw those many angels surrounding both of them; no. They were surrounding Elisha. That tells me this: We need to believe it to enjoy it. You need to believe the promise in Psalm 91:11-13 TPT before you can enjoy it.

“God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm. If you walk into a trap, they’ll be there for you and keep you from stumbling. You’ll even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness, trampling every one of them beneath your feet!”

2. THE WEAKNESS OF PLANNING.

Many people have planned out what they will be doing every month of the year, and a half or more of those plans have now crashed. Does this mean we shouldn’t plan? No. But it does mean that we must always make room for God to break in upon our plans and cause His plans and purposes to prevail. To say it as Solomon said it, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5 NLT)

The question, though, is “What does ‘GOOD PLANNING’ look like?” Solomon had given us some hints earlier on in the collection:

  • Proverbs 15:22 (MSG) says “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.”
  • Proverbs 16:3 (TPT) says “Before you do anything, put your trust totally in God and not in yourself. Then every plan you make will succeed.”

In other words, the only plans worth keeping are plans you make WITH GOD as the Master Planner. This does not mean that even God-sanctioned plans will come to pass ‘exactly as planned,’ but rather that the plans of God will prevail even when the details don’t align with our intentions and expectations.

3. FAMILY FIRST.

While many people have prioritised work, career, and other earthly pursuits over family, being mandated to stay home has given many no other choice than to confront their sin and reprioritise family moments.

4. THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER WAY.

Who would have thought of the alternatives we have resorted to as our new normals as possible alternatives before? Who would have thought that most churches across the globe could do without physically meeting together as is the case now? Who would have thought that working from home can work for as many people as it is working for at the moment?

There is almost always another way. If you do it one way and fail, let COVID-19 remind you that there are often more ways than one to go about doing stuff.

5. WE MUST GET OUR VALUES STRAIGHT.

Who would have thought that we can do without the things we’ve done without in the past one month — Premier League, Champions League, (and of course, the gamblings and bettings that are tied to those events)? Many people have done without seeing certain people that they used to think they can’t live their lives without. Many have done without visiting places they used to think they can’t afford not to visit. Some have conducted weddings, ordinations and burials with less than 5 people present — or even virtually! Many are, painfully, doing without their work. And some, more painfully, are doing without their loved ones who have given up the ghost in the wake of this virus. And the list goes on and on.

Whatever you are doing without at this very moment is a reminder of the things we cannot afford to put our trust in or base our identity on.

  • You are not your job—that’s what you do, not who you are.
  • You are not XYZ’s dad, mum, son, daughter, brother or sister—those are your relatives, not who you are.
  • You are not a Chelsea of Liverpool fan—that’s the football club you support, not who you are.

WHO ARE YOU?

Let the things you are doing without right now remind you of the many wrong answers to that question.

What is the ONE THING you can’t do without now?

I’ll suggest a three-alphabet answer: GOD. The one-and-only True God. It is in Him that we find our identity (God’s sons and daughters). And it is in Him that we find our purpose (to become like Jesus—saviours who go about doing good, not for self-worth, but for God-worth).

I could go on and on…

Your turn.

What is COVID-19 teaching YOU?

Now, that’s a question for you.

Happy Good Friday.

PS: #iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/alivementorship/ and/or get added to the Telegram group here: https://t.me/joinchat/JvxLBRDnP1cvbaeTBfs2dQ .
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A New Kind of ‘Sexy’

It was Sunday evening. 21:35 GMT, maybe.

OkikiOluwa was in my arms trying to struggle with me over who should be using the laptop while OdodoOluwa was behind us, sitting on the carpet in the living room and watching his favourite ‘dinosaur song’ on TV—with uninterruptible attention, I should add.

Anu was in the kitchen doing the dishes after quite some cooking.

The weather has been unusually windy and rainy for the past couple of days. It gets so windy at times that the wind speaks in tongues with its whistles and all. Hence, I didn’t know what to think of the sound that seemed to be coming from the kitchen area. Was it even coming from the kitchen area, or the noisy wind is playing games with my mind?

The sound didn’t stop, and the more I leaned in to make sense of it, the more it felt like a conversation was going on in the kitchen. I know my wife; she doesn’t talk to herself, normally—occasionally, perhaps—and to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t any other person with her in the kitchen.

To assuage my curiosity, OkikiOluwa and I decided to check on his mum in the kitchen and solve the mystery once and for all. We could tell she was a bit shocked when we stealthily bumped into the kitchen uninvited and unannounced. She was slightly startled but she kept her cool.

“Eku ise o” (Well done), I greeted her.

“Thanks”, she responded.

“Are you okay? I thought I was hearing a conversation or something. Were you talking to yourself?”

“No”, she replied without looking away from the dishes she was doing. Then after a slight pause, she added “I was praying.”

“Ah! I see. Makes sense.”

Okiki and I hurried away so we don’t interrupt her flow for too long. But the Holy Spirit says to compliment her for what she was doing—doing the dishes AND praying simultaneously. I thought of the most honest compliment I could give her at that instance; I eventually found it so I went back to tell her:

“That’s sexy, you know?”

“Pardon?” She said with a raised voice as I was already on my way back to the living room to continue what I was trying to do on the laptop.

“I said praying, conversation style, while being ‘alone’ in the kitchen, is VERY SEXY.” I shouted back.

“Oh, Really? Thanks!”

And she went back to her conversation, this time, with reckless abandon.

I meant the compliment. At that instance when she admitted to what she had been doing in the kitchen alongside doing the dishes, I really felt romantically attracted to her afresh. There was a that’s-my-babe-in-whom-my-soul-delights feeling that enveloped me at that instance. I felt proud of her anew. I felt satisfied that I’m married to her. I felt honoured to have such a lady—who is so in tune with Jesus that they could have a verbal conversation while she’s doing the dishes—as my wife.

And the Holy Spirit gave me a perfect compliment for that moment. ‘SEXY.’ It’s a new kind of sexy.

Dear young lady, perhaps you thought being sexy is being able to sway your waist in rhythmic fashion as you walk the streets? Or being able to carve your eyebrow till it looks like Barbie’s, Rihanna’s or Beyonce’s? Or painting your face and lips in fifty shades of red? Or sounding like a transposed key on the piano? Or wearing that low dress that shows us your cleavage, your shape, and some skin from the slit that reaches up to your waist?

Well, that may get the attention of some shallow young men. It may be a head-turner for some sensual guys out there. But what profits a lady who dots her i’s and crosses her t’s in the school of being ‘sexy’ only to win the attention of a shallow, sensual heartbreaker?

Well, there is a new kind of ‘sexy’—the original kind of sexy. Given the fact that sex was originally God’s idea, and being sexy—being sexually attractive—was also God’s making (which was expressed for the first time when Adam laid his eyes on Eve and screamed “Wow! Man!” from whence came ‘woman’ . . . LOL), then it only makes sense to think that being sexy is supposed to be linked to being in God’s presence.

Being sexy is more than being sensual, seductive, sultry, slinky or shapely; it transcends being voluptuous, luscious, flirtatious, or bootylicious. More than being beddable, being sexy is being a God worshipper to the core. Being sexy is being able to be able to go on your knees or lie flat on your face, melted into the embrace of your Abba Father. Being sexy is being able to prioritise talking to God over talking to folks. Being sexy is being able to stay behind the scene while you beautify the location where you and your folks gather to worship this one true God. Being sexy is being able to be immersed in a load of tasks on your to-do-list and still stay connected to your dad.

If you miss this kind of sexy, any other kind, I suspect, will catch you a heartbreaker at best. The Yorubas will say

“Ìyàwó tí a gbé lójú ijó, onílù ni yó bàá lọ” 

— in other words, the wife you met at a dance will eventually elope with the musician at the party. Of course, the proverb connotes a deeper message, viz: “People cannot shed their innate habits”, however, the comparative deduction of the analogy is striking. How you ‘find’ your spouse says a lot about what your marriage will look like.

As a lady, if you allow your devotion to God—your worshipfulness kind of sexy—to shape the other ‘physical’ kind of sexy generic to all females, you will be a modern version of the kind of woman King Lemuel describes in Proverbs 31 (as taught by his mum).

“There are some—indeed many—women who do well in every way, but of all of them only you are truly excellent.” Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Eternal should be praised above all others.” (Proverbs 31:29-30 The Voice)

You want to be the heartthrob of a man that fears God? This, right here, is the password. Explorative King Solomon gave an insight about his choice of his Beloved out of the many options he had:

“I could have chosen any from among the vast multitude of royal ones who follow me. But ONE is my beloved dove—unrivaled in beauty, without equal, beyond compare, the perfect one, the favorite one. Others see your beauty and sing of your joy. Brides and queens chant your praise: “How blessed is she!”” (Song of Songs 6:8-9 The Passion Translation)

Dear young woman, I guess here is the sum of what I’m saying: Bury your heart so deeply into God’s that it will take a man ardent in his pursuit of God to find it.

And dear young man, BE THAT MAN! Be the kind of man that grows past sizing up ladies by the physical indices of shapes, shades, and shakes.

Again, the Yorubas will say

“Ọmoge ńrelé ọkọ pèlú-u májèlé, alárẹnàa rè-é mú apó dání, ọkọ ìyàwó di èbìtì síle; ká wá wo irú ọmọ tí wọn ó bìí.” 

In other words, “A young woman leaves for her groom’s home carrying poisons; her intermediary carries a quiver, and the husband awaits them with a snare; let us see what sort of children they will produce.” The point is clear: Some things are predictable simply by considering the surrounding facts. As a young man or young woman, one can predict what your marital life will look like simply by looking at how you go about ‘finding’ your ‘one’.

As a young man, if you busy yourself with a passionate pursuit of God’s purpose for your life, you cannot but find the one intended for you as you keep digging the treasure mine in God to which you have been called.

You don’t find this kind of wife by SEARCHING for THEM (after all, you are clueless as to where to begin your search); you find such by SEARCHING for GOD and His plans for you! If you will focus solely on pursuing God’s assignment for your life and keep digging deeper into that, you will find the ‘helpmeet’ that God intends for you, undoubtedly—and that may be a wife, or for those called into celibacy, some other kind of ‘help’ that will foster the fulfilment of God’s call upon your life.

As I type this, the Holy Spirit drew my attention to today’s date at the bottom right corner of the laptop. 10/02/2020. I’m immediately reminded of what the date stands for in my life’s journey. 10th February 2012 was the day my wife agreed to my marriage proposal. It was the day a WhatsApp message of three words (“I am ready.”) would change the trajectory of my life for good. It was the day Valentine came four days early for me. It was the day my life’s purpose was reborn. It was the day that hope came alive about fulfilling God’s purpose in life.

And as I remember all these, I also remember that I didn’t go out there searching for a wife when I found her. I was just busy serving God and digging deeper into pursuing His plans for my life. I wake up each day now without regrets in this area of my life. Sure, we have our moments and quibbles, but they never diminish the certainty that we have both found in one another, a match-making adventure only God can pull off. I sometimes wish above all things that God can reproduce the bliss we enjoy maritally with every young unmarried man and woman in our sphere of influence. But the Holy Spirit laid it on my heart that it’s up to each individual. The best we can do is to be generous with this principle that is working for us.

And that is what I have done in this post.

May the Holy Spirit breathe upon the words and saturate them with His grace—grace for marital bliss.

Amen.

I hope this helps someone today.

PS: #iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here and/or get added to the Telegram group here.
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Are You Called to Write? (My Story)

Today, 10th of January 2020 makes it exactly 10 years ago when my first book, The Salvation Journey was launched. (Work is ongoing to release a 10th-year anniversary edition, revised and updated.) In the past decade, I’ve worked on a number of book projects some of which are unpublished eBooks which I gave out for free as a giveaway. They include:

  1. The Salvation Journey (© 2009, launched 2010)
  2. 13:13, The Numbers of Life (© 2012)
  3. Alive: Living in the Power of Grace and Truth (© 2013)
  4. Me, My Thoughts and My Nation (© 2014, ebook giveaway)
  5. #Peaces: I Will Wait (© 2016, ebook giveaway)
  6. Bumpy But Sweet (© 2017, ebook giveaway)
  7. Waiting Compass: Finding God When He Seems to Delay (© 2018)
  8. #Unaddicted: Finding Freedom from Sex-related Addictions (© 2019)
  9. Is This Opportunity from God: 7 Checkpoints for Discerning Divine Opportunities (© 2019)
  10. Marriage in View: Ready? Sleep. Go! (© 2019)
  11. Young and Found: a Devotional for Young Adults (© 2020)

Besides these are over 150 Facebook Notes, tens of blog posts and hundreds of #iRemember reflections on Alive Mentorship Group. I thought today is a good day to share a few of the lessons I have picked up along the way on this writing journey.

Lesson #1: Discover Your Call to Write.

I think one of the strengths and weaknesses of the advancement in the ICT world in the past decade is that it has made virtually everyone that has access to some media platform a writer of some sort (even if that means copying and pasting or sharing unattributed broadcasts). Suddenly, anyone can choose to pursue writing irrespective of what that looks like. But really, I’m persuaded that some people are really CALLED into writing. Some people are called to use words to shape lives and influence positive transformation in the lives of others. While I’m yet to ‘arrive’ as a writer, I am convinced that I am called to write.

“How do I know if I’m called to write?”, you may ask, and I will answer that in a bit. But let me retrace and reframe my writing journey story for you to further underscore some of the points I will be making later.

My engagement with words—as far back as I can remember—began when I was in Primary 2 (I should be about 6 or 7 years old at the time). I got The Wedding Photograph (a kids’ novel) as a gift for topping my class and I finished reading the book at one seating. As I read the book—I can repicture the scene in my mind even now—I imagined myself writing such a story. I imagined how I would have changed the plot in some ways and what words I might have used…

When I got to Primary 4, a teacher whose name I can’t remember (who, apparently, was a temp in the school—a youth corps member) formed a Press Club and in a curious series of events, I was elected to be the editor-in-chief of the club. I found myself writing articles which were displayed on the school’s notice board virtually every other day. Besides, I was gathering news headlines and compiling news bulletins which we broadcast every week on the school’s assembly ground.

By the time I got to JSS 1 (age 10), I started writing my first novel. I still remember the weird title I gave it: The Overreachment. It was a story of a secondary school student who, as the ‘head boy’, impregnated the ‘head girl’ without even ‘having sex’. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it was nothing short of what someone that had absolutely no clue about sex could have written. It’s a good thing one of my classmates who had the manuscript relocated to another city and I never saw the manuscript again.

When I got to JSS 3 (age 12), I remember a senior student bringing me an erotic poem she was trying to put together. She wrote a stanza and got stuck. I picked it up and finished the poem for her, and it was indeed erotic.

By the time I got to Uni, I made a friend in my first year; her name is OREOLUWADARA. In the same year, I became resolute in beginning to live out my new found faith and I joined the team of Bible Study teachers in the Christian fellowship I was a part of. This was the season I returned to writing, but with a redeemed passion to write ‘for God’ and not for selfish or erotic purposes.

All of these was happening without my sense of a call to write. Until one day.

I was in the library reading. I had earlier written a poem—a Christian poem—and left the sheet of paper on which it was written lying on the table as I studied. Then my friend, Oreoluwadara (a gift of God indeed, and my first crush), came by. She was leaving the library and wanted to bid me farewell. Then she found the poem I had left on the table and read it. Her response was overwhelmingly shocking.

“You wrote this?! Oh my goodness! You should write more! This is bla bla bla bla…” 

She went on and on about how good the piece was and how inspiring she thought it was. I had not thought of the poem as anything special. It was just a poem as far as I know. But she saw more than that. And as much as I knew her, the last thing Ore would do is flatter anyone. She’s virtuous like that. So her comments got to me.

I began to write more poems and articles, and guess who I send them to for feedback? You guessed right. Ore. Ore would read the write-ups and offer her often very constructive critical feedback. I was becoming a better writer without even knowing it.

By 2009, I made ‘publishing a book’ one of my final year goals. However, I didn’t know I was going to be called to serve as the leader of the Christian fellowship I was a part of. (It wasn’t customary to call final year students into such offices as the final year is busy enough as it is with research and dissertation among other things.) Thankfully, we had a 4-month break as a result of lecturers going on industrial action. I maximised the time with my desktop computer with an HDD drive capacity of 4GB (how I managed to install all the software I had on the PC is still a wonder, considering it had such a small memory capacity). By the time the strike was over, a book was ready.

I sent off the manuscript to my mentor for feedback and editorial recommendations. As soon as I took the step of writing it, God began to orchestrate circumstances and events to favour the publishing of the book. I met with willing editors. I was linked to a willing publisher. God supplied the finance. He announced the project to my Area Superintendent who decided to drag the church to the book launch willy nilly on Jan 10, 2010.

By the time I got to Gombe State in 2011, I had come to realise that “I’m called to use words to shape lives.” I remember praying one evening and God said to me, “I’m giving you the key which I gave Max Lucado in 1979.” (Max Lucado is my favourite author). I went online and searched for everything I could find about Max Lucado and 1979 but I never found anything striking. In any case, I continued doing my bit writing via every avenue I could manage. I started blogging on WordPress and Blogspot. I began to publish notes on Facebook via their Facebook notes platform. I opened a personal website in 2012 to do some more blogging.

And through it all, I never stopped reading.

It was years later that I got to find out the key God gave Max Lucado in 1979. And I discovered I’ve been doing the same thing. It was CONSISTENCY. In 1979, Max was serving as an associate minister of a downtown church in Miami, Florida. One of his tasks was to write a weekly article for the church bulletin. “Many ministers dread such tedium,” he would later write, “but he grew to relish the task.” Because he was single at the time, he stayed in his office until late at night, writing and rewriting the pieces. The bulletin was small, so his essays were brief. He had no thought that the articles would ever be read outside of the church. But the pieces were read outside of Miami. He began receiving letters from people around the country requesting copies of the articles. For the first time, he was exposed to the power of the written word. The pen, he realized, would speak to people he did not know, in places he might never go, in ways he otherwise never could. Those articles were compiled to form his first book: On The Anvil. He was amazed.

So am I. Every day! Just by the CONSISTENCY of leveraging on social media to write the thoughts God was laying on my heart or something I’d gleaned as I read a book, many doors had been opened. I’d received messages from Muslims who speak of the transforming power in the words I’ve written. I’ve engaged in countless chats with countless people who reached out because they read one thing or the other which I wrote. I have received a call from a Facebook friend who felt blessed by my writings and turns out to be the one God will use to orchestrate the journey that landed me in the UK as I continue to explore and fulfil God’s call. My first time of visiting the United States (in 2018), as I have shared with some of you before, was also because of my call to write. I could go on and on and on.But I’ll circle back to the question:

How do I know if I am called to write?

  1. God will bring you many OPPORTUNITIES for you to explore writing. While you may choose to ignore the opportunities, I’ve found God does bring such opportunities.
  2. I believe you will have an innate connection to and with WORDS. Most ‘called’ writers I know also love READING and/or LISTENING to well-crafted words.
  3. You will receive CONFIRMATION of your call to write. This can come as testimonies or positive feedback based on what you have written.
  4. You will have a burning desire for the TRUTH. Those who are called to write are messengers of truth and they know it. They are passionate about it.
  5. You will be TEMPTED to MISUSE or IGNORE your writing gift. For me, it was the lure of writing erotic nonsense at some point. Thank God for redeeming the gift and helping me begin to unleash it at His appointed time.
  6. MONEY won’t matter AT ALL if you are called to write. The financial gain that comes from royalties won’t be your motivation.
  7. God will surround you with PEOPLE that can bring out the writer in you.

These are 7 quick points that I can think of as I reflect on my story and the story of a few others that I know who are called to write.

If you can resonate with these 7 points and you are yet to come to terms with the fact that you are called to write, think again! Take some time to ask God some sincere questions about your calling; He is ever-so-willing to answer.

With love,

josephkolawoleola

I hope this helps someone today.

PS: #iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here and/or get added to the Telegram group here.
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His Word and His Voice

The other day, I saw a video message on YouTube of a sermon by an African-American preacher, Robert Madu. The message was titled “Can You Hear Me Now”
It’s a message about hearing God and I liked a particular illustration he used in driving home the point that a believer must know both THE WORD and THE VOICE of God! To know His Word without knowing His voice is to be another Pharisee…while to know “His Voice” without knowing His Word is to be another spooky Christian that’s always going about telling people “The Lord told me to tell you this and that” (when in fact, hardly is it ever The Lord Who really told you anything).
He illustrated the point thus:
God’s Word is like a road map; God’s Voice is like a GPS (God’s Positioning System).
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to use Google Maps to navigate your way from one point to another either by walking or driving. There’s always a voice coming from your device telling you which turn to take and on which lane to stay. (If you haven’t, you can give it a try. Even before I traveled to the UK last year, I was able to use it in Nigeria).
While a road map (God’s Word) shows you the entire map including roads and routes that are not even your concern for the particular trip you are on, the GPS concerns itself basically with moving you from your current location to your specific destination.
How does this represent how God’s voice leads us? (I got points 1 and 3 from the message but came up with points 2, 4, 5 and 6 from my personal meditation on the subject).
1. The GPS never tells you all the turns and details of your trip at once. It tells you in bits.
Likewise God! He reveals His counsel to you as He orders your steps bit by bit.
“At the roundabout, take the first exit… After 100 meters, turn right… Your destination is on the left… You have reached your destination” … That’s what it sounds like. Bit by bit. One instruction per time.
2. The GPS respects your personal choices. You absolutely can choose to ignore the voice of the GPS and go in your preferred route rather than follow the prescribed route from the GPS.
Isn’t that what many of us do with God’s voice a times? We ignore…and that’s okay. Why?
3. The GPS incorporates our choices into its program such that at the end of the day, it’s still going to talk us into reaching our intended destination. When you make a wrong turn, the GPS immediately starts recalculating to get you new sets of instructions for an alternative route (based on your wrong choice) that will still get you to your destination.
Isn’t that like God? Our mistakes are never fatal as long as we are alive and Christ is still on the throne. God will still guide you to His intended destination for your life if you will submit to the leading of His voice.
4. The GPS never condemns you for your wrong turns. I remember sometimes in 2015 when I first came to the UK, my wife (then, my fiancée) came to visit over the weekend while I was still at my brother’s place in London. On the day she was to return, my brother decided to drive us to the train station. While trying to meet up with her departure time, we missed our turn following the sat-nav GPS on two different occasions. The GPS never for once condemned the driver, rather it paused in silence immediately after the wrong turn. Then reroutes and gets you back on track with an alternative. Eventually we met the train just at the nick of time.
All that to say this: God’s voice never condemns! He simply guides you from that point onwards to still reach your destination. So GUILT or CONDEMNATION is not the voice of God!
5. The silence of the GPS doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. I drove with my pastor from Cheltenham to Liverpool and back sometimes in July 2016. For a long time while we were on the motorway, the GPS said nothing. It said nothing because we were on the right track and there was no need for a new set of instructions. When we approached our destination and had to branch off the motorway, it resumed dishing out its instructions…
Very much like God! It’s not every time you will feel like You are hearing Him—and that’s okay. As long as you’re still connected, that’s absolutely fine. You only miss the people you love, right? Same thing! You miss His voice because you love Him and that alone should keep you going . (Of course, there are other times when He’s silent because you have been repeatedly disobedient. Come clean with Him and let the journey continue…)
6. For your GPS to keep functioning, you need to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY in some areas. You endeavour to charge your device. You download and install all Google Maps updates to have the latest maps with all the most current details (e.g. of ongoing road construction , accidents , one-ways etc) with which the GPS plans your best routes.
Likewise, to keep hearing the voice of God, you need to also TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your spirit man. You want to make sure you “guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flows the rivers of life!” (Proverbs 4:23).
I hope that reaches out to one or two of us today.
Here’s today’s #askJesus2day question:
“Jesus, what’s Your next instruction to me ” (He just told me mine and it’s very funny )
PRAYER
Lord, may I never be out of the reach of Your voice IJN.
Amen!
josephkolawoleola
 
#iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here and/or get added to the Telegram group here.
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The Dichotomy of ‘Normal’ & ‘Weird’

 
#iRemember | Episode 322
 
I’ve been seeing a TV show since Monday titled Greenleaf. It’s the story of a Megachurch Pastor in Memphis, USA and his problematic family. On Wednesday evening, when my eldest niece came back from school and saw me watching the movie, she kept asking questions to fill in the bits from the episodes she had missed while she was away. At some point, I said to her in response to one of her questions, “The major thing about this movie is that every single character therein is messed up” Immediately I said that, something snapped in my understanding of reality.
 
To be honest, looking back to the movies and TV shows I’ve seen of late, one thing that kept me glued is the fact that there is a twist that is ‘not normal’. It’s either the fact that someone is so exceptionally bad that you keep watching to see how (s)he will end up or someone good is being treated unfairly and you keep watching to see how the person will be vindicated. That’s an important ingredient of a good work of fiction. Writers call it TENSION. The more thrilling the tension in a work of fiction is and the longer the writer can sustain the tension, the more we remain glued to see how the events will unfold…
 
And true to reality, we are all ‘messed up.’ There is none of us whose story just flows smoothly from the beginning of his/her existence till date. No. All of us are living out stories of tensions…stories of an undulations between what is NORMAL and what is WEIRD.
 
But then, it occurred to me as I pondered that point that while reality in life is not always a story of continuous normalcy, the human race has gradually lost the sense of normalcy and traded it for weirdness. Gradually, we’re trading our ability to be ‘normal’ for a perpetual expression of weirdness. We are beginning to think (as our lifestyles show) that WEIRD IS THE NEW NORMAL.
 
I’ll explain.
 
The same night that I said that statement to my niece, I went to Nando’s together with my eldest brother to pick up an online order he made. While we were waiting for our order to be fully processed and handed over to us, my brother called my attention to a guy in front of us whose trousers were sagging. His ragged jeans was belted midway between his waist and his knees such that two-third of his (unclean) boxers became public knowledge. When he walked, you would pity him because he was practically uncomfortable. But he, like many of us, had bought the lie that to be WEIRD is the new NORMAL. I was also concerned for the kind of lady that came with him to the restaurant. For a guy that sags to be deemed as ‘being cool’ by a lady transcends what my mind could comprehend.
 
The night before, my wife was telling me about a computer game that my nieces told her about. Basically, the game enables you to tell your own story as a lady and the way you win in the game is for you (the lady player) to attract the attention of a guy and do all you can to ensure he gets you pregnant. What a crazy idea! And it becomes even more scary when you discover that the game is being played by pre-teenage girls. Out of curiousity to understand how all these play out, my wife downloaded the game on her phone to see what’s up. To her amazement, when she went for being a ‘normal’ girl and dress like one in her narrative in the story, even the ‘computer’ was telling her she can’t get a guy’s attention like that. She needed to be ‘more scandalous’ in her choice of dressing and bla bla bla…
 
He reminded me of the other day I was served at the till in an Aldi store by a lady that I almost couldn’t believe was ‘real’. The way her face was painted and her eye brows were arched, you could easily have thought that she was a 3D image photoshopped and edited. She looked soooo unreal! Yet, the guy ahead of me on the queue flirted with her because he found that attractive.
 
Where am I getting with all this?
 
Simple. I’m tired of seeing guys with weird hair styles that makes you wonder if everything is alright ‘upstairs’. I’m tired of seeing ladies that are willing to be scandalous in their outlook in other to be accepted. I’m tired of seeing ‘Christians’ go to any extent to be weird in order to fit in. I’m tired of seeing ladies mutate their voice to sound like some transposed piano in order to get some guy’s attention.
 
To say it in 7 words: IT’S OKAY TO BE YOUR NORMAL SELF!
 
If as a lady, you really can’t feel confident to dress without using any make-up, you’ve bought that lie. Of course, I’m not saying it’s a sin to use make-ups, but your beauty most assuredly doesn’t lie in those pancakes and foundation or in how well you could be artistic with the shape of your eye-brow, or how creative you could be in exposing some little skin and still try to look decent. Your NORMAL self is okay!

 
It’s okay to be normal. It’s okay if your voice is husky. It’s okay if your gait doesn’t advertise your curves enough. It’s okay if your hair is not as long as my wife’s. It’s okay if you don’t have 6 packs. It’s okay to wear your trousers at waist level and belt them like a reasonable young man. It’s okay if your friends think you are weird for being yourself. But whatever you do, stay original. It’s okay to be normal! Presentable, yes, but NORMAL, please!
 
As you dress up this morning or when next you have the opportunity, bear that in mind.
 
Imagine a world that is free of the pressure to be attractive simply in acknowledging that our normal selves is appealing enough… Imagine a world where you don’t have to be crazy to be human… Imagine it. And then take a step in the direction of making that imagination a reality.
 
I’ll pause it all here.
 
I hope it helps someone.
 
PS: #iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of my past drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Platform. The platform is basically for teenagers and young adults (25 and below) that, by God’s grace, my wife and I are trying to pour into. If you will like to be a part, just click here.
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Disappointed by God?

#iRemember | Episode 325
 
Author’s Note: This post was first published in May 2013 shortly after the UTME results for prospective University students in Nigeria were released. At least three of the young chaps whose stories were told in this post are presently members of the AMG family. Happy Reading!
 
I looked at all of them-all 7 of them. They were full of questions. A good number of them saw their UTME results right in my presence. 189. 154. 160. 148. 128. 053. Woeful scores. Only one of them had above 200-he had 226. I knew they were full of questions-anyone could tell. And since I spoke with them a night before their examination, I thought it wise to gather them together again and speak with them now that the results have been released.
 
“Before we progress, does any of you have questions-for God-for me-or for us?”
 
I’d hardly asked when their hands shot up in quick successions.
 
“Pastor Kola, before the exam, God told me to work for Him as I prepare for the examination. That was why I joined the Ushering Unit. And just before the exam, He gave me a reassuring word from 2 Corinthians 1:20 that His promises are ‘yea and amen’. So how do I explain the 128/400 score?” Sincere questions from Sister Ruth.
 
“My own question is this: ‘why must I score 154?'” Who has an answer for Brother Faith?
 
“Pastor, see, that night when you spoke to us about maintaining our integrity in the exam hall, I went to the examination hall the next day and did just that. Cheating in my hall was ‘free’, yet, I maintained my integrity, faced my work and got out when I was done. So is 160 the reward of my faithfulness?” I felt for Brother Gideon.
 
And what about Sister Mary? She was at a ministration the night before the exam, and according to her, the Pastor’s wife of the church where she ministered had even called her out and prophesied success into her life after the ministration since she sacrificed her time for God. And what was the end-result? 053. (Only her English result was released).
 
They were all full of questions. Understandably so. (I know my Western friends would find this absurd. Whatever scores they got is what their efforts amounted to. If they had prepared a bit more, then they would have had better results True. I absolutely believe so and in my estimation, these guys didn’t prepare well enough. But in my country, what translates into a good result goes beyond your preparation. There seemed to be a spiritual dimension as well to these things. There must be.)
 
Before I proceeded, I asked a question, too.
 
“How many of you think that deep down inside of you, there is perhaps something that you did or didn’t do that could have led to this undesirable result?” And my! How they all had one such thing or the other. Fear and Doubt topped their list. And that became my starting point . . .
 
I’m not writing to those that failed UTME, or at least, didn’t get satisfactory grades. No. I’m writing for people who felt they deserved something better than what they currently have or are going through. I’m writing to anyone that has ever felt disappointed by God like these teenagers that I Pastor.
 
If you cheated and failed, congratulations! If you cheated and you passed, watch how your life will be fast-forwarded in your very eyes only to enter an automatic rewind at some junction in the nearest future. And your latter end shall be worse than your beginning. But if you are God’s child and you’ve felt cheated by God (or still feel so), to you I write, UTME or no UTME.
 
The qualification that earned me the boldness to speak with such people is because I’ve been there.
 
Was it not God that gave a nod of consent to the trip I embarked upon with some colleagues in 2009? A trip to a wedding turned out to be a trip to the bush, to the hospital, to the police station, and to the cemetry-to bury a dear brother.
 
Was it not God that spoke to my church through a prophetical message years back that one of our Elders that was sick and hospitalized will be restored only to hear later that night that the man is late?
 
Where was God when BCH 304 results were being compiled and in a curios series of events, my name was tagged with the grade 32F? (after the Course Coordinator had generously buffered every student’s score with an additional 5 marks)
 
Truth is, we’ve all been there-where our questions are more than the answers we get. But these few things I know:
 
1. I ACTUALLY DON’T “DESERVE” ANYTHING FROM GOD.
On what basis do I deserve an ‘A’? On what basis do I deserve to go on a trip and return safely? On what basis do I deserve to have my prayers answered? . . . but for His Grace and Mercy-both neither merited nor deserved!
 
But maybe you quite agree that you don’t deserve anything from God and you’re already a customer of His Grace, then you might be asking, why didn’t His Grace and Mercy speak on your behalf? Why was the grade so poor when you are a candidate of His Grace? Why did you have to lose that beloved relative or friend despite your prayers of mercy and grace? Then I have a second reminder:
 
2. I CAN ONLY RECEIVE ANYTHING FROM GOD ON THE BASIS OF FAITH!
James 1:5-7 comes to mind.
 
James 1:5-6 KJV If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Verse 7 says “A person who has doubts shouldn’t expect to receive ANYTHING from the Lord” (God’s Word Translation).
 
Someone said it this way: “Feed your doubts and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your doubts will”.
 
Have you truly received His grace by FAITH? Have you prayed for that desired result WITHOUT DOUBTS? Have you decreed your desire in FAITH? If your answer is “YES”, then I can’t help but wonder what you understand by FAITH . . . and that leads us to the next point . . .
 
3. FAITH IS NOT THE BELIEF THAT GOD WILL DO WHAT YOU WANT. IT IS THE BELIEF THAT GOD WILL DO WHAT IS RIGHT.
Faith is not the believe that you will pass because you want to pass; faith is the believe that God has got your life in His hands and is free to use any tool He desires (even failures) to shape it into the best life it can be. Faith is the believe that ALL THINGS indeed work together for the good of God-Lovers!
 
And when the limits of faith seems exceeded, just TRUST! While faith believes that God can do a thing and hopes that He does it, Trust believes that He can do it, hopes that He does it and also understands that EVEN IF HE DOESN’T, HE IS STILL GOD! (Daniel 3:17).
 
In conclusion, I may not have an answer to the questions of my teenage friends that I spoke with in my office yesterday . . . but I’m sure of the fact that God does not disappoint. Anyways, life is life. Earth is earth. Heaven is heaven. And I’ve learnt to lower my expectations of earth. This isn’t Heaven, so I don’t expect it to be.
 
And I’m sure, anyways, that you weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman. You are the only you God made … God made you and broke the mold. You are unique! So the past does not have to be your prison. You may have written UTME 5 times, but you still have a voice in your destiny. You have a say in your life. You have a choice in the path you take. And you can sit with God and plan out the next 1 year of your life. Or the rest of it altogether. Affliction shall not arise a second time.
 
Remember, God loves you just the way you are. With your 053 or 226, he loves you. He loves each one of us like there is only one of us to love . . . but He refuses to leave us that way. He wants us to be just like Jesus. And He goes to any extent to get that done. He uses any tool to make that happen. Failures, successes, delays, speed, good news, bad news, and JAMB. Yes, JAMB.
 
Why not let go . . . and let God!
 
And who says that low score of yours can’t get you an admission this year?
Who says that genotype can’t change before tomorrow morning?
Who says that sack letter can’t be revoked tomorrow by another letter calling you back with promotion?
Never you forget; IMPOSSIBLE is one of God’s favourite words!
 
I celebrate your New Found Hope!
 
Amen.
 
Author’s End Notes:
1. UTME is UNIFIED TERTIARY MATRICULATION EXAMINATION which is the examination that Nigerian Students write in order to gain admission into an institution of Higher Learning. It is anchored by JAMB-Joint Admissions Matriculation Board
2. I found it interesting that about two years after this post was published, all the guys whose stories were told had gained admission into one tertiary institution or the other-except the guy that scored more than 200. Indeed, the race is not to the swift…
 
#iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here and/or get added to the Telegram group here.
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When I failed…

#iRemember | Episode 269
 
In this post, I’ll touch on two things:
 
1. When you trusted God that you will pass…and still failed.
2. When you seem to keep failing repeatedly.
 
So one of us sent me a message the other day (barely two weeks ago) after she saw the result of one of her courses in her Masters Programme. In her very own words:
“…the lecturer has been really strict…in all the three sets of [continuous assessments] which amounted to 30%…I tried all I could…and ended up with 14/30. I PRAYED “EARNESTLY” BELIEVING IN GOD FOR A BETTER GRADE IN THE REMAINING 70% [exams]. I studied hard…he repeated past questions; they were easy and God was faithful to bring all I read to my remembrance… I checked my grade today and I “failed the course”. I just can’t believe it… I just can’t fail! I trust God so much—like without doubt…”
 
Sounds like what a good number of us could have written. Here’s what I had to say to that…
 
1. That you trust God so much without a doubt doesn’t exclude failing from your possibilities. In fact, it most certainly adds failing to your options.
 
FAITH is believing that God CAN do something and hoping unwaveringly that He WILL do it. On a higher plane, TRUST is believing that God CAN do it, absolutely hoping He WILL…and understanding that EVEN IF HE DOESN’T, He’s still got everything in His charge!
 
2. While writing this paper next year can be disheartening (not to mention the N30,000 you’ll have to pay to register the course next year), it’s not as shameful as you think! Failing is part of life. It happens to even the very best of us. I’m also on a Masters’ Programme currently in the UK and I’d failed one of my modules because I had 49% and the pass mark for all my courses was 50%. That was painful and disheartening. But no, it wasn’t shameful as it turned out that more than half of the class were in my shoes. (Even if it was only me, it still wouldn’t have been a thing of shame).
 
While others were furious with the lecturer, I went to him (because he had given us the liberty to come and see him in the feedback he sent to all of us so that he can advise us on where we need improvement). I went to him and he pointed out my flaws. I learnt and did better in the Reassessment. (Here, you are permitted to retake a coursework you fail almost immediately afterwards). I had 66% in the re-sit but the programme policy is that no matter what you score in a re-sit (even if you score 100%) as long as you pass it, your overall score for that module is capped at 50%.
 
So in essence, I went through all that re-sit just to earn an extra 1% to add to my former score. But I wasn’t bitter about it.
 
So if nothing could be done about this score you have, it’s absolutely not shameful to take it again whenever.
 
Now to those who are failing repeatedly…
 
Again, here are a few thoughts:
 
1. I don’t think that’s normal. You need to ask yourself some hard questions and be sincere with yourself in your response. For instance:
 
a. Do I really have the capacity to pursue this course that I’m studying?
You don’t bite more than you can chew and expect God to force it down your throat. At best, He will pull off the excess from your mouth and leave you with just that which He had gifted you with a capacity to handle.
b. (Or even more fundamentally) Why am I studying this course?
Why? Because you (or worse still, your parents/guardian) think that this is the only/best course that will guarantee you a bright future? Or because you are sincerely passionate about the course? Or because that’s what ‘the school offered you when you couldn’t meet the cut-off mark for the course of your choice? These reasons aren’t bad in themselves but they have the common element of setting you up for a journey you may not have been equipped to pursue.
 
If only many can be like my best friend—Daniel. We both gained admission into OAU in 2005. We both didn’t get the course we wanted. I found myself studying Microbiology and he, Zoology. While he had the boldness to take another UTME and eventually got admitted to the course of his dreams—and had to start all over—I didn’t have the same courage. (I wasn’t even sure if I had any ‘course of my dreams…lol)
 
c. You can’t do it the same way you did it before and expect a different result.
That’s simple but profound!
Before, you were always getting late to the class and you hardly had a good note for the course and this time you hardly even went to class. Tell me, what miracle were you expecting? Before, you did it in fear. Before the results were out, you were scared it wouldn’t speak good. You were right then. If you maintain the same disposition now, chances are high you’ll get the same response.
 
d. Have I learnt from the previous failure?
If you don’t learn the lesson your failure seeks to teach you, you will make the same mistake again and again!
 
e. Finally, who is Your King and what is He saying to you about your failures?
The book of Judges in the Bible is a book of an unpleasant cycle that the Israelites kept going through, viz:
They will desert God. God will send an enemy to terrorize them. God will raise a Judge to deliver them from that enemy. They will serve God for a while. Then they will return to deserting God… and the cycle continues! But the book gave us a clue at the beginning and the end of the book—the very last verse in fact. It says ”In those days, THERE WAS NO KING IN ISRAEL AND EVERYONE DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN THEIR OWN EYES.”
 
When you live life on your own terms and by your own wisdom, that’s what you get! But when you are led by The King, He surely must have something to say to you for every failure you encounter—IF YOU ASK HIM.
 
Maybe tomorrow, I will share with you the testimony of a course I took in my second year where I had the highest score throughout my 4 years at OAU and how that came about.
 
I speak into your life as one that is privileged to have a voice in your destiny that if there be any yoke of failure that has held any of you bound, such yoke is broken permanently by the anointing today.
 
Here’s a question to #askJesus2day:
“Jesus, can we dance a victory dance together this morning as I celebrate the end of my cycles of failure” [I can hear His yes already—what are you waiting for?]
 
PRAYER
Lord, thank You for opening a new page of victory for me IJN.
 
Amen!
 
josephkolawoleola
 
#iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here and/or get added to the Telegram group here.
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Don’t forget the Main Thing

Have you ever had a rather disappointing experience that cost you unnecessary money? I have.

I was in Bible College. I woke up early enough to have some time for my devotion and the daily journaling I do with members of my online mentorship platform. I attended to a couple of other issues, had my bath and then set out on a very important assignment: COOKING!

I made some noodles to which I added shreds of chicken and some (sort of) fried rice which I had as a left over from the previous day. Long story short: After a long while in the kitchen, the food was ready. I dished it in my lunch pack and came to my room to pick my phone and iPad and set out for school.

When I checked the time, I was already 10 minutes behind my normal schedule. If I’d still have to make it to College on time, then I had to run, jog and walk a bit. And that was what I did.

I got to school panting! I consoled myself with the thought that the food I cooked will make up for the unnecessary extra energy expended. That was when it dawned on me: I LEFT THE FOOD AT HOME!

It was as painful as painful can be. You know when your mind and taste buds had been set to “expectation mode” only to find out later that their specific expectations had been cut short! I almost cried!

When I saw people buying different things at Starbucks during a 10-minute break we had in-between lectures, I could no longer resist the lure. I ordered for a big cup of hot chocolate and a slice of cheese cake to placate my appetite. But no matter what I bought, nothing satisfied my hunger as much as my time-consuming well-prepared chickened rice and noodles would have done.

When all is said and done, the point remained this: I FORGOT THE MAIN THING!

All that to say this: We all have a propensity to do that. In this postmodern world saturated with speed and distractions, it’s very easy to forget the main thing!

Please don’t do that this year! And if you are wondering what the main thing is, a couple of Bible verses should help you:

Matthew 7:17-18 (MSG): “Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. WHO PREACHERS ARE IS THE MAIN THING, NOT WHAT THEY SAY.”

~Who you are is the main thing, not what you say. (Your identity trumps your words).

2 Corinthians 5:9 (MSG): “CHEERFULLY PLEASING GOD IS THE MAIN THING, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.”

~Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing!

If you merge those two scriptures together, then you will discover that *the main thing for a child of God is to cheerfully please God as His CHILD!*

Receive the grace to do that this year.

I pray that God will grant you the grace to keep the main thing the main thing as you stay unwavering and unflinching at the sight of distractions that could short-circuit the joy of living out our identity in Christ in Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

Have a great year!

josephkolawoleola

#iRemember is a daily mentoring retrospective look at Chronicles of our past—my wife and I—drawing life lessons from past experiences. It is exclusive to members of Alive Mentorship Group—an online mentorship platform for young adults across the world that provides an avenue to learn practical life lessons across geographical barriers. If you will like to be a part, just click here and/or get added to the Telegram group here.

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Are you unmarried?

Author’s note: I wrote this at a point in my courtship with my fiancée when it dawned on me that nothing short of my death (and her death) will make our marriage work. Want to know what I mean? Read on…

“A man in love is incomplete until he’s married. Then he’s finished.” Zsa Zsa Gabor

A couple of verses from a Pauline epistle gave rise to these thoughts. Let’s revisit the passage.

1 Corinthians 7:25-28 MSG
25 The Master did not give explicit direction regarding virgins, but as one much experienced in the mercy of the Master and loyal to him all the way, you can trust my counsel. 26 Because of the current pressures on us from all sides, I think it would probably be best to stay just as you are. 27 Are you married? Stay married. Are you unmarried? Don’t get married. 28 But there’s certainly no sin in getting married, whether you’re a virgin or not. All I am saying is that when you marry, you take on additional stress in an already stressful time, and I want to spare you if possible.

Very typical of Paul. Sharing thoughts in lumps—sometimes in lumps that are too difficult to swallow. Here, it’s understandable. It was a time of distress (7:26) when society was going through change (7:31). There was not much time left for serving the Lord (7:29). For all we know, it is possible that there were political and economic pressures in Corinth at the time. So in view of the difficulties, Paul submitted that it would be better for a person to be unmarried.

However, the lenses through which Paul viewed marriage here reveals more than some first century circumstantiality to some age-long all-time deep truth about marriage! And that is the quarry where we’ll be mining . . .

Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispers to her mother, ‘Why is the bride dressed in white?’ Mother decides to keep things simple and replies, ‘Because white is a happy colour and today is the happiest day of her life.’ The girl thinks for a second, then says, ‘So why is the groom wearing black?’ (You figure that out!)

And while you are figuring that out on one hand, and looking forward to walking down the aisle in white gown with Mr. Right on the other hand, may I inform you in-between both thought threads before you get too deep into the journey that: MARRIAGE IS DEATH!

Song of Songs 8:6 GWT
“. . . Love is as overpowering as death. Devotion is as unyielding as the grave. Love’s flames are flames of fire, flames that come from the LORD.”

Marriage is death—death to self. Death to “I”. Unfortunately, our culture has turned individualism into a virtue—a culture that screams that we “deserve” to be fulfilled and have a “right” to personal satisfaction and true-to-me happiness. That model just doesn’t work with the model of marriage! The cruel irony is that fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness are ultimately found in sacrifice, serving and giving—even to the point of giving one’s “life”! Are you ready for this?

“Are you married? Stay married. Are you unmarried? Don’t get married. ”
(1 Corinthians 7:27 MSG).

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This death-thing is counter-cultural.  It’s a paradox to logic.  In the book of Ephesians, Paul calls it a “mystery”—something that we wouldn’t have figured out with our human logic.  This is a model that was given by God.

Andrew Peterson poetically captures the difficulty of this journey. I recently stumbled across his song “Dancing in the Minefields”—a lovely wedding anniversary song! (I look forward to penning my version of that to Eleos in about twenty years’ time).

The second verse of the song refers to John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” In stating this, Jesus is referring to what He was about to do for His people. Jesus calls us His friend (John 15:14) and He laid His life down for us so that we may live eternally with Him. And remember, our marriages are a reflection of Christ and His church (see Ephesians 5). I once heard that the love of God, and His sacrifice in Jesus Christ for us, is a frame for us to place our wedding picture in. (Cute, right?)

Through a beautiful word-picture, Peterson makes a poignant point of what happens at a wedding, and it is something that most people fail to recognize when they enter into marriage. A very large part of marriage is giving up your own life for your spouse.  I do not mean this in terms of your literal life, although many of us readily admit we’d die for our spouse, but when we marry we must recognize that our life is forever changed and that some of our old habits, friends, interests, and activities might, and sometimes should, end. Are you ready for this?

“Are you married? Stay married. Are you unmarried? Don’t get married. ”
(1 Corinthians 7:27 MSG).

Too many young couples marry with the illusion that they are adding their “soul mate” to their existing life, and then they get frustrated when their spouse necessarily demands more of their time, interest, resources, and affection than anticipated. We seem to think that our spouses are just going to adopt our lifestyles as their own, which is a faulty assumption. Well, that was my assumption, and few months into the prelude to the melody of my marital life, I can see how wrong I was!

Christ makes it clear that we are to “submit to one another” (Ephesians 5:21). Husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:25) How did Christ love the church? He served her! Wives are to submit to their husbands (not in a demeaning way, as if they are their husband’s maid or slave—but equal partner with different roles). Each person in a marriage should be willing to give up their independent life to become one with their spouse, in all areas of life.

A good marriage is hard work. A great marriage is the hardest of all because it requires the equally selfless devotion of both parties. Are you ready for this?

“Are you married? Stay married. Are you unmarried? Don’t get married. ”
(1 Corinthians 7:27 MSG).

Refreshingly, there is an anchor—God’s Grace!

Grace changes us. Slowly. Emphasis on slowly. We learn to look at our spouse through the lenses of grace.  We begin to see our spouse (and by extension to the community of believers) not as sinners trying to become saints by more right behaviour but rather as saints who still sometimes err. (Many times, in the case of people like me). It is an important distinction. We are all saints who are righteous because of Christ alone. We still err. We need grace. All of us. So when I err (as I often do), grace compels Eleos to run towards me and not to run away. Grace does not allow her to condemn and judge me. I need grace to be restored as she will need that same grace soon. Likely very soon.

Grace is always the answer.

Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth about hardships and the message he received from the Lord. I like his choice of words—His choice of words:

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12, NLT)

Jesus told the story of a Father who runs to embrace His child who has made terrible mistakes. He doesn’t wait for him to crawl back and grovel. At the first turn of repentance He sprints to him and throws a party. That is grace.

The same grace that appeared to you does appear to your spouse

  • Are you willing to give up habits (good or bad) if they seem to be detrimental to the health of your marriage?
  • Are you willing to end relationships that do not honour your marriage?
  • Are you willing to pool your financial resources into one account?
  • Are you willing to participate in leisure activities that are not of interest to you—but that your spouse enjoys—so that you can have quality time together?

If you aren’t, well, there is an alternative . . .

1 Cor 7:33-34
33 Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, 34 leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God.

So? Maybe you should consider staying single!

Until you are willing to give up your life and lay it down for the sake of your spouse, your marriage will not be what you desire it to be.

Marriage is when a man and woman become as one; the trouble starts when they try to decide ‘WHICH ONE’. I know without a doubt that marriage, and life in general, will eventually be harder than we dreamed that it could be. But I have no fear at all that, with Christ at the center of our relationship, Eleos and I can accomplish anything. Face anything. Walk through anything. Together. Clinging to Jesus. Always. (We know which “One”!).

I can’t wait to start that journey!

 
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April 30, 2012

APRIL 30, 2012
 
That was the defining moment.
That was the first leap of faith in the journey that was about to change the course of the rest of my life…
 
Few days before then, I was alone in a small room for 3 days. Alone, but not lonely. I emerged after those 3 days with a rather audacious submission and an even more audacious commission and mandate. I couldn’t shake off the sense that I was to spend the rest of my life finding expression for the lyrics I heard in those 3 days – lyrics beyond terrestrial melody.
 
3 days passed. I told my parents.
Mum cried. Dad sighed. But they both came to the same conclusion: We release you to go for that which you believe you have been called to pursue. (Oh! God bless my parents!)
 
My mentor gave me a “song sheet” for the new melody. Some well-meaning destiny friends gave me some “musical instruments” to start with (in a manner of speaking). And my eternal twain was ready to go all the way with me to sing this new tune together. (Thanks, Eleos).
 
On the very day I was supposed to go for an interview at a High School to start a lecturing job in the field I had chosen, I set out on another trip entirely into the unfamiliar.
 
The trip to Lagos seemed like forever. She welcomed me with her soundtrack of weary faces. I remember carrying my two small bags close to my heart as I was looking everywhere for a clue as to which way to go. I called Funmi, and she directed me.
 
Four years down the line, God has proven Himself faithful.
 
He has healed me of a cough that should have taken my life.
He has backed up His words on my lips with testimonies.
He has introduced me to people I never knew existed.
He has heard prayers I had not voiced out.
He has silenced the voice of impossibility.
He has disgraced insufficiency and lack.
He has broken the chains of “locality”.
He has shut the mouth of tradition.
He has given me HIMSELF!
 
“If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for (me), embracing (my) condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for (me)?” (Romans 8:32 MSG personalised).
 
Yes, it’s a great climb. The wall is high, and the stakes are higher. But He has given me His harness (the Holy Spirit) and placed a rope (His Word) in my hands.
 
Yes, at some point, I’d lost my footing and my focus. At some point, I’d fallen for a moment which seemed like forever…but then the rope tightened, and the tumble ceased. I hung in the harness and found “Him” to be strong. I grasped the rope and found “Him” to be true. I looked at my Guide and found Jesus securing my soul.
 
Now I’m wiser. I’m careful and cautious, but I’m also confident. I trust the rope. I rely on the harness. And though I can’t always see or feel my Guide, I know Him enough to trust His strength. And I know He is able to keep me from falling.
 
“To him who is able to keep (me) from falling and to present (me) before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God (my) Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ (my) Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude vv. 24–25 NIV)
 
…He that has begun the good work, will, no doubt, finish it.
Amen.
 
PS:
1. Thanks for your support and prayers. Every single one of you.
2. And if you are sensing the same thing I sensed 4 years ago, don’t delay. His remuneration plan is unmatchable!
 
Blessings.
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