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Because He Lives: Declarations for the Believer

The chief implication of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection is the glorious reality that everyone who believes in this substitutionary sacrifice becomes "the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21 AMP tells us so clearly:

“He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].” 

The implication of this is that all the many blessings in the bible both in the Old and New Testaments, which are supposed to be exclusively for "the righteous" can now be enjoyed without restrictions for as many as have truly placed their faith in Jesus and accepted His offer of salvation.

Below are some of these scriptures and declarations that affirm them in our lives:

1. Proverbs 10:30 Amplified Bible (AMP)

The [consistently] righteous will never be shaken, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.

Declaration:

I enjoy divine stability this year and beyond in every area of my life this year.
I am not shaken.
Because I trust the Lord, I am like Mount Zion which can never be moved, and which abides forever.
Nothing moves me. Nothing shakes me in Jesus’ name. Amen.

2. Psalm 92:12-15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

The righteous will flourish like the date palm [long-lived, upright and useful]; They will grow like a cedar in Lebanon [majestic and stable]. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. [Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; They will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in trust and love and contentment]; [They are living memorials] to declare that the Lord is upright and faithful [to His promises]; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Declaration:

This year and beyond, I flourish abundantly.
I am irresistibly useful in my generation and to my world.
God’s majesty and stability find ultimate expression in my life.
I am planted in the house of the Lord, therefore anything that is not permitted in the presence of the Lord is not permitted in my life.
I grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
I am a living testimony to continually declare the great and wondrous things that God’s limitless power is capable of doing.
And the promises of God to me are fulfilled without fail in Jesus’ name. Amen.

3. Romans 10:11 Amplified Bible (AMP)

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him — the righteous] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].”

Declarations:

My expectations for this year and my future shall never be cut short.
I am not disappointed in my glorious expectation of a glorious future.
The Word of the Lord concerning this season of my life and every subsequent season comes to pass in full.
And great shall be my joy in Jesus’ name. Amen.

4. Psalm 37:25 Amplified Bible (AMP)

I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous (those in right standing with God) abandoned Or his descendants pleading for bread.

Declarations:

I perpetually enjoy the abiding presence of my Father.
I am never forsaken and never abandoned. I am never in lack for my ever-present-Father sustains me.
I have life and have it more abundantly in Jesus’ name. Amen.

5. Proverbs 24:16 Amplified Bible (AMP)

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of disaster and collapse.

Declarations:

Whenever I fall, I rise again.
Every and any voice of condemnation directed towards me is eternally silenced.
My accuser is put to shame because I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Never are my mistakes fatal.
The mercy of God continually refuses to let me go.
And I fall deeper and deeper in love with my saviour in Jesus’ name.

6. Proverbs 28:1 Amplified Bible (AMP)

The wicked flee when no one pursues them, But the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Declarations:

I am bold and courageous.
Nothing scares me.
As a king, I have what I say.
Power and authority back up my words.
My dominion is enforced.
And the devil is put to shame in Jesus’ name. Amen.

7. Psalm 37:29 Amplified Bible (AMP)

The righteous will inherit the land and live in it forever.

Declarations:

In this year and always, I possess my possession and dispossess those who have dispossessed me.
Healing is my inheritance — and I possess it.
Sufficiency is my inheritance — I possess it.
Favour is my inheritance — and I possess it.
Excellence is my inheritance — and I possess it.
Prosperity is my inheritance — and I possess it.
I am the head and not the tail. I am above only, moving upward and forward only, never downward or backward.
I am all that Christ says I am in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Surely, there are more. But these are a few I-am-righteous verses and declarations which we can always return to again and again.

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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 .
1

A Cow That Has No Tail: A Birthday Reflection

When I woke up this morning, all I could do was to remember.

“31 years gone, just like that!” I said to Jesus as I headed to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

Unlike my birthday routine for the last few years of doing a series of posts counting down to the day, all I wanted to do this year is to remember—remember the highs and lows, the summers and the winters.

While the water for my tea was boiling, I recalled a message I preached recently in church. I titled it ‘EBENEZER’ (Stone of Help). If the message could be summarised in one statement, it’s this:

“The key that unlocks VICTORY in life is Divine Help, and the key that unlocks Divine Help is REMEMBRANCE.”

It’s a simple thought, but a profound one. The idea came from 1 Samuel 7:12-14 where the Israelites experienced one of their most memorable victories. The context of the story, however, makes it clear that this was not a victory that came because of the bravery or strategy of the Israelites; it was a victory rooted in just one thing: THE HELP OF GOD. Divine Help. (The story of my life!)

There is a saying amongst my people,

“Màlúù tí ò nírù, Ọlọ́run ní ḿbá a léṣinṣin.” Translation: “A cow that has no tail can count on God to help it chase flies away.” 

I reckon this to be the story of my life, these 31 years.

The ‘Ebenezer’ story actually begins in 1 Samuel chapter 4. The Israelites had faced the Philistines and lost 4,000 soldiers in one day. They re-strategised and thought that if they brought in the Ark of Covenant, they will ‘automatically’ start winning, so they brought in the Ark from Shiloh. They rejoiced at its arrival so loudly that the ground shook and the Philistines were terrified. In spite of this seeming assurance, however, they went to battle and the Philistines killed even much more of them—30,000 in all! And that’s not even the worst bit. They lost the Ark of Covenant in the process!

When Eli heard it, he died.

When Eli’s pregnant daughter-in-law heard it, she went into premature labour and gave birth to a boy which she named ‘Ichabod’ (meaning ‘the Glory has departed’).

For the next 20 years, as Prophet Samuel records, “all Israel was in sorrow because the Lord had seemingly abandoned them.” (1 Samuel 7:2 TLB, emphasis mine).

Samuel led the people into repentance, consecration and worship. And as the nation of Israel were worshipping God, the Philistines came again. (Yes, while 20 kids may not play together for 20 years, there are stubborn adversaries that keep showing up years without end). This time, however, God Himself intervened. He made a thunderous sound from the heavens and threw the whole camp of the Philistines into disarray! The Israelites took this as their go-ahead from God and defeated the Philistines massively. The defeat was so final that the Philistines “didn’t invade Israel again at that time because the Lord was against them throughout the remainder of Samuel’s lifetime.” (1 Samuel 7:13 TLB).

You will recall that when the Israelites made a thunderous roar in celebration of the arrival of the Ark of Covenant in chapter 4, they still lost the battle. Woefully. But when God thundered from heaven in Chapter 7, they won the battle hands down! The implication is clear; there is only one explanation for their victory: GOD. The Israelites are the tailless cows whose God had helped to chase their flies away.

In acknowledgement, Samuel took a stone and named it ‘Ebenezer’ — meaning ‘stone of help’. He said “The Lord has certainly helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12 TLB).

But why did Samuel do that? What’s the point in picking that stone? And what’s the point in naming the stone ‘Ebenezer’?

The reason is not far-fetched. He wanted the Israelites to be INTENTIONAL about REMEMBERING. The word ‘Ebenezer’ is not only apt in this instance as a one-word testimony for how God brought them victory. The word had appeared earlier in this same book. Guess where? In Chapter 4! Ebenezer was where the Israelites lost 30,000 men to the Philistines. So Samuel is naming their victory ‘Ebenezer’ not only because of the literal meaning of the word, but also as a reminder of the backdrop of this victory: a 20-year-old defeat.

“The key that unlocks VICTORY in life is Divine Help, and the key that unlocks Divine Help is REMEMBRANCE.” 

It is for the same reason that Joshua ordered that 12 stones be dislodged from Jordan’s riverbed and piled upon one another as a memorial after the Israelites crossed River Jordan. He was arming the Israelites with their best weapon to survive the unending battles of life: A GOOD MEMORY.

We all need this.

My birthday gift to you, therefore, is a question: Where is your Ebenezer? Where is your Stone of Help? To put it in clearer terms, Can you recall HOW God has helped you . . . and WHY?

  • Your Ebenezer could be a DATE you can’t forget.
  • A PLACE permanently engraved on the walls of your memory.
  • A PERSON (or PEOPLE) through whom God has come through for you.
  • An EVENT or EXPERIENCE that has changed your story for the better.

You want some inspiration to compile your ‘Ebenezer List’? Here’s an excerpt from my copy:

I remember ‘EASTHAM D2’. It’s a meaningless phrase that labelled an anonymous credit alert for £100 which came in at a time when £100 felt like £1m. The money was so timely, it could only have been God chasing away some flies of strandedness from my tailless cow. You can read all about it here.

I remember ‘GOMBE’. To you, it may be just a city in Northern Nigeria; for me, however, it’s an acronym. ‘God Of My Beautiful Experience.’ In that city, I met my wife and received the beginning of a progressive revelation into my future.

I remember ‘FEBRUARY 10, 2012.’ It’s the day Valentine came early for me—the day the first lady I will ever ask to marry me gave me her response. It was neither a ‘yes’ nor a ‘no’. I got a better deal: “I AM READY.” (As I was typing this part of the post, the said damsel walked in, gave me a hug and prayed for me from her heart. I couldn’t hold back the tears!)

I remember ‘A PHONE CALL IN FEBRUARY 2015’. The call came from a couple I was yet to meet physically. Our conversation that night made coming to the UK possible as God led me into another phase in His unfolding plans. (Coming to the UK is not the blessing, mind you; the blessing is in being led into the next season in God’s unfolding plan.)

I remember ‘AN APRIL VISITOR IN 2012.’ He’s a man of God who stopped by to say ‘hello’ to my parents while passing through our town. As he prayed for us when he was about to leave, he had a message for me. Exploring that message led me to the adventure of abandoning Microbiology and a pending job offer for the pursuit of God’s call for my life. I’ve never regretted the decision.

I remember ‘WHO ARE YOU?’. It’s the theme of a 2-evening event I attended while in my first year in Uni. June 2016. It was at that meeting that I became what Yorubas call ‘ọmọlúwàbí’ (which translated, literally means ‘a child born by the Lord of Character’). The equivalent in Christianese is ‘being born again.’ To be born again, of course, is to be born of God—born of the Lord/Master of Character and Virtue.

[There is another saying that highlights this born-again concept in the Yoruba tradition. It goes thus: “Kí ẹrú mọ ara ẹ̀ lẹ́rú; kí ìwọ̀fà mọ ara ẹ̀ níwọ̀fà; kí ọmọlúwàbí mọ ara ẹ̀ lẹ́rú Ọlọ́run ọba.” Translation: “Let the slave know himself or herself as a slave; let the pawn know himself or herself as a pawn; let the ọmọlúwàbí know himself or herself as the child of God.”](Oops! I couldn’t resist chipping in a bit of ‘African Theology’.)

I could go on and on recounting the countless items on ‘My Ebenezer List’, but let’s turn the table and point the question back to you: WHAT’S YOUR EBENEZER?

When you remember what God has done, it reminds you of Whose you are. If you will recognise the Jordan in your rearview mirror, faith will arise as you approach the Jericho in front of your windshield. If you will recall the place where you fell and the lessons Providence taught you from there, you have perspective to face the future.

So join me in creating a trophy room. Let’s create one in our heart. For each victory that comes our way going forward—each provision, protection and answered prayer—we will do well by placing a memory on the shelf in our trophy room. In no time, we will have a room full of trophies that remind us that though we may be like a cow with no tail, there is a God Whose track record clearly shows that He can be counted on to help us chase the flies away.

Olódùmarè, 
You are the ‘Flies Chaser’ on my tailless cow. 
You’ve chased away the flies of debts and death. 
Chase away, also, the fly of forgetfulness 
That I may always remember that You are my ‘Flies Chaser’. 
Amen.

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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An Epistle to a Younger Sister

#iRemember | Episode 321
 
I had a chat with one of you last night—one of those that I know quite well outside of being a group member. She wanted to discuss about the guy-pressure that was going on in her life. The conversation ended up with me writing an epistle to a ‘younger sister I never had’. I thought the points I raised in the epistle will help a handful of you in your first or second year in Uni and within the age range of 18 and 21. Below is a reproduction of the epistle but with an anonymised identity of the sister in question.
 
And yes, brothers will learn from this as well.
 
After my sister had told me about the 7 brothers disturbing her 19-year-old beautiful self and asking of my opinion, I thought to digress and ask her a question as well:
 
"Is there a young married woman that you look up to and really admire and hope that you will grow up to become like?"
 
After a little clarification about what I meant by my question, she answered: "Your wife, Anu."
 
What follows below is the epistle I sent to her afterwards:
 
_____________________________________________________________
 
I will tell you why I asked you that question...
 
If someone had asked me the same question as a guy back in my first or second year in Uni, I also have a few young men that I could think of at the time—people that I really admire and hope to grow up to become like. And I spent my University days trying to follow in their footsteps.
It's good to have such people in our lives that we can use what we know of their story to assess or interpret our current phase—not with the intention of becoming photocopies but simply because they've been there. They’ve gone through the phase we are now going through and they made decisions at that stage that got them to the enviable status that they now occupy. If we could learn from the decisions they made back when they were at the stage we are in, we could also go on to become fulfilled in our individual pursuits by making similar decisions.
 
My wife is not perfect. Neither is any other person you may think of. But if there's one thing I know about Aanu (and few other people that I can think of in that category on your behalf), it's the fact that they didn't give themselves to ‘guys wahala’ while they were in University.
 
That didn't mean that they didn't have friends that were guys. It simply meant that they didn't make being someone's girlfriend part of their University agenda.
 
They knew that their focus at that stage of their life was to grow and develop as much as they could SPIRITUALLY and ACADEMICALLY.
 
They knew that if they could get those two right at that stage of their lives, when it's really time to get a husband, God will bring the right young man their way.
 
You'll be 20 this year.
 
I honestly think you shouldn't even bother yourself about taking ANY guy seriously at this point. If a guy is running after you and saying all sort of sweet nonsense to you now, it's just what it is. A pretty young lady like you will definitely have many suitors. It is absolutely NORMAL. But you must be able to stand your ground and say no to them. They are nothing but DISTRACTIONS.
 
There's a stage you get to as a Christian lady in the University when you know that you are ready for a marriage-bound relationship (that is, a relationship with a guy that is not just asking to date you but to actually marry you because he believes you are God's choice for him). Most sound Christian ladies I’ve met get to that stage in their final or penultimate year in Uni. At that stage, they know they have laid a solid foundation for their academics. They are beginning to see a beautiful prospect of a good career. And when that brother comes and says whatever he wants to say, they know that it is time—and can discern if he’s the one for them or not...
 
If what I know of you is anything close to reality, then you are still far from getting to that stage—and that's okay. Don't rush yourself. But whatever you do now, endeavour to release yourself to serve in the fellowship you are attending in your Uni and in your church back at home. Take on responsibilities that will strengthen you internally. Take your academics very seriously and deal with the challenges that arise in your academic life as they appear. As you do these things, you are making eternal investment into your worth in life. At the end of the day, you will be glad you did.
 
Back to the example you cited—my wife. Like I earlier said, she's not perfect and neither am I. But our wedding ended up going viral on the internet basically because of two things:
 
1. The fact that she got married on the same day she's graduating with a First Class in Law.
 
2. The fact that we are both Christians who chose to have a very simple unexpensive wedding.
 
It takes a lady that has set her priorities right to get to that point. Our wedding was supposed to be a very quiet one—so quiet that I didn’t even inform members of the Alive Group till a day or two before the wedding. But God himself decided to publicise it as a testimony to many other Youths out there that it pays to be virtuous and to wait and be diligent.
 
I see you as my sister from another mother—a younger sister I never had—and I desire the very best for you. So take this is a brotherly advise from your big brother.
 
If you commit yourself to any relationship now, you will jeopardise your academics. It's as simple as that. There are no two ways about it. But if you could let guys be for a couple more years while you work on developing yourself in various other ways, you will be eternally grateful to yourself that you did.
 
I'll be at your wedding, God willing. And we will both remember this long post that I sent to you on a night in January in 2018 and we will thank God for His faithfulness together.
 
I love you so much, my sister.
 
Hope to talk to you soon.
 
Sweet dreams.
 
Your brother.
 
_______________________________________________________________
 
A final word:
 
Guys, you too should help these sisters. Stop running up and down after these pretty ladies when you are yet to know what you want to do with the rest of your life. Give yourself to a discovery of your purpose and your mission here on earth—and in my understanding, if you take the pursuit of purpose discovery very seriously, it takes a good part of your University life if not all of it.
 
So get to work. Yes, the sisters are looking irresistibly beautiful and you want to have the prettiest for keeps as early as you can, but guess what, your definition of ‘pretty’ is warped until your purpose is in clear view. You are in your first year and you are running after a girl, is that what you came to Uni to find?
 
Okay. I’ll stop there. I’m beginning to switch to a mode that will get on the wrong side of the superficial reader…lol
 
Love you all.
 
May the Lord order our steps—guys and ladies alike—in the fullness of His will for us in Jesus name.
 
Amen.
 
I hope that helps one or two of us today.
 
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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Persistent Fearlessness

#iRemember | Episode 324
 
Babies are wonderful. Ever before I became a parent biologically, I have always had an unexplainable fascination and respect for babies. I see them as the genre of human beings that are closest to what God had in mind when he made man-before sin came into the picture.
 
Few millennia down the line, even the incarnate Lord will one day tell the adults listening to His homily "…unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom." (Matthew 18:3 MSG) In another discourse, He reminded his adult critics one of the prophecies that had just been fulfilled in their very eyes that "Out of the mouths of babes and unweaned infants You have made (provided) perfect praise" (Matthew 21:16 AMP)
 
As such, whenever I'm around any little one, I tend to look out for lessons they could teach me. And in the last couple of weeks, my wife and I have watched with amazement two major life-lessons modelled to us daily by our 8-month-old. I'll share both lessons and trace it to their common root.
 
1. PERSISTENCE
I recorded the above video few days ago after watching Joshua rise and fall and pick himself up again. He doesn't mind how many times he falls in his attempt to stay standing and even take a few steps-something deep down in his God-shaped intuition tells him when you fall, you are supposed to stand again. How quickly we unlearn that as we grow up.
 
2. FEARLESSNESS
On a couple of occasions, Joshua has fallen off the bed because as far as he's concerned, there is no height too high or any depth too deep for him as long as there is something that catches his fancy up there or down there, he just goes for it. No matter how high is the barricade we mount around him on our bed, when he's awake and sees something he wants on the other side of the barricade, he dives towards it-like literally dives. If his hand won't reach it on first attempt, he gives it another try. And another. And again…till he gets what he wants.
 
Both of these priceless baby instincts are rooted in one big baby instinct: SHAMELESSNESS! Babies are shameless. Unfortunately, this is one instinct we are urged to do away with the more we grow.
 
Think about it. If you've ever had to repeat a class in your primary or secondary school-or if you've ever had to resit a course in your undergraduate or post-graduate degree, you will get a hang of what I'm talking about. What emotion do you feel when you have to attend the same lectures you attended the previous year all over again with younger students? SHAME! But for a baby? Na. It's just a matter of giving it a go all over again-and as many times as it takes. 
Now, take that imagination (or memory) even further. If (or when) you (ever) had to retake a course or resit an examination, what other emotion comes with that besides shame? Yeah, you're right: FEAR! All of a sudden, the thought keeps going back-and-forth in your mind-what if I fail again? What if I have to come back to this exam hall yet another time to rewrite yet the same paper? Before you know it, the fear gains ground and God forbid, your testimony becomes like that of Job: "What I feared most descends on me; my nightmare-now reality."_ (Job 3:25 VOICE)
 
All that to say this: Our lack of drive to try again and very many of our fears can be traced back to one thing: our inability to be shameless. So this morning, I'm challenging us to rethink our desire to not be shameless. Dare to be shameless again!
 
"How do we do that?" you ask.
Same way babies do it!
 
The real reason why babies are shameless is because of the bond they share with their parents (especially their mum). No matter what they do, there is a figure they trust that is nearby-whose sound of laughter keeps them going and whose hands are strong enough to bear and comfort them when they are hurting. Somewhere deep down in their instinct, this fact is settled.
 
The good news is there is also such a figure in our lives. Our heavenly father is near enough to touch and strong enough to trust. Others may laugh mockingly at your failures, but your father's laugh is so different-His is a laughter that oozes forth the freedom to try again. He is near enough to touch-and strong enough to save you. You can trust Him.
 
May you find the grace to be persistently fearless as your understanding of Whose you are sinks deeper into your worldview in Jesus name.
 
Amen.
#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.