Feeling guilty?

Are there times you feel far from God? You feel you have fallen short? You don’t feel like a Christian? I have felt like that a couple of times too. Sometime ago, I heard a Christian leader I respect a lot say he had felt that way a number of times too. Phew! I felt better knowing I was not alone, knowing I was not the only Christian who felt that way.
Sometimes we feel disconnected from God. Maybe we have deviated from our communion program, Bible study regimen, been unfaithful in an area, missed a step or fallen flat on our faces. It could be something different for you. You just know that it’s not what it used to be.
What has helped me in such moments is that I have not hesitated to go back to my Heavenly Father as soon as I realize the situation. The solution is never to stay away or keep running but to go back home. You might feel dirty or unworthy but that is when God’s love is best known. One of the biggest lies the devil tries to drum into our ears is that God is mad at us or that God hates us. This is not true at all. God’s love for us never depreciates. God says, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you (Jeremiah 31:3). God has not moved from where He first met us. We are the ones who keep moving. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea (Psalm 46:1-2).

116h.jpgLike dirty hands would always need some hand wash or soap bar to get clean, we will always need the immaculate One to pick us up, clean us up and put us on our feet again. His arms are always wide open to hold you and cuddle you because you are His dear child. Dear friend, Love would never turn you away.

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TAKE HOLD OF 2017

The New Year would bring to you a harvest that is based on the seeds you have sown or the seeds you would sow in the course of the year. The coming days may not produce sudden magical stories or special favours just because it is you. Each and every one of us must take hold of the New Year and craft the future we want. In whatever part of the world you are, governments and human authorities would really not be able to do much to bring the kind of changes you would really desire for yourself. This is simply because they are limited and still influenced by the forces that pull on all sides.2017

You would have to get up and create the future you want to see. There is a beautiful story of a blind man in the Bible called Bartimaeus who decided to scorn the civility of the day and cry out for a touch from Jesus the healer. You would have to be deliberate about the future you want and go beyond the ideals, general mindsets and perceptions you see around you. You don’t just pluck the future you want off a tree you see on a casual stroll, you create it by the seeds you choose to sow. It is also not the best to build your future with the images of the world around you (which are images created by others) but to build it with the dreams created in your heart (put there by God).

So what seeds are you sowing today? What are you committing your time NOW to doing? What investments are you making now? What are your priorities? What is your life map for the year ahead? If you take each day as it comes you would only have whatever the day presents to you. Make a plan!

Sow seeds of the Word of God into life. Gets scriptures that speak of the future you want and speak them continually over your life daily. Get scriptures for your personal development, character development, relationships, finances, career, businesses, etc

Focus on developing right and strong character. No human has the perfect personality. There is always going to be something to be worked on. If you think you are just cool, that itself is a problem and improvement may become an uphill task.

Give time to your key relationships and none is more important than your family relationships.

Give time to personal development. Learn a new skill, polish your talents; bring excellence to whatever you are passionate about doing. The scent of excellence is always distinct.

Take your relationship with God to a higher level. Commit time to studying God’s word and praying. It would be good to look back at the end of 2017 and know that you have had a truly healthy and growing walk with God during the year. This is key to not just staying above waters in the year but excelling in your space.

Have a great year.

Brain on fire

Sometime ago I attended a training which held in one of the hotels in Abuja. Looking through the glass door of the hall I was in, I observed a security personnel who sat by the door all through the training session. Apparently, his responsibility was to keep an eye on activities just outside the hall which really were very minimal save the sparse occurrences of people coming in and going out of the hall. For most of the time, his chin was seated comfortably in his palm as he sat in a somewhat reflective mood. His demeanour didn’t look quite optimistic. I might be wrong but I felt his thoughts fell into one of two categories. He was either thinking about the past and current happenings around him or thinking about the future. Thoughts could wander from thinking about struggles along life’s highway to how last month’s salary got zapped so quickly or what financial alternatives lay in the future. Just my wild guess anyway.brain_on_fire

All humans think but we don’t all think the same way, we don’t all have the same thinking patterns and we don’t all process thoughts the same way. Our minds are factories processing several thoughts in a day. Usually, our words and actions are the products of our thoughts. We process all kinds of thoughts in our minds – the good, the bad and the ugly. If we act on the right thoughts, we get the right outcomes. If we act on the wrong thoughts, we waste energy and we lose out. Not every thought is productive. Not every thought moves us forward. But we can process the right thoughts and act on them – thoughts that propel us in the direction of our purpose and destiny.

Thought patterns determine what we pursue and what we seek to accomplish. Thought patterns differentiate the poor from the rich. A million bucks in the hands of someone with the wrong thought pattern would not produce the same returns as the same amount in the hands of someone with the right thought pattern. Said in another way, the value of money in the hands of someone who only thinks about acquiring property or amassing wealth is different from the value of the same amount in the hands of someone who thinks of providing solutions. By the way, note that solution-oriented businesses usually outlast for-profit-only businesses.

Yet again, there are two extremes. Some people believe that their human ability and capacity alone is all they need to create, innovate or achieve anything. Another set of people sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to show them what to do and how to do it while sending their brains to sleep! Both extremes are dangerous. One denies the influence God can bring into a person’s life via His Spirit and the other denies the God-given creative capacity that lies in us. The child of God is blessed because he or she can enjoy the best of both worlds. We have inherent intelligence and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to call on at any time.

Let’s get ready to put our brains to work. Let’s task our brains. What ideas do we have? How can we do things better? Are there any other ways of achieving the results we get now? How can we maximize our gains and reduce effort and cost? In what ways can I apply my skills and talents? How can I serve my church or community differently? You might not always get immediate and perfect answers. Some thoughts might even appear awkward. But where the finite stops, the infinite kicks in. You can rely on the Holy Spirit to help. He would take the thoughts in God’s mind and put them in your mind (I Corinthians 2:12). He can also give guidance on the thoughts already being processed in your mind.

It’s always fantastic to pray in the Holy Spirit and look to receive His inspiration. Praying in the Holy Spirit unties wrapped up thoughts. It improves your capacity to innovate and conceive. It liberates from mediocre thinking. It propels to the realm of creativity. It fires up your thinking process.

There is nothing like waking up fired up with thoughts that make you wanna run or skip. So take some time to pray in the Spirit and this is something you can do before you go to sleep at night. Then expect to have God’s thoughts distil upon your mind so that you wake up with His thoughts and ideas on your mind in the morning. When you begin your day with the thoughts and ideas God put in your mind, you leverage on His wisdom to conquer the day. And when those thoughts are fired by the power of the Holy Spirit, you always have good success. Victor Hugo, a poet in 19th century once said, ‘Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come’. This is my version: Nothing can stop a Holy Spirit-inspired idea because its time has come!

 

Thought check: What are those ideas God has put in your heart that you need to act on now?

Google and the Holy Spirit

An advert ran in the Nigerian media recently that featured a child asking her mum several questions which she could not immediately answer. Finally the child said to her mum, ‘Why don’t we ask Google’, to which her mum replied, ‘Good question’.Google

Google is a popular search engine this side of the world at least. I reckon that in China, Baidu is the equivalent of Google to them. We all use Google to get answers on the Internet, from quick updates on trending topics to resources for a thesis. And with their Chrome explorer, it becomes easier to quickly do searches on your smartphone, tablets, laptops, etc.

Almost everyone has enjoyed the help of Google at one time or the other. As funny as this might sound, the search engine has saved several relationships from a breakup or at a least a quarrel over who was right on an issue. Matters have been resolved by a simple search. Google seems to have the answer to everything you ask it. Once something is not clear, almost by reflex action, we turn to Google.

Google is accessible. Google knows your location. It knows your preferences and can return search results based on your preferences or browsing history. The information provided is increasingly reliable. And this is so because the information provided is usually tailored to your search preference, location, etc.

Google provides answers and does that quickly depending on your internet connection. So why ask God for His opinion on a couple of choices when Google can give you enough information to make a reasonable decision almost as quickly as you want it.

People ask Google questions and expect a sincere answer. Some of the top personal ‘Why/What’ questions on Google include:

  • Why did God make me?
  • Why did God make me ugly?
  • What is the meaning of love?’

So, when God said He would send the Holy Spirit who would teach us all things, was He referring to Google? Absolutely not!

There are several life defining decisions Google would not be able to make for you. Google does not know God’s purpose for your life. Google would make suggestions based on a man-made algorithm which is just but a guess. God alone knows what is absolutely right for you at any point of your life. God has a plan for you which only He can reveal to you. He does this through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows the heart of God and can reveal it to us (I Corinthians 2:9-10).

How close are you to the Holy Spirit? Have you sought His counsel today? Maybe you think He is not speaking to you again or maybe you are sure you have never heard Him before.

First you have to expect to hear from Him and then you have to listen for His voice. You also have to be willing to follow His counsel.

Some try to select what they need His counsel for. We usually want to hear the Holy Spirit speak to us on big issues – who to marry, what career path to follow, what business idea to invest in, what city to settle in, etc. But if we have not learnt to hear from Him on little things, we most probably would miss His counsel on the big things. Start to involve the Holy Spirit in the small matters. Involve Him in your plan for the day as ordinary as it may appear. Seek His counsel before you step out to visit that friend. Ask for His thoughts before you raise that issue at the departmental meeting. Ask what He thinks before you make that dress choice.

You would be pleasantly surprised to know He is interested in all that and can help you choose right. The same way you hear Him speak to you on the small issues is the same way He would speak to you on the major ones.

He wants to be involved in our lives to guide us on the big and little decisions we make. He can teach us the things we need to know and solve the mysteries Google has no clue about. So while Google continues to serve us in the ways it can, let remember that our ultimate Helper is the Holy Spirit.

 

Thought check: How can I improve my relationship with the Holy Spirit?

I MADE A CHOICE

Several years ago, I made a decision that changed the course of my life. I was preparing to enter the university and planned on going in to study medicine. About that time, there was a protracted industrial action that kept universities shut for several months.choice

During that period, I got thinking and wasn’t sure I wanted to study medicine again. I thought about my love for machines which ran alongside my interest in biology and the science of life and decided I might be better off as an engineer. So I bought another JAMB form and applied for an engineering course in another university. Today I am an engineer who is enjoying what I do.

That singular decision changed the course of my life. I had to go to a different city to study. I made new friends I may never have met if I was studying medicine. I now work in a different work environment from what obtains in the medical world. My way of thinking has possibly been affected by the course I studied and the dynamics of my work. As simple as this decision I made as a teenager was, it has had life-defining impact on my future.

We make choices every day of our lives. Choices as simple as what we wear or eat, where we go to or who we call on the phone. There are some bigger ones like the choice of who to marry or whether to undergo that surgery or follow another doctor’s advice to use a certain medication. We usually can take these decisions on our own but might sometimes want the counsel of an ally. But ultimately, we are responsible for the outcome of our decisions and we enjoy the benefits or bear the consequences – benefits or consequences we may not be able to transfer to anyone else.

Life is a product of the choices we make. We are where we are today because of the choices we made yesterday. What we experience tomorrow would be the result of the decisions we take today. The power of the future is in our hands and we will do well to think carefully about the choices we are making today. What decisions are we making today? What are we spending our time doing? What activities and actions are our priorities today?

I want you to welcome tomorrow with smiles and a joyful heart. I want you to look back on your past with gratitude to God rather than tearful regrets for the choices you made.

One choice you make today can alter the next set of choices you would make. That choice can set you on a course of right and productive choices for the rest of your life. I want you to make that choice today in case you haven’t already. I made that choice already and I am grateful I did. I want you to consider strongly the decision of accepting the offer of life that Jesus gives. He said, He came to give life and to give it more abundantly. Accept His offer today and let Him help you with the rest of the choices you have to make in life.

John 1 verse 12 says Jesus empowers those who receive Him to become the children of God. Again in Romans 8:14, the Bible says those who are the children of God are led by the Spirit of God. This means when we make that choice to receive God’s gift of life through His son Jesus, we can rely on God’s Spirit to guide us in making other decisions in life, both the simple ones and the tough ones. The way to find out if this is true is to go ahead and make that choice today and build a relationship with Jesus Christ. Trust me, you can never be wrong on this!

So let’s pray this prayer together. Dear Lord Jesus, I thank you for your offer of life to me. I know you love me deeply in spite of my past. You died for me and your blood was shed for my sins. I accept you as my Savior and Lord and I ask that your blood would wash me clean of every sin. Thank you for your gift of abundant and eternal life in Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Welcome home friend.

If you have already made this choice, please share this with your friends who need to make this choice too. Thank you.

OF TIME AND VALUES

I took some time to reflect on the passing of time and its effect on our lifestyle. I thought about the impact time has had on our values and how we have changed our preferences over the years. I realized that what was hype to my generation a couple of years ago is now old fashioned. And what we were crazy over a decade ago now has a distaste in our mouths today. What we built our lives around before has suddenly become an unwanted relic in our space.Pebbles

Material possessions come and go and even an insurance policy cannot keep them longer than their determined lifespan. At best, you would get a replacement. Take a look at your parent’s house and look through the things you find in the house. Now imagine you want to build a new house for your parents and equip it for them making it as comfortable as you would for them. I bet a lot of the stuff they had in the old house would be given out, sold or destroyed. Those stuff would have no place in the new house. You might consider such things an intrusion in the new ambience you are trying to create for your parents. Now, some of those things which are now unwanted were da bomb in the years past. It appeared there could be nothing better than those items. We held unto them dearly and acquired more and more. Remember the TV in a box with shutters in front that now has a broken tube or the lovely 1980’s suitcase we were eager to take on a trip because we thought it just showed class. What about the trending fashion styles of the 90’s you had in different colours? Now you probably would be ashamed of wearing them today. Of course, there might be similar styles because of the fashion cycle we are sucked into, but it would not be that exact item, if you get what I am saying.

Time also has its impact on values. Time can appear to strengthen values and it can also erode them. Over time, we have redefined the values of beauty, confidence, devotion, faith, individuality, love, truth, … the list goes on. But I have learnt (and I am still learning) to reinforce the fundamental essence of certain values, placing value on the things that matter most – my relationship with God, my marriage, my family and the relationships I have built with people around me. The wind of time would blow over the things we hold on to, to twist and redefine our values in varying ways. We need to hold on to the things that matter most – things that bring real benefits, the things that money cannot buy. Know that material possessions are temporal and we can always get better ones. But getting a messed up value system can wreak a future. So never have a heartbreak over the loss of a material item. God is bigger than it.

Focus on nurturing the values that define your life. For example, nurture the habit of giving and generosity. Let giving be a very convenient virtue and not an act of compulsion. There are things you really can do without. There are some things you really would not need in future, contrary to what you think now. Bless someone else with those items. They would bless you from the heart. Remember, what you give out has not left your life, it has just become a sown seed in your ground. Luke 6:38 in the Message translation says, Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

Be generous with words of appreciation. Find good things to say about people around you. When you condemn, criticize negatively and put others down, you have not improved your own life and you have not blessed another either. But when you appreciate others and speak kind and positive words, you attract goodwill, you speak into your future and you bring a smile to the face of another – which is never a bad thing to do. Proverbs 16:24 says, Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. Everyone has the capacity to appreciate others and to do so generously. If you can have a conversation with anyone, then you can appreciate someone. You only have to make up your mind to be more appreciative than critical.

You would also want to place value on your relationship with God. You could determine not to let anything interfere with that relationship. This is one relationship, like the one with your spouse and family, which must improve with time. You should be able to look back and say you have become more intimate with God over the weeks, months, years… Are we reading more of His Word, are we spending more or less time in prayer and communion? Has there been a change in attitude and character? Or are we explaining away our shortcomings, taking our acquisitions as a sign of God’s approval? Dear friend, time must have a positive effect on our relationship with Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

These are just some values that time must strengthen. You can keep getting better if you focus on what matters most in your life. These would always be relevant to your world and would never go out of fashion.

Thought check: What are my core values? How important were they to me five years ago and how important do I think they would be five years from now?

 

Christianese or Faithspeak

‘Bless you sister’, ‘It’s well’, ‘God is in control’. You probably might have heard these phrases or used them recently. These phrases and the like have become synonymous with Christians. Christian lingo or Christianese as some have called it are phrases that have come to be associated with Christians or Christianity. Its growth has somewhat been buoyed by an increased understanding of faith and the call to confess God’s word and speak positively. Several of these clichés have even found their way into the social and business world. I once heard a governor of one of the Northern states in Nigeria admonish cattle rustlers to become born again – trying to get them to change their ways.Mic

We know that the words of our mouths are very powerful, thus we have become more careful with the things we say, trying hard to make sure our words are largely positive. Once, someone was about entering an elevator going to the ground floor and asked the fellow he met in the lift if she was going down. The person quickly shot back, ‘I am not going down in Jesus name’. I can imagine the lady saying in her mind, ‘I beg, don’t curse me’.

Sometimes, Christianese phrases like ‘Praise the Lord’ or ‘Halleluyah’ are used as opening statements in noisy places to get people’s attention. Christianese has also taken a hit on not a few occasions. My pastor told me of a funeral he had to officiate some time ago (I tell you that is difficult). Trying to comfort the bereaved family, he said, ‘It is well’ and someone quickly retorted, ‘It is not well’.

Then there is also the abuse or misuse of Christian phrases or words associated with the Christian faith. For example, I heard a part of a song which said, ‘Maga don pay, shout Halleluyah’. Loosely translated it means ‘the deceived fellow has paid me the money, shout Halleluyah’. I find it ridiculous that Halleluyah, that expression of praise that means the same thing in every language, would be so unrighteously paired.

Also you hear people say such things like ‘I am strong’ when they feel a little under the weather. And when we try to politely respond, saying sorry, they say, ‘thank you’. This doesn’t add up. Why should I say sorry if you are indeed strong and why should you say thank you if you are strong? It would appear the state of weakness is being admitted, negating the earlier declaration. I think a better response should be ‘Don’t say sorry to me, I told you I am strong’. Funny right? Interestingly, when we get to the hospital, we tell the doctor exactly how we feel and forget the ‘I am strong’ song. I believe it is a declaration of faith to say, I am not feeling too good but I am already healed in Jesus’ name. It’s okay to say, ‘I ain’t got much cash now but God is supplying every need of mine. Yes, I am rich in Jesus name’. Faith doesn’t deny the situation, it declares the facts.

Our words carry the power and life of the Spirit when they bubble out of a heart yielded to the Holy Spirit. So it would be good to focus on the condition of our hearts. We should deal with the habits, weights and sins that we would hide behind our backs if we were standing before our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Then, with a surrendered heart, we can speak with a confidence that stems from the tree of faith and have in our hands the things we declare. It is interesting how yielding brings confidence and surrendering brings authority. But that is the dynamics of the Christian life for you. Then, it wouldn’t matter if you call it ‘Christianese’ or faith words. They would be words of power producing the things we speak.