You are the Right Size

Have you ever got a gift for someone, say for instance a pair of shoes and then after the razzmatazz of presenting them, you found out that you got the wrong size. It is quite an uncomfortable place, right? Here you are with a really nice gesture that somehow was cut short because not every information was considered or you were simply mistaken.

Of course this might have not been your fault for a variety of reasons, one of which include that you are human. Humans make mistakes, humans don’t always have access to all of the information.

However, God is not that way. When he was going to give this world the gift of you. He had all the information, he put everything into consideration and he made no mistakes. He created you to a perfect fit. You are the right size!

That is why you can not be like anyone else and trying to be is just an effort in futility. You were made specially for your purpose and God saw to it that you are the right size. For God so loved the world that HE GAVE YOU.

– Ezeonyeka Godswill
#NowThink

In Focus

One of the best things I have read in recent times was in Joyce Meyer’s words – “Life is in the journey, not the end”. This like many other variations of this wisdom tells us to not miss out on the beauty going on around us because we are so fixated on the goal.

Boy do I agree with this thought. However, just like every journey, sometimes you are going to look out the window and all you see is trees after trees… and then some more trees. It gets boring and soon enough sleep is the only option you are left with.

In this moment, you really need the end in focus. I think this why God is in the character of showing us a glimpse of what the end will look like, because times will come in the journey where you will question the use of the monotony you have to live with and when they do come, your eyes have to leave what is right in front of you be set on the things that are to come.

This in no wise suggests that the journey should not be enjoyed. However it should not be the focus, it should not be the inspiration. There is a point to all of this, an end, a purpose. Think about it often, plan for it and when life doesn’t make sense, remember you are on a journey to somewhere and it is worth all the trouble.

I wish you grace and strength in all you do. See you at the finish line!

– Ezeonyeka Godswill
#NowThink (2019)

THE BLANKET: YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU COME FROM

“Americans are irreverent.”

“Nigerians are scammers”.

“Arabs are cheats.”

These comments (or things like them) are said about people of specific nationalities and ethnicities on the daily. And for the most part, this sort of labeling passes unchallenged, because it’s more frequently done in group conversations involving people who actually believe that individual behavior can be put down to the purported tendencies of the societies from which they originate.

Interestingly, many of these people will resist attempts from others to slap the same sort of negative group labels on them. They will claim exceptions for their own individuality, perhaps even reject derogatory descriptions of members of their group.

A lot of us have done these things at some point in our lives. Some of us still actively identify the behavior of individuals with popular stereotypes of their countries or cities of origin.

If you’re reading this right now, your default response might be to “condemn negative stereotypes” and “encourage us to see one another as unique in ourselves.”

Of course, there are irreverent people, scammers, and cheats in every ethnic group, country, or race. In any case, there’s next to no empirical evidence that any specific nationalities are more given to doing bad things than others.

The problem with blanket statements, positive or negative, is that they significantly distort reality. They tell us that things are as they are not. And these distortions have serious consequences.

There’s one obvious example. Young children don’t seem to mind about the colour of their friend’s skin or where they are from, until they get exposed to negative social ideas about race and their parent’s take on geopolitics.  As they grow, they pick these ideas up. By adulthood, they have acquired a full set of stereotypes which they’re ready to slap on to the next available target.

That’s a very easy takedown.

But what about positive cultural stereotypes then? Do we give those a pass?

We suggest not. Claiming that the Chinese are accommodating by default simply glosses over a sizeable number of instances in which Chinese people have treated strangers badly.

But there are consequences for so-called positive stereotypes as well. When we say that an ethnic group has some fantastically good qualities just by virtue of their being that ethnic group, we’re claiming that ‘goodness’ is expected of people of that group by default. In reality, it’s wishful thinking (and even dangerous) to trust that ethnic identity will confer positive traits by themselves.

It’s wishful thinking because selfishness, the default human tendency, eventually rears its head even among the most ‘pleasant’ people, if we hang around them long enough. It’s dangerous because it sets us up to be disappointed, to lose the trust we have invested in people, and to despise them for disappointing us.

In the end, we are individuals, with a capacity for both good and evil. Our expressions of these things may vary according to our environments (and some stereotypes may be drawn from characters that actually exist). But this doesn’t change our individuality. It doesn’t make us any less human in God’s eyes.

This rings true for Christians, united as we are by our faith in Jesus. As the apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:28,

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

The criticality of our lifestyle as world changers

An Issue Paper presented at the National Strategic Youth Missions Summit, Salem University Lokoja, Nigeria by Steven Kator Iorfa

Introduction

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.(Mt 5:13-16)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect(Rm.12:2)

We live in a generation where the undiluted Word of God is already scarce. The youths especially can no longer endure the sound doctrine of God’s word and therefore teachers, mentors, disciplers, pastors, etc. are beginning to look for more appealing ways of presenting the gospel. They adopt high sounding philosophical and psychological motivations to get young people coming to church, and in very bad scenarios, some have employed devilish methods to attract, exploit and retain members. 2 Timothy 4:3 is fast catching up with us and before our very eyes, our friends, colleagues, children, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers have begun to accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and are beginning to turn away from listening to the truth and are wandering off into myths. However, in all of these, our heavenly Father has affirmed over and over again in 2 Timothy 2: 19 that His firm foundation stands, bearing this seal:“The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” What more can we say? Generations may come and go, civilizations arise and fall, dispensations change, but the Word of God will remain. The interpretation of His instructions on Christian holy living and conduct will not be subject to geographical locations or changes in generations. It is therefore critical that as world changers, we begin to pattern our lives and conduct to reflect the change we want to make, the change God has called us to make. To do this, we have to adopt a lifestyle different from what the world knows, has defined and accepts. We have to conform and be transformed to the life of Christ, the kingdom lifestyle. 

This plenary addresses issues on godly living for young persons who are aspiring to change their worlds. And it must be noted here that asides the term “world” meaning the physical planet earth, our worlds could mean the different platforms our Father has graciously granted unto us to serve him through. Thus, I would be having us treat the term “world” in a generic sense that would encompass the worlds of politics, academia, fashion and entertainment, sports, health, science/technology and innovation, art. Even the world of religion and spirituality. We will briefly define some key terms and then go on to look at the lifestyle of a world changer, its nature and criticality.

Lifestyle: a) Someone’s way of living; the things that a person or particular group of people usually do; b) the particular way that a person or group lives and the values and ideas supported by that person or group; c) someone’s way of living, for example the things they usually do, where they live, what they spend their money on, etc.

Critical: a) of the greatest importance to the way things might happen; b) extremely serious or dangerous; c) extremely important to the progress or success of something

World-changer: A world-changer is someone who is committed to changing the world. A Christian online devotional has this interesting thing to say about who a world-changer is; A world changer is not someone who blends in, a world changer stands out, sticks out and stands up ready to make a difference. A world changer goes beyond the usual expectations of Christianity. A world changer finds the most intense demands that Jesus places on Christians and does not shy away from them but goes after them with all his/her heart. A world changer does whatever it takes to get the job done. A world changer pursues God passionately. A world changer has been radically, completely and totally changed by their relationship with God. 

The world changers’ lifestyles

a) Dressing 

Do we now begin this endless debate about dressing? About whether it is okay to put on this and that as world changers? A world changer knows that when our Lord gave a command, He meant it and they are determined to live up to the standard. A world changer does not conform to the standard of dressing dictated by this world. He or she sincerely yearns to fulfil the mind of the Father. A world changer knows that he/she is always in the presence of God the Father and permit me to say that there is no sincere child of God who does not know how to dress and appear before his/her father. As God is with him/her always, so his/her dressing also, always must please the Lord. Or has the interpretation of the Word of God suddenly become subject to geographical locations such that our compliance with and obedience to it varies from place to place? Have we become so pretentious that the intensity of our obedience increases with our proximity to church alone? Are we world changers? Do we desire to become world changers? Can we please let our dressing and appearance reflect the true nature of the life we carry? Let’s be reminded of the scripture in Hebrews 4:13 which says “no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account”, and remember that He knows the very reasons why we dress the way we do. There is a pattern for Godly dressing, the pattern a world changer is known by.

b) Earthly riches and wealth

What about the love and desire for earthly riches? I know this is another area most believers do not agree on. But has our Lord not also clearly stated in Hebrews 13: 5 that as believers we should keep our lives free from the love of money, and be content with what we have? For our Father has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. What does this mean for us? Does this translate to our living beggarly lives and becoming burdens to our brethren and the heathen who seem to prosper? No. Our heavenly Father has also promised in Mathew 6: 33 that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then all other things will, in addition to His kingdom, be given unto us. We are not to live poor all our life. How else do we speak into the financial crises of our generation? How do we offer solutions to the enormous financial challenges of missions? We are to tap His resources for life, ministry and missions. But even if, He so desires, that through the denial of earthly riches, His children’s character be polished, shaped and sharpened, would we then as clay, tell the porter how best we want to be moulded?  

c) Prayer life and personal altar

A world changer is on fire for God and his/her prayer altar is always burning. He or she recognizes the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 18: 1 that men ought always to pray and not to faint. World changers are committed to building an intimate secret life with God for they know that in it alone lies their strength. Therefore, they will not trade their Quiet Times and alone with God for anything else. They cherish the refreshing times spent in the presence of God and are always eager and yearning to return there. King David, a man who radically changed his world in his generation, had this to say about God’s presence; “one thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Ps. 27:4).

Conclusion

In Mathew 28: 19, our Lord Jesus Christ commanded saying, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In other words, go therefore and change the world. How else can we change the world other than through the very best way we live our lives?

Firstly is the need to understand that the ability to really change our world and not just try to slightly improve it can only be divinely given with the ideas needed divinely inspired as in the case of Joseph and Daniel. Changing the world requires a power from Him that made the world.  Truly changing our world is about changing men and bringing them to the point that they become like Jesus. Where there is a complete transformation and renewal of the mind. It goes beyond an ability to put together a long list of exhaustive dos and don’ts to an internal transformation that seeks a fundamental foundation laying that equips an individual with the ability to take the right decision even in situations never met before or never put down into law.  This can only be achieved as God gives a man the ability to do so.

The second matter that proceeds immediately from the first is the fact that this ability is not available for every dick and harry. The decadence we have seen thus far cannot be attributed to the inability of God but rather the unavailability of usable men. There are those certified by heaven to carry out this task. Only such certified individuals get endowed with the divine grace to affect their generation and leave indelible marks of eternal worth upon the sands of time.  2Chr 16:8-9, makes it clear that God is actually more eager than us to demonstrate His power upon the face of the earth, but the bottle neck of the whole mix remains in the ability to locate such men on whose behalf He can show Himself strong. Such men that He can point to other men, such men about whom he can say “this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him”. It is needless to say that such men are scarce. This necessarily brings us to the point of realizing that it is such men who please God that will get endowed. Now the big question is what is the criteria, and the clear answer is “life”. There is that life that God is willing to associate with, that life that pleases Him, that life that He can call a friend. These are lives embedded in divine consecrations, lives that the actions you constantly see is a manifestation of the fact that they are completely sold out to Christ, again, lives who’s lifestyle is embedded in consecration. Heb 11 gives an account of such men in the Old Testament, men who loved not their lives. Even though they had limitations. They had not experienced the death and consequent resurrection power of the cross. As it is written Christ in you is the Hope of Glory.

The inability to connect with the almighty, the very SOURCE is what makes many resort to other means, but alas they can only be noise makers not change agents. If we must have devoted workers, honest students, faithful husbands, submissive wives, responsible fathers, sincere bosses, the list goes on… We must have correct lives to compel a following, lives inspired by God. True change comes from above.

We see few of such lives already existing in the world of missions, but many more are needed in business, law, engineering, medicine, banking…..lives before whom the Nebuchadnezzars of their professions will tremble and bow and acknowledge as in Dan 4:1-37. That the Lord HE is God. 

Steven Kator IORFA

© 2019

 

THE BLANKET: THE BIG SIN DILEMMA

Once in a while some “new” social vice steps onto the scene that seems to rock the very moral core of the world. Whenever this happens, the church has been known to be very damning in their judgment of whatever it is, giving the world the notion that though God hates sin, He hates some sins more than the others.

Of course, this is laughable for anyone who has actually studied the Bible. In theory, it is clearly stated that in God’s eyes a rebellious person is as bad as a murderer. The thing that creates these distinctions is our own moral bias and since we are somewhat afraid to own up to them, we just slap our God on it and hope that everyone accepts it without question.

The only problem with this is God only backs up his word, not yours. So, if and when the inconsistency is found in your judgment of some “big sin”, your sense of judgement called to question. But the God you claim told you that is also called to question. Making the world doubt the sovereignty of God’s wisdom and stray farther from salvation.

Another problem with this dilemma is the way a blanket is thrown over anyone struggling with such vices or tendencies. This happens because once you put the spotlight on a character flaw, a single story begins to manifest and sure as day it is slapped on every individual with even an inkling of a trait close to the said character flaw. Popular instances are, “All smokers are wife beaters”, “All serial killers are loners”, “All homosexuals come from broken homes” etc.

These look harmless and probably justifiable on the surface but if you look deeper, it is hurting more people than we realize. A very big reason for this is when people build their lives on such a premise, it does cave in and when it does, they lose trust and begin to question everything. It is just like the proverbial hole covered with a blanket and throne set on it as told in African folklore. We are setting a trap for ourselves when we proliferate these stereotypes. Even when we do so in goodwill.

The human character is perhaps the most dynamic phenom on the planet. It may look like the same trait, but it frequently changes in its expression. This tells us that to help anyone with a character flaw, an individualistic approach is the best way. An approach that considers the human in question and their specific experience with the said struggle.

Also, take off the veil over the act. Every sinful act is sinful before God and Jesus died for them all. Once we give one priority over the other, we inadvertently give power to a sinful act; which should not be so. No matter how horrendous it may seem, it is no different from what we may call ‘everyday’ sin and it is a product of man’s inordinate desire to control his own destiny. The way out is always to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Sin is quite the topic in the Christian sphere, but that is about it. There are no big sins. And no matter what it is you and I are struggling with, the fact remains, it is wrong, and God wants to help us with it. Go to God in prayer, change your focus from yourself to God, get all the help you need and see God save you as He has promised.

 

Grace.

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

Ambition

IF YOU ARE YOUNG, THEN YOU ALREADY GOT A MAJOR PROBLEM…..?

You’re probably too ambitious.

I’m young like you, or at least my mind is. And you have no idea how ambitious I am. Unfortunately, that’s the sickness that plagues you too.

Yeah I know, I’m totally aware, that I just called your always present, overzealous, soulful Ambition, a sickness. A sickness that needs to go away and I’ll tell you why.

Don’t get me wrong, ambition is good. Good Ambition is good.

But your ambition, that your precious drive, that unexplainable passion has left you living a pixelated life. This is not a 100% match make, but I’m kind of sure you’re part of the 99; the 99 that don’t understand that ambition is the door, but patience is the key. In lay man’s terms; time, plenty of time is the avatar to your fire nation.

I said I’ll tell you why, so here is it.

Ambition is crazy, it’s the local dog off its leash, it’s a wild cat far away from the wild, it’s the wisdom-less chi that lives inside you, that tells you everything is possible. Everything is not possible mate, but some things are; just some things.

And maybe Ambition is not the problem, I mean; shouldn’t I simmer down on this factor that has accelerated civilization for all of man’s existence? Then you have to be the problem.

Yeah…I said it, I know I said it. You’re the problem. Because it’s a blessing to be blessed with even a little ambition, but yet the curse; cause it came with no ‘handle with care’ manual, it came with no prescription to tame your dose; its abuse.

So I’ll tell you why ambition is bad, firstly and apparently, you cannot predict how life will turn out. Secondly and famously, you will probably chose a style of attack that will end with you king dead. And I mean, from the plethora of options of people past, who have achieved their dreams, how exactly are you supposed to approach ‘this little light of yours’? Ambition is bad because 99 out of 100 of you will make it bad, preferring to pursue rather than to wait, preferring to strive rather than to be patient.

We all hate that phrase; be patient. I mean, what gives anybody the right, including yourself, to demand patience from you, when it is clear to all mankind that nobody knows the time, the place and the when, when everything could have ultimate meaning.

The problem with ambition is, you might spend all of your good years pursuing, striving after this dream, that islandic passion, without any applaud-able achievements to show for it, and yet, that drive will still be on heat, ambition will still not set you free.

I mean, isn’t it really ambitious of me to think that I could sentence Ambition to a life ‘outside your heart’?

And yet without Ambition, life will be a whole lot harder.

John Okor

(C) 2019

Blanket One: The Cross-Bearer’s Blank Intellect?

‘Godidit.’

That’s the trendy new term with which internet atheists mock ‘scientifically illiterate’ Christians for ascribing every good thing to God. When us faithful people praise God for the birth of a new baby, deliverance from dangerous circumstances, or even the beauty of a sunset, skeptics now respond by shooting that short ugly line back at us.

‘Goddidit’- a bundling together of the phrase ‘God did it’ -is the latest addition to a pool of cliché terms that militant unbelievers draw from to highlight the apparently lazy intellectual attitudes of Christians (or their lack of any intellectual attitude).

The careless compaction of the words that make up the term is itself supposed to suggest that Christians can’t speak intelligently about what we say we believe. It also carries with it the idea that we are unwilling or unable to probe physical reality with our minds, and just invoke God as an explanation for things we can’t understand.

In a nutshell, it’s supposed to make Christians look dumb.

But are Christians really bereft of intelligent thought?

As a Christian and a proud lover of all things intellectual, I deny that this is the case. I know too many straight-thinking, ridiculously smart people who live a life of faith to accept the assumptions implicit in mocking terms like ‘Godidit’.

I mean, there are brilliant responses to such derisive claims, as well as to the more sophisticated arguments against belief in God- responses formulated by Christians. There’s even a whole branch of Christian ministry- apologetics –which tackles these issues. It’s clear to any well-informed person that Christians aren’t intellectually inept by definition.

Also, contrary to popular belief, faith, especially in the Christian context, does not defy logic. Too many times in the bible has the message and personality of Jesus been called to question and that many times it has stood its ground against reason. The abhorrent laziness of ‘some’ Christians in our day does not do justice to the fact that ours is a faith-based on undeniable facts and answers not many are willing to accept.

Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted the unbeliever’s caricature of them as weak-minded without realizing it. You see this resignation in the way a lot of us respond to questions about God and suffering, or nature and its functioning, or the resurrection of Christ. “Just have faith” or “because the Bible says so” appear to be the standard answers to such inquiries. This sort of attitude fuels atheist memes about Christians, and undermines our attempts to reach out to a world that won’t simply take our word for it.

We’ll conclude with a two-sided appeal. To the unbeliever or skeptic: Christians aren’t silly by default. We can and have answered your questions about our faith with logic, facts, and sympathy. If you’re open to sound reasoned arguments for Christianity, please look up the works of Christian apologists. We’d recommend reading C.S. Lewis if you’re a regular fella (like us), or William Lane Craig if you’d like more advanced stuff or watch lectures by Dr. Ravi Zacharias on Youtube.

To our Christian brothers and sisters: faith is not an excuse to indulge in intellectual laziness. Always be ready and willing to give reasons for your faith (1 Peter 3:15). Be like Paul at Athens, if the occasion demands- debate the skeptics with smarts and tact. Show them that to believe in Jesus is not to cower from reason, but to believe in the one who is Logic made flesh.

Selah.

 

By

Godswill Ezeonyeka and Alexander Ikenna.

THE BLANKET: An Introduction to Us

The human brain has a system of recognizing patterns and overtime saving energy by blazing past these patterns to expected results. When you’re just starting to learn math, you would have to grapple with why 1+1 should equal 2. Over time, you just know the answer is 2. Your mind skips the reasoning process and jumps to the answer and for every time you turn out to be right, the process becomes shorter, leading to faster answers and lightspeed reasoning.

It’s a fascinating fact about the way our minds work.

As the world grows more socially intelligent, we are increasingly aware of the rising epidemic that is “Stereotyping”. I say that we are only getting aware because this issue has been around for as long as we have been. I believe that stereotyping has its roots in our brains trying to reach conclusions as quickly as possible, so much so, it misses out on the individuality of the experience of life.

I dare say, that we are all guilty of stereotyping; it’s our nature.

That last statement up there is stereotypical too. The thing is, this pen is cocked and pointed at all of us not because we have evil intentions all the time, but because we carry a mind that needs to be trained to do better.

The Bible says in Romans 12:2, to be transformed by renewing the mind. The key is in the brain, in the mind. If we willingly take a step back to reconfigure our minds, we will be creating a transformed world. The following series hopes to question as many stereotypes as we can, but it will have no impact on you the reader if you don’t make a conscious and willing effort to accept when you are in the wrong and to make a change for the better.

Humanity is really a host of individuals. The human experience is individual by every definition. To throw a blanket over any group might save you a moment of consideration but you risk prejudice and consequences that might never be recovered from. Take this journey with us not to feel good about yourself, but to make a conscious effort to recalibrate your mind, to be transformed.

 

Cheers.

BY

Alexander Ikenna & Ezeonyeka Godswill